My Struggles with Mental Health

Photo of Mallory Sale.

After the bulk of Covid-19, school is back in full swing and students are dealing with classes and social life in a way they hadn’t for a year. Many students are experiencing anxiety over the school load and extracurriculars. On Thursday, November 4th, a couple of students posted on Instagram about how their life has been going and the struggles they’ve faced. The first to do so was Alexis Burns (10) who shared her struggle with attempted suicide. A few hours later, Sarah Carroll (11) wrote about her struggle with anorexia. And I came next. I was terrified to tell people about what I had dealt with because I thought they would treat me differently.

I didn’t want people to tiptoe around me, but I also really needed people to know about such an important part of my life. For a major portion of my life, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I was officially diagnosed with ADHD when I was in sixth grade. I began taking medication for it, but I got to a point where I stopped. I started doing really bad in class and lost a lot of friends. That was the first time I coped with self-harm.

The reason I really wanted to write about this topic is because there are many people who assume that because I’m in Student Council, or Theatre, or Newspaper, I’m perfect. I hate that stereotype and I’ve seen how it affects me and some of the kids in these activities. Today, November 5th, Student Council met to discuss the problems our student body and our council have been dealing with. I, along with several other students shared our stories. We talked about how we can help students, and each other. There were many tears shed and many hugs given. Lexi talked about her experience with being in a psychiatric hospital. Sarah shared her experience with eating disorder recovery and therapy. I spoke about my experience with self-harm and medication.

On October 30th, Sarah Carroll and I decided to drive to Walmart and pick up water for the Student Council trunk for the the Trunk-or-Treat hosted at Lewis-Palmer High School, and we somehow got around to talking about anti-depressants. I told her I was on Prozac and we began talking about everything we’ve been through. Seeing that another Student Council member had dealt with similar problems was so freeing. I felt so relieved knowing I wasn’t the only one who had problems. It sounds bad, but I loved being able to talk to her about things without feeling like I would get in trouble. It was pretty much the only time I’d felt like that in Monument.

I will mainly be speaking on my personal experience, as it is not my place to tell someone else’s story. In the summer of 2020, I began self-harming very frequently. My family was going through a lot in terms of our financial and emotional situation, and I felt that I needed a coping mechanism. My sister was going off to college and my mom had moved out, so I felt very alone. I struggled with self harm for about 4 months before my dad found out about it.

There would be days where I would go to school just hoping someone would notice. On some days, people would say something, and I’d blame it on my cat. I would say “Oh no, haha, I just got scratched I’m fine!” and I’d grin while saying it. I wanted to tell them, but I knew I couldn’t say anything without a counselor finding out. I wanted to tell everyone and no one at the same time. Eventually, my dad found out and I got help. It was really hard at first because I felt so humiliated and weak. I didn’t tell anyone other than my family and eventually my boyfriend. Everyone loved and supported me throughout all the hard times and I was so thankful for them. But unfortunately I was still addicted to self-harming.

I can’t stress that enough. Self-harm is an addiction like anything else. Alcohol, drugs, the internet, gambling, and self-harm all have one thing in common. Dopamine. Dopamine is known as the “happy” chemical, you get it when you have chocolate, or get drunk. Dopamine, along with adrenaline, floods your body in order to keep you from getting hurt too severely. It is an amazing feeling for about 2 seconds, and then the anxiety, depression, and shame come crashing in. I need to say that I am am absolutely not encouraging anyone to try self-harm or any addictive behavior, I am simply trying to talk about my personal experience.

Photo of Mallory Sale in second grade.

Due to the fact that I have ADHD, my body doesn’t naturally produce enough dopamine, so since a young age I went seeking for it. My first addiction stated in the second grade, and it was to food. I became addicted to eating what I liked, which rarely including anything healthy. I eventually gained a very unhealthy amount of weight and realized I was “fat.” This caused me a lot of confidence issues and contributed immensely to my anxiety. I never really lost the weight, and still struggle with disordered eating. Often times, I feel so horrible about my body that I restrict myself from food, but I end up binging the next day or that night. I try to joke around about my body because I hate the stigma around being overweight. It’s hard for me because sometimes I don’t care about being healthy, I just want to be skinny. Skinny doesn’t equal healthy, and fat doesn’t equal unhealthy.

I want to tell everyone reading this that although I still struggle with depression and the urges, I am fighting, and I’m getting better. I have people around my who love me for who I am, and so do you. Life can be hard, but you are strong, and brave, and you will succeed. There are so many reasons to keep fighting. What’s yours?

<3 Mallory Sale