Pain is Real

Brianna Bressan, Lion's Roar Staff


Traditionally, when we hear about mental health it’s always just the statistics. 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year, 50% of all mental illnesses begin at the age of 14, 75% at age 24, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in people ages 10-34.

Hearing statistics about mental health, about anything really, goes right over a kid’s head, so why was that all I heard about it up until I was around 13. For years I thought that something was wrong with me, and that there was no reason to feel the way I did. When there are so many other people in the world who didn’t have the things I did. I didn’t know why there were days I didn’t want to get up to do even the most basic things like use the bathroom. Why I would go to the hospital for “stomach aches” because I was too ashamed to tell my parents that even looking at food was enough to make me throw up the contents of my already empty stomach. I especially didn’t know why I had this constant nagging from the voice in the back of my head telling me that I’ll never be good enough and that everyone and everything in front of me wasn’t “real”, whatever that means. 

All I wanted to do was to be able to escape my own head, I wanted to be comforted, but without the touching because the voice would say I don’t like touching. That voice has said so many things to me that made it so hard to get through a single day. I wanted to rip every strand of hair out of my head so that maybe just maybe one of the strands being ripped from the root would pull the voice out. Yet no matter how hard I pulled and no matter how much I hurt myself nothing could ever get rid of that voice.

Mental health was this big unspeakable secret, to me it seemed that no one was like me so I never said anything. I didn’t think anyone else would look in the mirror and wish they were someone else. I didn’t think anyone else worried so much about everything and nothing that it caused them to not be able to sleep for days at a time. I became so good at hiding the fact that something was wrong that I was almost able to trick my brain into thinking I was like every other kid my age. 

That little mental trick never lasted for long, it would take about a week for my brain to catch up again. Everything in my life was like some huge play and I, the best actor there ever was, putting on smiles and faking every emotion in the book for the sake of others. I honestly couldn’t tell if anything was real, sometimes I still question whether or not I actually feel the way I think I do. The questions make me look at everything that happened from the last time I knew something was real, however long that was, whether a week or a few months, and analyze every single detail of every moment of everyday until I break like a glass cup being put down in the sink too hard. 

Some days people would notice that I seemed a little off and ask me if I was okay. To me the question, are you okay, always seemed like such a loaded one. I mean I have all my fingers and toes, my legs and arms are connected to my torso, my heart is beating, my blood is pumping and my lungs are filling with air, so yes? But then again, I was just so tired. Everything took so much effort, being alive seemed like such a chore at the time that sometimes I would think it would have been so much easier if I had just stopped and many people still think this way. 

We have 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies, 300 million are being destroyed per minute. That’s 18 billion destroyed per hour, 432 billion a day, 3 trillion per week, 13 trillion a month and 156 trillion a year. By year’s end our bodies have created and destroyed itself a little over four times, so why can’t one of those recreations fix whatever went wrong inside of me?

I want to be able to comfort my friends when they’re having a hard time and need someone to be there for them. I want to be able to hug my parents, or anybody for that matter, without forcing my body not to recoil at the thought. I want the people around me to feel safe and loved but I don’t know how to do that when I’ve never felt safe in my head. 

You see I’m not even sure I explained this correctly, it’s like my brain runs a mile a minute and I want to get all my thoughts down at once. The simplest way I can explain everything I spit out is I’ve never felt right, I struggle with terrible intrusive thoughts daily and I’m just trying to fix as much damage as I can. Maybe things would have been a lot simpler had I known I wasn’t alone in how I felt, but I can’t change the past; I can only try and help people who are as lost in their own mind as I am.