I am incredibly honored to host guest blogger Cameron Byers! I reached out to her a few months ago after she posted an adorable message on our neighborhood email service looking for a new home for her family's pet guinea pig, and asked if she would write a blog for me. I told her the topic was her choice, but if she was up for it, I wanted to feature open and honest thoughts about being a teenager. Lucky for me, she was. In getting to know Cameron, I've learned that hers is a story of darkness, light, strength and inspiration. Did I mention she's 16? This girl is a fighter. She's driven. She's a role model and she doesn't even know it yet.
Mental disorders are real and they are isolating and shame inducing which perpetuates their tortuous cycles. I was plagued with anxiety for over a year, I have a sibling who has near debilitating anxiety/disorders and friends who battle depression. Guess what? Most of us don't make a habit of sharing our feelings, but we should! We gloss over our struggles because we don't want to make anyone uncomfortable with our realness or are afraid of being judged. We assume that everyone else has it all together. To have a teenager offer up such transparency and vulnerability is sheer bravery. I love that Cameron is ready to start the conversation and is ready to write the next chapter in her life. I, for one, plan on taking a page out of her book and hope you will, too.
Check out Cameron's photography website here...she does wonderful work!
There are some things not meant to be said, but to be written. I firmly believe that this writing is one of those things. And so here I sit, surrounded by darkness with the exception of the glare of my computer screen.
I'm writing this because it hurts my feelings when people say that “we all have a little OCD in us”. I’m writing this because people don’t seem to understand that ADHD is more than the punch line of a joke. I am writing this because depression is being glamorized and glossed over and made to be a trend by sites like Tumblr.
I was in 3rd grade when I was diagnosed with OCD. My parents knew that I had it because of stupid little things that I would do, like refuse to wear socks if they didn't look and feel a certain way, or check the stove constantly to make sure it wasn't on, or when I would only do things in 3s or 5s or 10s.
Even once I was diagnosed, nothing got better. I didn't feel any different. In fact, I think that I felt worse. Then I was diagnosed with ADHD. I had trouble paying attention to anything (I still do at times) and the doctors thought that they could give me medicine to help. And it did help, until 8th grade. I don't want to write about what triggered it, but things got really bad- to the point where I self harmed. I'm ashamed of it now, but at the time I thought that I was getting rid of all of the bad thoughts and feelings. I thought that it was symbolic or something. That I was releasing all of the negative energy running through me. I still have scars on my arms to this day from it and usually only wear long sleeves now because of it. I was in the 8th grade.
Once I realized that cutting wasn't enough, I tried to kill myself. The police came and escorted me in an ambulance to the hospital. I went to the Lindner Center, a very helpful and kind spirited place. However, they could not help me because I didn't think that I needed help.
I went home and almost immediately resumed self harm, and a year later tried to kill myself again. I took a bunch of pills, but once I started getting dizzy, I ran to my parents' room and they rushed me to the hospital. Once I was stable, they took me to another mental health facility. I re-heard the things that I had already been told at the Lindner Center, but I acted interested this time because I didn't want to have to come back. I wanted to go home as soon as possible.
When I went home, I resumed self harm. Nothing was getting better. My grades were at an all time low and even to this day have ruined my chances at getting into my dream school. I was blaming the world for everything that was happening to me and I really thought what I was doing was the right thing to do. I didn’t think it was wrong. “As long as I don’t kill myself…” I would say.
Besides, who was this hurting besides myself?
Actually, a lot of people. My parents were losing sleep and my siblings lived in constant fear that one day I wouldn’t be alive anymore.
Eventually I realized that no one else could help me if I didn’t want to be helped. I had to make that decision- did I want to get better? I thought, “Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I want to be happy again?” But something in me wasn’t ready to let go of all of my anger, fear, and sadness. Then, one day, I was just ready. I didn’t want to live in constant misery anymore, but I didn’t want to die either. I wanted to get better, and only then did I start to improve. I realized that only I could truly help myself. My journey to recovery was one that I had to take alone.
It was a long journey- and one that, even now, is not over. I felt trapped and thought that I was destined to live like I had been for the past 16 years, for the rest of my life. But then, after much self discovery, I realized that there is more to life than my town’s little bubble. I always felt caged in because I live in a small town where everyone knows everyones' business. For a while, I thought that it was like that everywhere- and that no matter where I went, I would never truly be free. I felt confined, like I was doomed to live in my town’s bubble forever. Then I realized that I could have a future outside the bubble- that it was not like this everywhere and that I could be successful and leave everything bad behind.
I realized that my looks do not define me, but the content of my character does. So I sought to improve who I was. I started volunteering, I rescued a dog, I took many jobs, I took up new hobbies. My grades sky rocketed. My mental and physical health improved immensely. And it was all thanks to me- to no one else. I had to want to change, and once I realized that I did, the rest came naturally.
I am now in one of the happiest places that I have been in my entire life. My future is looking brighter and I am so much more involved in my community. My grades are still not ideal, but they are getting there and thanks to that a lot of good colleges have taken an interest in me- schools far away from this cold weather!
Had I succeeded in either of my suicide attempts?
I would not be here.
I would not have rescued my beautiful dog.
I would not have realized how much I am loved.
I may not have found my passions.
I would not have seen how bright my future is going to be.
My intent is not to inform you about me, but to instead show you what self realization did for me. It can do it for you too. Don't give up hope, because when you hit rock bottom, you have nowhere else to go but up.
Live every day with purpose and soon you will find yourself doing it naturally, and after a while- who knows, maybe you might actually find out what your purpose really is. Mental disorders are real, they are abundant, and I am not the first (nor the last) to be in this position.
But we can fight this battle together; if we all love each other and treat one another with kindness and respect we can achieve happiness. Most importantly, we need to realize that there is more to us than our high school years. We need to realize that there is life after high school and outside of our towns, that soon we can do whatever we want with our lives. Please just wait it out, and don't do anything impulsive. Because, who knows? You could end up being president. An astronaut. A movie star. Anything you set your mind to- but you (and only you) can do it. You have to want it, you have to work for it. You are the love of someone’s life. You are someone’s daughter or son. You are someone’s role model. You are more than who you see in the mirror. You are powerful and you can be anything or anyone.
No one can define you but you.
Don’t let anyone tell you who you are.
Treat every day as a gift- because it is one.
Don't take your life because you're having a hard time now- remember, there is always a storm before a rainbow comes.
Cameron, on the other side of the camera, with her family dogs, and rescue, Molly.