Jordan Avery’s open letter
Dear mental health,
It was 6th grade. In a grade of only 31 others, it was easy to feel different. But despite what my parents would tell me, the different I felt wasn’t the good kind. I’d find myself sitting alone at lunch, not because I had to, but because I just didn’t have the energy to interact with anyone by noon most days. I realized I always felt like I was dreading something, even if I had absolutely nothing to be worrying about.
“Take deep breaths,” my first therapist told me. “Count the things you see,” said the second. I breathed, I counted, but I still couldn’t shake the heaviness that seemed to follow me around everywhere I went.
By 7th grade, I knew something needed to change. The atmosphere at my tiny, private school was suffocating me, and adding to the stress of my seemingly impossible day to day routine. My parents didn’t know what to make of it- so when therapist #2 recommended I switch schools, they blindly agreed, knowing that it would take something drastic to change the heaviness that had overwhelmed their daughter.
8th grade. Now at a large public school, I thought you’d be drowned out by the large numbers of people; by laughter, by joy, and by independence. Although the initial change was shocking, I felt you creeping back in. I was disappointed, terrified, and angry, until I met her. She sat at my lunch table every day, and within a matter of weeks, she was my best friend. Hilarious and spontaneous, the joy she brought to my life acted like a vaccine against the heaviness that usually found me each week.
Now, I’m in high school. Where depression once was, anxiety now lives. Even now, just getting out of bed and on my feet remains one of the hardest parts of each day. It would be selfish to wallow, however, because I have found people who truly are lights in what otherwise can be a very difficult and overwhelming life. Courtney, my saving grace- she listens, she cares, and she loves me like no one else can. When she doesn’t know how to respond, she just reminds me that she is there to do life beside me, and will love me no matter what. Gabe, my guitarist and life raft: he reminds me that it’s okay to be anxious and frustrated, as long as I can actively acknowledge and work through it. Kendall, my friend-and-therapist who teaches me everyday that I don’t need to be afraid of my emotions. They, and so many others, are what I have to choose everyday to focus on.
It was in high school that I found music, that I found the one thing that let me release built up anger, pain, and joy into words that people could hear and relate to. Music can never heal any of my mental illnesses, but instead is a lens for me to process them through.
Anxiety, you suck. You make everything harder: life, school, friendships, a career, and relationships. I haven’t handled you well in the past; choosing to try to drown you out with anything, and becoming numb in the process. But I can’t pretend you’re not there, just like I can’t try to fight the fact that you are. So I will pour you into my music, and begin to heal.
I am a caretaker. I love people well, yet it is so hard to love myself. Sometimes I wonder if that’s because I know “loving myself” means loving the baggage, the anxiety, that comes with.
But I am not afraid of you, for you are only what I let you be. I will focus on the good, begin to heal what is broken, and continue to radiate love and kindness.