Let's Talk Mental Health

My name is Madison and I’m a high school student in Idaho, and I decided to talk about my senior project. I’m not sure about other states if they have senior projects or not but at my school, you have to meet certain requirements to complete the project and if you don’t you can’t graduate.

My project is about mental health awareness, and there are so many reasons why I chose this topic. For starters, mental health is such an important topic, especially during high school and college years. These years can be very draining for teens mentally and physically. It can be hard dealing with problems when you don’t know what’s going on or how to get help. Which brings me to my second reason; my own experience.

I’ve had my battles with depression and anxiety and I’m honestly still trying to figure it out. I’m hoping as I go along with my project I can maybe get it worked out. My first time dealing with depression was really hard. Not only with my initial problem, but the way that things were continuously getting worse. It started around March of my freshman year, I was a thrower in track and I was great at it for a freshman. One day, I had lifted something that I thought was empty and it turned out it was actually filled. I lifted with my back instead of my legs and I had lower back pain for about two weeks. It wasn’t the biggest deal as it was only for a little while. But throughout the rest of the summer, anytime I lifted, even with my legs, I’d have pain but I didn’t think much of it. I just was telling myself I wasn’t in shape.

Summer passes and I go into my sophomore year and I decide to take a weightlifting class. It started out great but as we increased weight, I was having a hard time keeping up with everyone else and my pain was getting worse and was lasting longer. By the end of the first semester I wasn’t improving at all and that’s when I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I dropped the class second semester and that’s where my depression began.

I was really hoping the class would help me become stronger and help me make a habit of working out and staying active. Now being in the second semester of sophomore year, my pain isn’t going away and is going down into my legs. There were days I had to stay home because I couldn’t move. Track season comes around and I try to push myself but I had to quit because I wasn’t even able to walk, let alone throw. At this time, my depression got worse, as there were days I didn’t even want to come out of my room. I got to see my whole team have a good time that I wasn’t able to be a part of.

I ended up going to physical therapy for the first time. Things were great until my second to last appointment where I was being pushed too far and was right back at square one. June comes around and my symptoms are bad enough for an MRI. I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease/Disorder. This means that in my spine, the disks between my vertebrae are deteriorating at a faster rate than normal. This disorder is more known in the elderly, and is less common in younger people, especially teenagers. At the time, I had one disk that is really bad and the one right above it was in the process.

The doctor that told me this was very rude. He was just making me feel more scared as he was telling me that it would take around five years before I was out of pain and wasn’t believing me when I was telling him my pain. This became my lowest point. I don’t even know how to describe the feelings I had that day. I was stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, confused, etc. There were so many things I couldn’t do without needing help. Things like even taking a shower was hard because I couldn’t stand long enough, so I had to sit.

As that summer went on, I had a lot of family issues going on as well that didn’t make things any better. But I did start physical therapy for the second time but went somewhere else. My new therapist did the dry needling (acupuncture) and that helped me the most. Because of that, I was almost completely out of pain, which helped me get out of my depression. I became a lot happier as I was able to do more things. I remember I was able to bend and touch my toes again and something as little as that made me so happy.

Junior year starts and I was a lot better from when I ended school the previous year. I stayed very steady with my stretches and made sure I didn’t do any activities that would trigger it again. I decided not to do volleyball this year so I could stay okay for track. Right before track started I decided to do some more rounds of dry needling to make sure I’d be ready to go. Track starts and I’m on cloud nine. I was the happiest I had been since freshman year.

Then Covid came and wiped out our track season. This is the part where everyone was affected. Not only myself but a lot of my friends of all ages were depressed. Fast forward to right now (August 2020) this is the most anxious I’ve been, and I guarantee a lot of people are. School is gonna be chaotic and I’m hoping my senior year doesn’t get cancelled. I hope to see my final homecoming, I want to appreciate my last year of watching high school sporting events, I hope I can get a prom, I hope to get a senior class trip, and I hope I’m able to see a full house on graduation.

This whole story is my main reason for this project. My story isn’t the worst of the saddest, but it was the hardest part of my life so far. I know that there are people who are a lot stronger than me, and I know that there are people who are a lot weaker than me. Throughout everything I went through, I didn’t get help mentally. Which is the exact opposite of what I want others to do. I want others to know that it’s okay to get help. I want to bring awareness to the fact that mental health should not be ignored or swept under the rug. Mental issues come in all forms, and even things like depression can be so different in how a person experiences it.

If you or a loved one need help, don’t be afraid to ask. Even if it’s not a professional, maybe if it’s a trusted friend, that can go a long way. Or even research on your own, things that can help you at home. Sometimes changing a diet or coloring or writing down feelings can make an impact. Above all else, if you’re having a hard time, you are not alone, and you don’t need to go through it alone. There is help out there. And one more thing, there is hope.

~Madison (@madisonhabbaba)

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