This is a teen-written article from our friends at L.A. Youth, a nonprofit organization that uses media as a tool for young people to examine themselves, their communities and the world at large.
If you had seen me a year ago it would be hard to believe I’ve changed this much in so little time. I wasn’t going to school and my grades were F's and incompletes. My parents would give me talks in the morning and tell me, “It’s against the law not to go to school.” But I didn’t care.
I’ve always wanted to do well in school but I have a hard time getting up and going. It started in elementary school. I’d think, “I’m tired.” I wanted to stay in my bed under my warm blankets. To get me to school, my mom would throw me over her shoulder or take a half hour to get me dressed because I was fighting her.
When I was in fourth grade, my older brother and sister were seeing a psychiatrist, so I came along to the appointments and sat in the waiting room. They had inherited anxiety disorder and depression from my mom. My parents would explain what was going on with me to the psychiatrist: “It’s always a battle getting her up in the morning. She’s not doing her assignments and she’s missing school.” The psychiatrist said, “It sounds like anxiety and depression. We can put her on medications and see if it works.” I didn’t understand what they were talking about. I didn’t know what depression and anxiety were. They told me, “It’ll help you,” so I took my meds but I didn’t know why.
But the medications didn’t always seem to work. I still wasn’t doing my assignments because I was lazy. After I missed an assignment, I didn’t want to go to school the next day. I was picturing my classes each period, seeing my teachers disappointed. You didn’t complete your homework again? After I missed one day it was a struggle to get out of bed the next day because I still had not completed my homework.
In middle school I’d miss one or two days a week and was late almost every day I did go. In the morning my mom would nag me, “I’m going to get in the shower and I want you dressed by the time I get out.” I’d think, “I’m tired, let me go back to sleep. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to face my teachers. I should have done my homework.” But I’ve always had a hard time expressing my feelings so I wasn’t communicating what was going on inside me. When my mom came back and I wasn’t dressed she’d yell at me, “You need to get dressed and get going.” I wouldn’t say anything back so eventually she left me at home because she had to get to work.
Missing school hurt my grades. My parents would tell the school that I was depressed so my absences were excused. But after a while my parents stopped giving my school a reason because I was staying home so much, so I got detention for missing school. I failed English and got C's and D's in my other classes. Every year I went to summer school to get my credits. I knew that if I missed too much summer school I’d get dropped. I needed my credits, so I used that as motivation to go.
I told myself at the beginning of ninth grade that I would change. I was going to go to school every day, do my work and get good grades, like a normal student. But it was a lot harder than I thought.
My best friends were going to a different school than I was. On the third day it hit me that my friends weren’t there. I didn’t feel like I had much in common with the people I had lunch with. I started missing three, four days of school a week. I didn’t go at all in November and December. Because I had been diagnosed with depression, the school had a tutor come to my house to give me my work.
Being alone every day got boring so at the end of the semester, I wanted to go back to school for second semester. But I didn’t know the people I had lunch with that well and I still had to take my finals. It was overwhelming all over again. I knew I had to have good grades and attendance to get a permit to go to the other high school with my friends. I tried to go to school every day but I couldn’t.
It seemed like nothing I did was going to be good enough so I gave up and stopped going again and stopped taking my meds because it didn’t seem like they were working.
I stopped caring about everything. I distracted myself by reading and watching TV. I even stopped showering. I could smell myself and my hair was greasy. After a while I noticed dark patches on my skin. I rubbed it and the dead skin came off. I realized the dark patches were dirt. Eww. I washed my arms in the sink or in the pool. Looking back, it grosses me out that I didn’t shower but I can understand because I was depressed and I didn’t feel like doing anything.
One time that May I was sitting on the couch and I started thinking about how I wasn’t in school. I started crying. I thought about my friends, how they were probably having a good time. I thought about how my life was going down the tubes and I wasn’t doing anything about it. My life sucks. Why am I even alive? What if I died? Would the world be better without me? No, my friends and family would be sad, I thought. I didn’t want to think about that stuff so I started to read.
My dad was constantly nagging me, “They’re going to put you in a group home if you don’t go to school.” He said that in a group home, I would have to go to school every day or there would be consequences. I didn’t believe him. In eighth grade they had threatened to put me in a mental hospital and that didn’t happen. If that didn’t happen, why would this?
Click here to read the rest of the story on layouth.com.