The pursuit of (some) happiness

One year ago I had a dream so gruesome that I remember every detail to this day. I don’t remember many of my dreams, but this one followed the hardest three weeks of my life.

I closed my eyes that night, then BANG. Everything I achieved, obtained and could have made of myself– gone. The gun that I pointed square at my forehead hit the floor, ringing across the room. A heavy heartbeat throbbed in my head, pumping over and over, and the only thing I could think was: “What have I done?” My parents screamed in the background, and all I could see was black, as it set in that I took my own life.

The moment I woke up, face down, realizing I was alive, I had the wildest spur of emotion. I was excited to see another day, terrified of what had just occurred, but, most of all, grateful for my life. With the emotionally painful three weeks, plus the dream, things began to add up. I had a realization lying in bed at 2 a.m..

I have depression.

Once a realization of this severity occurs, there are many routes that can be taken to fix the problem. I am here to tell my story of how I overcame the mental villian who broke me down.

Let me introduce Jaycen Sussman, freshman year: the kid who did not care about the future, the kid who suffered from illness in the family, divorce and a confused parental relationship.

After spending my whole life under a bridge of ‘not caring,’ I woke up. I was determined that during sophomore year, I would commit to excellence and show what I can truly do. After all, how hard could it be?

Sophomore year: papers get returned in classes– another test not passed. I studied immensely for the CP curriculum, yet I could not make up for all those years of being apathetic toward my education. I began to lose self-esteem. I looked around at my peers: 4.3 GPA, honors and AP classes, appear to never have to study a minute and yet still managed to achieve a better grade than me after reviewing for countless hours. This is when the monster began to erupt: I am not good enough, why are all these kids smarter than me… I am an idiot.

This is one of the many causes of my depression. I compared myself to my peers. I wanted what I lacked. The morning I woke up from that dream, I began to think: What if I were to do this… would anyone really care? Would anyone really care if I died right now?

That is when I felt I was lost.

After sitting in my room for hours, contemplating, I pulled myself out of bed, got dressed and put on a fake smile to begin yet another day.

Thus began a brutal 48 hours where my life was in jeopardy. I could not sleep; I was too scared. I could not eat; thinking about the dream nauseated me. I was a shell of a human being. Yet in the darkest of times, occasionally a light breaks a barrier, bringing you back to life. I was lucky enough to receive that light from another person. Almost asleep at my desk, I jumped as the bell rang. As I walked towards the door, my teacher stopped me and asked a question that changed my life:

“Would you be interested in becoming the next sports anchor for Panther TV?”

Shocked and overwhelmed by emotion, that is what saved me. Not admitting to myself that I have depression, but the validation from another that I have potential. I was given worth. I found my purpose. A simple, kind gesture saved me, and it wasn’t even intended to do so. In this moment, I was able to answer my own dark thought, yes, people would care if I ended my life.

This was the beginning of a journey I still fight, but while I may not be at rock bottom, depression is still a major part of my identity.

But never, not for a second, will I let it define who I am.

I sat down for what seemed to be an eternity and decided ‘now was the time for change.’ The boy who dreamed of succeeding was finally able to do so. This year, I decided to test myself and see how far this newfound motivation can take me. I enrolled in multiple AP and IB classes. For many, these programs are just another name on a transcript, but when I looked down and see an ‘A’ in a higher level class, I knew everything is worthwhile. But that did not fix the problem.

I opened up. It wasn’t easy, in fact, it felt like hell having to accept I have a mental illness, but once I spoke about the subject and told people about my problem, it began to diminish. I am just like the other 2.8 million teenagers who suffer from depression, yet I was able to prevail in my worst state of mind.

Everyone hits a roadblock; nobody lives the perfect life. The people you envy have a list of problems of their own. I’m willing to bet you never thought the “sports guy of Newbury Park” has depression. But that is a part of my story, and your obstacles are just another chapter of the novel that makes up your life.

I still have depression, and I probably will for the rest of my life, but I know from my past experiences there is only one way that the problem can be fixed.

Talk.

I had to grow up a lot faster than most children, but I made it out of this depression and I learned to appreciate every moment that I am alive. Although it was hard and didn’t seem to be the best resort, opening up my negative mindset to others helped end my struggle, and it will do the same for others who choose to talk.

Recently, I had a dream so fascinating it stuck with me… but this one was different. Overcoming six months without an episode of depression, I was living my best life. People knew me, they cared about me and I rose up to show the world what I can do. It was amazing. I was successful in whatever I put my mind to and I excelled in doing it. I had control over my mind, I was happy with myself and proud of who I am.

This dream keeps me going every single day, as I know that life is worth every second that can be taken from it. I hope I never wake up.

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