Ever since I can remember, I have been a role model to my brother. A happy, funny, sportive, sunny, healthy kid that had a big smile on her face and loved fighting over food with her brother. But everything changed last year. I was no longer the role model my brother looked up to. I became a sick, sad, gloomy kid that was too tired to smile or do anything. I no longer have an appetite for food. I no longer have the energy to stay happy and energetic. I was no longer healthy. I was broken mentally, physically, and emotionally. I experienced great hair loss, swelling on my feet, rib ache, back pain, and became a living corpse that lost all the muscles, meats, happiness, appetite, and things that make one a human.
Being an international student on board during COVID was a hard time, especially if you are alone and only 15. Locked, cramped, sad, and depressed, I became the animal that was trapped in the zoo. I was down all the time because I crave for my mom, for freedom, and for my hometown. I lost all my friends because I have closed myself up. I didn’t reach out for help because I was too scared and shy. I was trapped. Sad. And down. So I stopped socializing and eating.
It went on for months. And I became a walking corpse that lost all the things that made me a human. I buried all these emotions in me until one day, I broke down to a cry when my advisor asked how I was doing. She set up an appointment for me at the Health Center, and gave me a tight hug that reminded me of my mom.
After the appointment, I was immediately sent back to my home overseas. Due to the sudden leave and the depressed mood, I couldn’t be in the moving-up ceremony among my peers. I couldn’t be there to sing my best friend a Happy Birthday song. I couldn’t say goodbye to all my friends and teachers before I left because I don’t know what to tell them if they asked. And the most painful thing was losing the first friend I’ve made in my high school because I had turned into another person that hurt her feelings very much. I’ve lost a best friend that cared for me. I’ve scared my parents that they couldn’t close their eyes to sleep for days. I’ve worried my brother, who no longer looks up at me as a role model or the sister he remembers. I was no longer Kitty. But a stranger, a monster, that is slowly killing myself.
The moment my mom came running towards me in the airport was when I decided I want to get and be better. I had to call my own mom’s name 2 times, standing less than 12 feet apart, before she recognized that I was her daughter and came running towards me like a tiger. She stopped just in time in front of me, afraid a hug at this speed will break my bones. Even with the mask and clothes on, she could see my cadaverous face, dull eyes, and skinny body that was so fragile. She began to cry. She was very heartbroken and tired. She was hugging me and patting me gently, kept saying, mommy is here, mommy is here, over and over. At that moment, I began to cry too. From both seeing my mom and the sudden realization of how I was destroying myself. My mom didn’t even recognize me! The daughter she had raised 24/7 for 15 years! The thought was stuck in my head and I was so scared. What if my dad, my brother, my friends, and my teachers no longer recognize me? What is the point of living if the ones you love don’t even recognize you? Reflecting and questioning myself, I came to understand that there is a stage in life where you have to face and fight with yourself. People all know smoking is bad for their health, but only 7% are able to quit smoking. These 7% of people fought with themselves. They fought over the monster who wanted them to pick up a cigarette. They fought over the monster who told them smoking won’t kill them. They fought and fought despite all urges, and finally, only the ones who have the strongest mindset win. Right then and there, I know I want to get better. I need to get better. And I will fight with the monster that took away my appetite, my happiness, my personality, and my life. Not only for myself but also for the others who care about me. I want to be the Kitty they know, remember, and miss. Not someone I would not recognize one day too.
From the support I received from my school’s faculties, my parents, therapists, and medical staff, I had slowly gained my weight back. I’m now eating enough nutrients and learned to cherish my time and the fortunate life that I was born into. I have a loving family, good education, and supportive friends that make me one of the luckiest humans in the world. Why waste all these things by destroying and killing myself? Why miss all of the fun there is in life by dying away on a hospital bed? Why make all my family and friends worry and sad? With a strong mindset of wanting to get better, I slowly began to accept foods by eating a bit more each meal. I’m happy with the Kitty now. Someone who luckily no longer has health issues about her body. Someone who has enough energy to do the things she loves. Someone who loves eating food again.
Do I ever regret coming to the States last year? No, will be my answer. In life, there will always be a hardship that one has to fight. But only the strong ones will survive. I’ve learned to cherish my time with my family. I’ve learned to reach out for help when I need it. I’ve learned no one will think I’m weak if I share my feelings or ask for help. I’ve learned the importance of being healthy and happy. I’ve built a healthy relationship with my body, mind, and food. And I’m most proud of the step I took to write a letter to the friend I’ve lost. I know no matter how old I’m, or how close I’m to home, I will be homesick again. But this time, I know I can trust others with my true feelings. I know I can talk to others and ask for help. I know I can handle my homesickness without torturing myself. I know I will always have people who are there to support and understand me. I will not let this happen to me again. Never.
With a new, bright mind, I returned back to my school this year. I roomed with my best friend, I tried all of the new dishes in the dining hall, I joined the Mount Biking team and I’m friends again with the people I had lost. Moreover, I have counseling every week and medical checkups every 2 weeks.
As someone who had successfully “battled” the monster in herself, I want to aid others who are facing similar struggles. In school, I wrote a research paper on depression with the help of the ADAA website to explore more on the cause and statistics of depression. I want to share my story on the ADAA platform so people know they are not alone and they can reach out for help. ADAA’s English language anonymous peer-to-peer online anxiety and depression support group and ADAA's Spanish-language online support group are always there for people to share their thoughts and stories freely and safely. Ask an ADAA Therapist can also answer questions in their monthly issue. Websites like ADAA will be always there for people to learn more information, get access to help, and make them know they are not alone.
I’m so thankful that I’ve met so many amazing people that supported me and my family on this journey. I’m thankful for all their kindness, patience, and care. And I’m most thankful to my parents who are always there every step of my way. I wish, hope, and will, the next time when I return back to my home, my brother will laugh at my jokes, play with me, and the look on my parents’ faces won't be worry, tired and sad. But happy, bright smiley faces that welcome their daughter home.