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Finding Self-Esteem by A.E.P. , Age: 18

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

I was a painfully shy child. I was afraid of everything. My grandparents, whom I saw every weekend, slowly got me out of my shell and encouraged me to try many new things. My grandma’s rule with new food was “two bites” and then you can decide if you never want to eat it again. I can remember being afraid that my grandpa was going to drive off the dam when we were taking a boat ride on the lake which they lived at.

Everything really got bad my freshman year. I couldn’t find friends. The most memorable thing that set me into a downwards spiral was when I asked to sit with some of my friends the first day at lunch. There were literally 4 chairs open and they said I could not sit with them. Apparently there was no room. Just like in Mean Girls, I was rejected from the lunch table. I started skipping lunch and going to the band room. Then food became uninteresting. I lost a lot of weight my freshman year. Too much. People started noticing and telling me I looked great, but I didn’t feel great. I felt exhausted. My parents were getting mad at me for hiding in my room and skipping dinner at times. I lied to them about eating. I realized I had a problem, so naturally, I tried to fix it. I started going to lunch. I was crying one day, sitting at a lunch table by myself, and one of the seniors noticed and told me I could sit at her table. They were all music geeks like me, I figured I could relate. That’s the worst things ever got for me, besides last year, my junior year when everything started piling up. The stress was eating me alive and people were noticing. I do a lot. My junior year consisted of: band, jazz band gigs, multiple honors bands, basketball, volleyball, National Honor Society, Straight A’s, and a loaded class schedule. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but you get the gist. I was freaking out and crying almost on a daily basis with everything. I started isolating myself.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

During my junior year was when people really started to reach out to me. One day I was crying and the school psychologist saw me. That was an “oh crap” moment. He proceeded to check in with me throughout the year. He told me one day that I work harder than any college student, and that I should be careful because he didn’t want me to burn out. Everything was just out of control a lot, and he kept “suggesting” or hinting that I could talk to him anytime I wanted, but I was afraid to. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t. Then this year, I finally decided to talk to him because I was having some troubles adjusting at the beginning of the year and wanted someone to listen, since my mom basically rejected listening to me. My dad lives far away and I found myself missing him a lot, since it’d been about 4 months since I had seen him. I talked to him and it wasn’t bad at all. It honestly helped so much. Sometimes you just need that one person to listen and tell you they care about how you feel and that, yes, it is hard, and yes, you can get through it.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I’m not so sure if there’s been any turning points yet because I still have my days and weeks where it seems a bit hopeless. But, despite those days and weeks, I still manage to get through it and do what I’m supposed to be doing.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Now, I’m trying to keep the motivation to make it through my senior year. It’s hard, but I’m getting there. I want to be a music teacher, so I’m stressed out with preparing for scholarship auditions by taking private clarinet and piano lessons on top of regular band and practicing solos, basketball, grades, and choosing between colleges. I’ve accomplished a lot musically, just recently I received a scholarship to pay for my music lessons in full.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

To people who are struggling: Please remember that you are better than you think, more loved than you think, and are so incredibly important.

What’s helped me?: I wish I would have reached out to talk to someone earlier. It seriously would have been so much more manageable my freshman year had I talked to someone about my struggles.


They said I could not sit with them. Apparently there was no room, just like in Mean Girls, I was rejected from the lunch table.

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