Updated: Jun 27, 2022
TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains content about self-harm.
The first thing you should know, is I hesitated to write this out. I mean, when you put me side by side with everyone else, I don't look like I'm struggling very much. I consider myself to be high functioning, and I refused to let any words in my brain ruin that for me. I surrounded myself with other high-functioning people, the kinds of people who join all the clubs and run all the things and get perfect grades and have a 'things to put on the college application' list a mile long. I thought that if I followed these people, did the things they did, joined the clubs, ran the things, did sports, and added to my own list, I'd be fine.
That was a total lie.
Years later when I was getting panic attacks daily and actively self-harming, I still thought I was fine. You have to understand that these things happen gradually. You promise yourself that if it ever gets bad, you'll do something about it, you'll stop it, you'll get it fixed. But then it gets bad slowly, piece by piece and you wake up one morning a year later with the word 'broken' inscribed into your flesh and oozing blood down your arm, and you realize that maybe, somewhere, you crossed a line. A line you said you'd never cross but you crossed it, and that's that. No going back.
I still tried to do clubs. I still tried to do sports. But much like my gradual self-harm, clubs themselves became toxic. One of the main things that high-functioning people don't realize, is that pressuring everyone else to follow them, to do their clubs, to watch them run their things, really only makes the mental health problems worse, because every time you 'advertise' something, just casually, just for fun, my brain whispers, in a quiet little demonic voice, 'why can't you be like them? Why can't you join all the things and do all the clubs?’.”
I was in one club in particular, which I joined for fun. The person who ran the club was also involved with a whole bunch of other clubs, other things, all the typical preppy pre-college toxic stuff, that twists people into perfect molded shells of what society wants them to be. This person meant no harm, I know, but everywhere they went they pushed all of their 'things' onto everyone else around them. You should do this. You should join this. You should really really do this to support your struggling SGA. It was awful. I loved the club, but I didn't join it for college credit. I joined it for fun. But when it got to the point that I couldn't socialize with anyone else in it, I left the club for good. That didn't fix everything, but I gotta say it was a good move.
Now I'm trying a different approach to life. I cut out some people who I realized I didn't trust, let a few other people in, formed some support structures, and finally, finally, got my parents to let me do therapy. I do things now because I want to do them, not because I have to, not because they look good. I'm still getting pressure from people to do clubs, to join things, but I'm finally learning how to tell them no. I will not join your clubs. I will not lead your things. I am me, and I am doing the things that I want to do. I am not a shell of myself, and I am not selling out for colleges. I am not molding myself to the ideal student caricature, I am not making a college applications list.
I gotta say, I'm a lot happier. Not perfect, still far from it (gotta work through some serious trust issues first), but it's a lot better. So I'll recommend that, to anyone else who's watching themselves wither away slowly. Drop the college clubs, go join something that's just for fun. Stop worrying so much about the grades. In the long run, they don't really matter. Go to therapy. Whether you think you need it or not. At the end of they day, everyone benefits. Even you. Drag your friends into the sunshine. Play a game, take some time to yourself. Do something that's not for the piece of paper.
You'll thank yourselves for it, I promise.