Mental Health Perspectives

May 1, 2021

The+perspectives+of+other+East+students.

Melissa Vital ('23)

The perspectives of other East students.

Name Given

My mental health has gone up and down with the past years. I have gone through many tough times. Through this, I’ve learned that in dealing with problems, it is important to look on the bright side. However, oftentimes my mental health is good. My mental health is especially good when I surround myself with good people along with keeping myself busy and focused.
– Jasmin Le (’23)

This year has been tough, with not being able to go places I would normally go and having to spend a lot of time at home with the same people. Days started to blend together, then weeks and months. It felt as though I was doing the same thing everyday and it grew difficult to find motivation in things I used to enjoy doing. I’ve learned to do things that allow me to take a break every once in a while, whether it was taking a walk or reading a book. I think that it’s important to realize that being happy is not an easy task, it is something you have to work for. I have had my fair share of metal health ups and downs in my life, but I try to grow everyday as a person to make my life a brighter place.
– Vivian Rong (’23)

I am currently a freshman, which is absolutely crazy to believe, considering that the last day that I actually attended school, I was in middle school. The COVID-19 pandemic is almost like a tunnel in terms of time, where you have no idea how long you’ve been in the tunnel or how much of the tunnel is left, merely because everything looks the same. There are some days where I feel like a song on loop, just doing the same things over and over again. My mental health, just like many others, has certainly been damaged. There was a point during the pandemic when I felt true boredom, as I realized that almost all stores were closed. While boredom does seem like a bad thing, it actually pushed me in the right direction. Feeling completely bored made me want to get as far away from that feeling as possible, so I started to attend extracurricular club and youth group meetings. Since then, I have become a part of many clubs, both in and out of East. I was amazed at how poor mental health can actually encourage you to better your mental health, under the right circumstances. To anyone reading this who is currently fighting their own battle with poor mental health, trust me when I say that things will get better, brighter days are ahead.
– Kyle Lehrfeld (’24)

Those Who Wish to Remain Anonymous

I think the biggest stress on my mental health has been the result of school and the pressure of “being good enough” and “being worthy.” I’ve always felt as though I am competing with people and with myself to prove myself worthy and good enough to get into a good college, to do well in sports, and have a good future. My parents never put a huge emphasis on this, but growing up in such a competitive environment and just never feeling good enough fostered this feeling. I find myself prioritizing school over my mental health, or feeling guilty for taking classes that aren’t as hard to prioritize my mental health. It really has decreased my mental health, but I know that this is a sentiment shared by a lot of students, so I find comfort in that. Another huge aspect that has affected my mental health is social media. It made me aware of insecurities I didn’t even know existed, and caused me to start to fall into the toxic ED culture. However, I was able to stop myself before I got too far in, and have a better relationship with food and my body. Especially being a POC without eurocentric features, it was hard to find people who looked like me who were praised and seen as “beautiful” by the media, and that really changed the way I looked at myself. Although social media has been pretty detrimental to my mental health, it does have its positive aspects. I’m working on using social media as a form of self expression and becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Something that is really helping me do this is self affirmations. At first, I did not believe that the positive things I said about myself were true, but as I continued to repeat these affirmations and make myself feel beautiful, I started to wholeheartedly believe them 🙂

I am so unbelievably stressed and tired all the time but I think I’ve internalized this overwhelming stress and exhaustion as normal. It’s now normal for me to get less than 6 hours of sleep, wake up early to finish homework, spend 6 hours or more each night doing homework, motivate myself with fear, and cry because I’m so stressed. None of these things faze me anymore. They’ve simply become part of my everyday life. However, after taking a step back and reevaluating, I don’t think it’s healthy to accept these habits as normal. So much of the work I do for school is done out of fear, not curiosity or passion for learning. When I’m doing my Spanish homework at 1 am, it’s not because I love Spanish or have a genuine interest in the language or culture. It’s because I’m scared of getting a 0 on the assignment, getting a B, dropping my class rank, ruining my GPA, not qualifying for Cum Laude, not getting into a good college, and ultimately not becoming successful or happy. All of these fears are what motivate me to do my homework way past midnight when I’m sleep-deprived and exhausted. These fears and speculations about my future and my life are the driving force behind my success and my grades. I’m not learning to retain information, enrich my mind, or become a knowledgeable person. I’m simply remembering stuff for tests and forgetting right after. This isn’t an ideal way to learn by any means but it’s the only one our school system offers for those who want to be successful. If I devoted all of my time, effort, and passion to every assignment, I would simply never get it all done. There is an unfortunate dichotomy between learning and success that forces you to choose one. Another part of my future that weighs heavily on my mental health is college. So much of what I do in high school is for the sole purpose of getting into a ‘good’ college. I overloaded my schedule with AP and Honors classes this year so my transcript will look competitive when I apply. It’s no longer enough to take all AP and Honors classes and receive all As. You need to take the most weighted classes you can get your hands on to show that you can handle rigor and take advantage of your opportunities. Part of my mind knows that no matter where I go to college, I can be successful and happy in life. But the other part of my mind desires pure validation. I’m pursuing acceptances to elite colleges simply so I’ll feel like these 4 years of high school weren’t a waste of effort, time, or stress. I want to feel like all my hardwork, sleepless nights, and hours spent studying actually contributed to something. I also want compensation for everything I’ve missed out on. I’ve sacrificed a lot of the ‘teenage experience’ for my grades and activities. I’ve never been to a high school party, gone to the city with my friends, skipped class or school, or even had a sleepover. I want to know that these missed experiences were worth something because the stress college gives me, even though I’m two years away, is so severe that I often stay awake at night worrying about it.

I was exposed to mental health problems at the beginning of my sixth grade year, and as I have grown up, the people I know with illnesses and struggling with their mental health has only increased. I feel as though at this point in time, everyone knows someone struggling, even if they are not aware of it. For me, I have struggled with anxiety and episodes of depression since elementary school, though I only came to realize it at the end of my middle school years. For me, depression is the worst, although I know that it is different for everyone. I fear everything all the time. It’s like a constant battle in my mind. Am I good enough? My friends don’t like me. I’m alone. I’m tired of constantly having to fight. I’m tired of knowing people who are struggling like me because we don’t deserve to struggle. In an environment like Cherry Hill East too, there is so much pressure from the school, parents and everyone compares themselves. As soon as you get out of class, people ask how you did or what the questions were. And then a week later, people are asking you your grade. If you don’t answer, people assume you did poorly, but why should I have to share my grade with you? Society is making things so much more difficult now. For me, the anxiety is constant. The episodes of depression come and go, but it is easier for me to identify when they are coming now. I am still working on accepting my own struggles and I am still working on accepting that I know people who struggle, same as me. What I do know right now though, is that I do have people there to support me. It just took me a long time to realize it.

Growing up I always struggled with self image issues. Especially being an Asian, there was always a specific way to look and I did not fit that category. With that, I was constantly worried about my weight, how I looked, and compared myself to others. As I grew older, I learned about eating disorder illnesses and was very tempted to give in. Luckily, I did not and instead worked to become more fit and healthy rather than skinny and sick. That experience alone had opened my eyes to the society we live in. We live in a world that tries to harm us by normalizing the “perfect body”. I’ve seen girls all over social media platforms commenting on others posts saying things like “time to starve myself” or “going to go purge now” and they get tons of likes and replies that agree with them. That in itself should be so alarming. Thankfully I’ve never fallen into any of those deep mindsets, but eating disorders and body dysmorphia should be further highlighted and talked about, rather than be something that is praised and made into a joke.

I think I’ve been extremely lucky in the area of mental health because I’ve been largely this year while many of my friends and classmates have struggled greatly. I had a serious sports injury this year and two reconstructive knee surgeries so most of my struggles with mental health and happiness are related to my fear that I won’t be able to play field hockey next year. I don’t really know how I’m managing with school this year because I feel like I should be a lot more stressed, sad, and anxious than I am. I think I’m kind of numb to all the stress and pressure now because it doesn’t affect me as strongly as it did last year. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have a weird sense of anxiety on weekends, even though I know I’m supposed to be relaxing and recharging for the upcoming school week. All I can do is think about all the work I have due soon and how I can possibly finish it all. It’s kind of a never ending struggle. At this point, I’m just blindly pushing through school day by day and holding out until summer.

Ever since middle school, I have struggled with self image. I always saw myself as the “biggest” in the friend group. I could never find clothes that I felt confident in or fit me right. I felt the most comfortable in sweatshirts because they hid my figure. I always looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. I always felt that people were judging my every move. I got caught up in caring what people thought about me. I used to exercise or run on the treadmill for the sole reason of losing weight. I am still on the journey of fully embracing who I am. But now I realize that my body does so much for me and deserves to be taken care of.

Personally, it changes multiple times everyday according to the events occurring as time goes on. I get stressed easily, especially if I get a sudden rush of assignments and activities I have to complete. On most days (on a scale From 1-10 1 being the worst) I would say I’m just staying around 3-5. A lot of things play into that such as sleep deprivation, overwhelming school work/outside of school work, pressure, parents, etc. Although I only had a couple huge breakdowns, I would say I’m in a pretty stable but uncomfortable place; just very stressed all the time and tired.

Some ways to reach out and talk. (Abby Yu (’23))

I don’t think I’m as severe as some other individuals, and I’m grateful for that, but as somebody who has lived their lives thinking that they were the mentally stable one out of their group of friends, I quickly found that was wrong sometime last year. I’ve had no motivation and I hate myself for being that way and I constantly stress myself over work, but I can’t bring myself to do my work any earlier. I’m also not getting enough sleep, which doesn’t help with any intrusive thoughts that I may have.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with my mental health. Partly from school, partly from my family. I have struggled a lot with my home life and stuff that happened but most of it is in the past. When I get too stressed or don’t get enough sleep it resurfaces. Other than that I tend to have problems with perfectionism and never being enough :/ if I accomplish something that’s expected and I’m never content.

Depression feels like a constant headache. I feel nothing and everything at the same time. I can’t keep track of the days because everything around me is just white noise. Everyday I don’t do my best and I know I’m not doing my best but sometimes I’m so stuck that I can’t do anything about it. Schools aren’t built to handle mental illness even though it’s a factory for it.

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