Writing Saved Me

Writing Saved Me

by Jamie Factor

 Ever since I was 11, I would feel immense anxiety before school. I always connected it to the typical middle school angst but I always knew it was more. I just wanted to avoid it. It wasn't the typical anxiety where tests made me nervous. I was more worried about who to sit next to on the bus or partner up with in class.

I started high school telling myself that things would change. I would get involved in school activities, go to parties, be social, and make friends. It wasn't that easy. I went to maybe two club meetings before I stopped. Every Friday I would sit at home with my parents and I would feel guilty. But I was happy being alone.

March of my freshman year was when COVID-19 began. I remember sitting in my living room with my parents and finding out school was canceled. I was happy. And I felt so guilty about that. There's a global pandemic and people are dying and I am relieved to not have to go to school. COVID was a lifeline for me. I was already so low and I honestly don't know where I would be without the pandemic. But I quickly realized it was only a temporary band aid. Because soon enough, sophomore year started and I was back to where I was the year before. Only one difference is that everything was online. I thought everything would be better. But it wasn't.

Every day before class I would pray and hope that it would be an easy day—not where there wasn't work but a day when I could work alone. Sophomore Year was a blur. I want to say I was okay but I wasn't. That summer I went to a three-week summer program in California. I remember arriving and feeling frozen and isolated like I couldn't move. I left that program four days after it started and returned home. That was when I first started therapy—something I should have done years ago. But even then, I wasn't into it. I would rather talk about my therapist than myself. Soon I got some meds. Things should be getting better but they weren't.

Halloween, we went to visit my brother and I came home on cloud nine–excited to go to college and move on with my life. But something changed. I woke up that Monday morning and announced I wasn't returning to school. My mom didn't believe me but I was serious. I was at my breaking point and I wanted to die. I talked about jumping off my roof, getting hit by a car, cutting, and so on.

But I didn't want to die. I wanted help. That was when I started at a PHP program, got a new therapist, and changed meds. That PHP program helped get me out of my rut. I was able to talk about my feelings with others. I learned valuable CBT and DBT skills. Even as I was getting better, I couldn't return to school. With some arguments, mom and dad allowed me to switch schools. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have avoided my original school but switching changed my life for the better. I made meaningful connections, explored my love of writing, and learned so much more. I did summer school and graduated early.

My next big adventure was a writing program in NYC for six weeks. Sure, I was worried about a California repeat but it was a trial for college and I had to know if I could do it. I went from the shy 16 year old unable to leave my house to a confident 18 year old marching around the Big Apple. That program changed my life. I met my best friend, I proved myself that I can go to college, and most of all, I learned to be open.

For my final project, I wrote a poem detailing my journey with mental health issues and read it in a room practically full of 30 strangers. I went from not being able to say anxiety and depression to announcing those words and owning it. I love writing and I was searching up mental health organizations to get my story out there and found ADAA. Here is my story:

My name is Jamie and I battle anxiety—social anxiety—and depression. As I write this, I am 18 and it's the middle of June. I'm going to college in a few months, which is something I never thought was possible. I didn't do things the traditional way, but I did it my way and I ended up okay. I'm learning to open up and be vulnerable and talk about it—which is something different than what I could say three years ago. The amount of anxiety I would feel in normal social situations was crazy. I'm glad I got help because nobody should live the way I was living.

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