Growing up in Northern Virginia, there was not much I had to really stress about. The privileged life I was accustomed to throughout my childhood really hid the true colors of the world which I began to notice in High School.
Mental Health was one of these ideas that I wasn’t fully aware of and how much it can really affect people. Unfortunately, I had to experience the devastating consequences of mental health in my junior year of high school.
As everyone knows, junior year of high school is one of the hardest if not the hardest years of high school with the rapid increase in workload and difficulty of courses. With colleges and future ambitions on many students’ minds, I saw many of my peers and myself constantly stress about extracurriculars and grades. This detrimental side of mental health can sometimes grow so fast in which it becomes too late to be treatable.
Just wrapping up our cross country season and finishing the state meet with plans to go to the national meet, me and a couple of teammates walked into school on Tuesday, November 25th going to where we usually meet. The news soon became apparent as our coach talked to a couple of us: one of our teammates on the team had been taken too fast from this world due to one of the biggest diseases: depression. Tears were running down every one of my peers’ faces and there was just nothing to do during this unspeakable time. Sitting in class that day I had to leave halfway through, my thoughts were just everywhere, and questions from people I didn’t know berated me. My teammate and I went to his house and we just did what we could: we ran. Nothing was said on the run but we just ran; not even looking at the distance on our watches we just kept running. Ended up being 8 miles but afterward, we sat down. Exhausted, my friend and I talked, fighting through some tears, we looked up at the sky and realized nothing would be the same.
The difficulty of school escalated with the thought of my teammate constantly being in my mind. Every other day in Physics class, I had sat next to my peer and now they’re gone with an empty seat lying next to me. The empty seat and me left me alone in the front of the class for the remainder of the year leaving me quite with my thoughts. These thoughts were the hardest to control. Many times, I’d think about the rest of my teammates who were more closer to the life that was lost as it left me saddened that I couldn’t do anything to help.
However, the family and even teachers that I had at school soon became apparent to me with my friends all being there for each other. We all started to hang out together on weekends and never left one of our friends alone facing that burden of thoughts. Together, we all were able to support each other through the random sudden outbreaks in school and making our mental health stronger. For me, I found myself doing what I love more which was running. Being lost in the world around me, I wasn’t consumed by all the deep thoughts and was able to let go.
It has now been 9 months since that time and almost every day since then I have thought about the incident. My friends and I don’t discuss it as much now but we all know deep down it is something we all hold and never going to forget no matter how much time passes. Our mental health has all grown much stronger as we found ways to make ourselves happier. From doing stuff we love and doing it with the people we love most, we chose to be positive allowing our mind to be content.
Especially now with the pandemic, mental health can be very confusing within people so it is important to continue choosing to be more positive. I found focusing on what I can control to be critical in allowing me to be more well-minded. From what happened in November, to more recently in where one of my best friend’s dad passed away suddenly through a heart attack, the world can throw some of the hardest life situations. Helping out my friend through these difficult times as he was facing a mental battle was essential. As I continue to grow mentally, I have learned essential skills of being there for each other and keeping a positive mindset which are skills that everyone should obtain.
Being a Northern Virginian student, I realized I am not immune to these situations and it’s important to keep track of your mental health and the people you care about. By being there for your friends through the most difficult times, you will also be able to grow as a person.