It’s 2016 and I am 13 years old. I am in 7th grade at Le Lycee Francais de Los Angeles, an all-French school I attended from kindergarten to 8th grade. Going to a French school when you are a native French speaker living in a country where French is not the dominant language is a blessing. It allowed me to develop language skills I also wouldn’t have in French, while also having deeper implications I would only discover in my teenage years.
I am deep in the trenches of what would be the start of my long battle with mental health, caused from years of bullying and being put down, of not getting the academic support I needed in math classes, of not having lots of friends and other reasons. When you are bullied for as long as I was, that starts to impact you in a multitude of ways. I was always a cheery, happy girl, but by 7th grade I had lost a lot of self-esteem, did not have many peers at school that I could trust, had fake friends and I was behind in math class.
For privacy reasons, I will not reveal the names of kids who bullied me or of any teachers I had.
At this French school, you were with the same people for almost every class you had, but that year they mixed the classes, causing me to be exposed to new bullies I hadn’t encountered outside of recess. These were people who had never bothered me much in the past. I was suddenly spending a lot of time with people I didn’t know well, but had no clue these same people would come to make my life miserable. Due to that, I didn’t have a single friend in my class —no one who was on my side.
They would openly make fun of me in class, in front of the teachers, and while some stood up for me, many simply said nothing. I often cried in class, at recess or anytime I was at school. I felt unimportant and thought that no one at school would miss me if one day I simply didn’t show up.
My parents were always aware of what was happening to me at school and always encouraged me to stand up for myself, but that did little to nothing to change my situation. Even talking to the head of the school wasn’t enough, despite how kind and well-intentioned the person was.
My mother resorted to taking me to a psychiatrist because I was due for an evaluation I had to do every five or so years. The psychiatrist tested different skills to see how I compared to other children my age. Amongst one of the countless tests I did, was a personal survey where I filled in bubbles about statements that were true to me and how I felt about myself. That survey was very revealing for both my family and the psychiatrist, as she found that I was depressed and had very negative thoughts about myself.
That psychiatrist suggested I start taking antidepressants, which thankfully both my own psychiatrist and my mother refused. Although I was in a dark place, I don’t believe a 13 year old should be taking antidepressants, and I am thankful my mother and psychiatrist did not allow it. Instead, the solution was changing schools in 8th grade, something I desperately needed. I needed more attention from my teachers, I needed help in math class and I needed to be in a more positive environment where I could thrive.
Fast forward to 2023; I am in my sophomore year of college. Although my mental health battle is far from over and has now metabolized into anxiety like I have never experienced before, it makes me realize more than ever how important mental health is.
As someone who has struggled with mental health for a while, I know how hard it is and how isolating it can be to experience depression or anxiety. I still battle my anxiety almost daily in hopes of becoming stronger and overcoming it. I know people who are depressed and people who almost took their own lives because of it. I am here to say that it is hard, and it can be a constant battle that it can feel daunting. You do not have to be alone in that battle. You can always reach out to your loved ones and you can get professional help. Being alone as you go through such hard things does not make anything better.
Although I am still at times haunted by my past, I now know that it doesn’t have to define me or stop me from living my life, as anxiety likes to do. My anxiety does not define me. I now acknowledge that it is just a part of me, and I will continue to face it head-on until I overcome it.
Amelie Lavallee is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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