Photo taken by Liz Ketcham


Stacks Image 1165
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“I came out as bisexual at first. Mind you, this is the eighth grade. And that was a big, big, big mistake because people treated me awfully. I was disowned …

Stacks Image 1172
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“I came out as bisexual at first. Mind you, this is the eighth grade. And that was a big, big, big mistake because people treated me awfully. I was disowned by all of my friends, if we are going to be honest here. I had nobody left. They were disgusted with me. And they thought that I was not worth being around anymore. That was a really rough time for me. I came out in March and that went on from March until June, when school ended. And I decided ‘No I’m straight no no no no no I’m straight. I promise I’m straight.’ (1/4)”

Close

Stacks Image 1181
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

”I came out again freshman year as bisexual, and it was incredible. I had so much support from my mom and my sister. My mom gave me a book …

Stacks Image 1188
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

”I came out again freshman year as bisexual, and it was incredible. I had so much support from my mom and my sister. My mom gave me a book… what was it called? It Gets Better. It’s called It Gets Better. It has all these stories of celebrities and just normal people coming out, and what they were going through. That book helped me a lot. I am super proud of that. And when people asked me who I was, I would tell them that I’m bisexual. That’s just who I was." (2/4)

Close

Stacks Image 1235
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“I came out as lesbian two months ago here and I’ve gotten- I’m actually really surprised- I’ve gotten some good reactions like: “Good for you!” and “I wish …

Stacks Image 1242
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri


“I came out as lesbian two months ago here and I’ve gotten- I’m actually really surprised- I’ve gotten some good reactions like: “Good for you!” and “I wish I was lesbian too!” I’m very proud of that. I think I’ve received a lot of really positive responses because I’m only friends with open minded people. If you’re not open minded, I’m not going to be friends with you. I think having accepting friends is one of the coolest feelings. I think it helps me be unafraid, even if I’m still a little nervous about being openly gay in public. (¾)”

Close

Stacks Image 1251
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“I’m proud of being lesbian and super comfortable with it. It’s just who I am, and I’m okay with that. And I keep seeing these stories of these people …

Stacks Image 1258
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“I’m proud of being lesbian and super comfortable with it. It’s just who I am, and I’m okay with that. And I keep seeing these stories of these people who are afraid to come out. I don’t get it. I get that they’re afraid, but I still don’t get it. You feel so much better when you come out. You feel liberated and happy with yourself. That’s what everybody wants. Everybody just wants to be accepted and loved. And if you’re not accepted and loved by people that are around you, then screw the people around you. You deserve better than that. You’re gonna find better people. You just have to wait. (4/4)”

Close

Stacks Image 1203
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“One of the challenges I face as a hospice chaplain is having people accept the fact that they’re dying. It’s a beautiful thing when it does happen …

Stacks Image 1210
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“One of the challenges I face as a hospice chaplain is having people accept the fact that they’re dying. It’s a beautiful thing when it does happen. Hospice works because it gives people time to prepare, to call people they need to reconcile with or they need to say goodbye to, to get their legal affairs in order to make sure those who are left behind are as well taken care of as they can be. But many people don’t do that. Many people, if you say the “D” word, they just shut off. And surprisingly, with some patients, one of our big fights is to have them sign a Do Not Resuscitate form. And I want to say, “You’re dying, ok? You need to accept that.” But they can’t.” (1/2)

Close

Stacks Image 1219
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“I tell people that it’s okay to miss the person. But remember what you’re mourning is just the body. The spirit, the thing you really love, is still with you. And …

Stacks Image 1226
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“I tell people that it’s okay to miss the person. But remember what you’re mourning is just the body. The spirit, the thing you really love, is still with you. And it won’t leave you. Sometimes people say, “I can’t remember what he looked like.” But if you loved somebody, it never really goes away. Or if you were friends with somebody, you spent time with somebody, that relationship continues to exist. That spirit continues to exist. And so in some form, that person is still with you. The body is just a package that holds the spirit. I use the word spirit. More religious people use the word soul. There are different connotations on the word spirit, but I use spirit to describe the essence of that person. The body isn’t your essence. It’s just a package to carry that essence around in. Maybe it’s like you get a box of cookies from Beyond Bread. The important thing is what’s inside, not the box. And it sometimes seems like we worship the box, not the cookies.” (2/2)

Close

Stacks Image 499
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“Around March, the second year anniversary of my dad’s death. I just- I completely lost it. I completely lost it and I was ready to die. I was so ready to die …

Stacks Image 506
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“Around March, the second year anniversary of my dad’s death. I just- I completely lost it. I completely lost it and I was ready to die. I was so ready to die. I said goodbye to my friends. I had just recently gotten antidepressant medication. I was like shit, I’m just going to overdose on these because ‘cause why not. It seemed an easy way to do it. And my friend, she lived down the street. She literally ran up the hill to go tell my mom. And so my mom found out.” (1/2)

Close

Stacks Image 515
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

It’s important for people to know that there are so many fucked up people in this world. It’s natural, bad things happen. What everyone needs to understand …

Stacks Image 522
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

“It’s important for people to know that there are so many fucked up people in this world. It’s natural, bad things happen. What everyone needs to understand is that people try to save you, and that it’s going to be okay. Get rid of the idea that you can’t be saved. That’s not true. Literally I’ve known so many suicidal people who had the messages “I can’t be saved” and “No one understands me” stuck in their heads. And then two years later I’ll find out they’re doing fine. Being okay just takes time and patience in yourself and others around you. I’m okay now because I saw an amazing therapist and got help, but I used to be extremely fucked up. I’ve been called dumb and stupid and all the names in the book, but I was accepted into two colleges in England. I’m really proud of myself for that and I know that it does get better. I wish I had listened to people and gotten more help sooner rather than wallow in my own pity, which was completely useless. Completely. Useless.” (2/2)

Close

Stacks Image 1127
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

"If I ever get married, which I won’t, but if I ever get married, I will never have a male figure that I trust walking me down the aisle. I will never have any of the …

Stacks Image 1134
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

"If I ever get married, which I won’t, but if I ever get married, I will never have a male figure that I trust walking me down the aisle. I will never have any of the daddy daughter shit that I craved for so long. I really wanted the luxury of daddy daughter dancing. But he's dead. So I never got that opportunity."

Close

Stacks Image 1143
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

One of the things I do as a hospice chaplain is talk to people about birth and death. Birth and death are polar opposites of each other. Things have changed a bit …

Stacks Image 1150
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

One of the things I do as a hospice chaplain is talk to people about birth and death. Birth and death are polar opposites of each other. Things have changed a bit with modern medicine, but it used to be that you didn’t know when exactly a baby was going to arrive and you didn’t know whether it was going to be a boy or girl. There was a lot of mystery. But when that event did happen, everybody in the room was happy except the baby. The baby's like “I had it good where I was, why are you pushing me out?” And when somebody dies, it’s just the opposite. Because again, you don’t know when it’s going to happen and there’s a lot of mystery around it. Yet when it does happen, everybody in the room is sad except the person who died. They might not be sad because they don’t exist anymore and therefore don’t have any emotions. Or maybe they’re happy because they’re going to heaven, and moving on. Regardless, the peace is for the person who has died and the sadness is for the people who are left behind.

Close

Stacks Image 1090
Photo by Xiao Glahn

As a dancer who has claimed this lifestyle for over 15 years, it is not surprising that I was recently diagnosed with depression. Globally, most dancers …

Stacks Image 1097
Photo by Xiao Glahn

As a dancer who has claimed this lifestyle for over 15 years, it is not surprising that I was recently diagnosed with depression. Globally, most dancers struggle with depression, especially those who participate in ballet. I, among many others, strive for perfection that is not attainable. We pay professionals to criticize us as they teach and we spend hours each day critiquing our bodies and capabilities. Forcing our bodies into impossible and uncomfortable positions: we will do almost anything to achieve perfection and praise from our peers and professors. The thing I have struggled most with is the concept of self-love. I am striving to work on this each and every day, and it is always a comfort to know that I am not the only person dealing with this.

Close

Stacks Image 1106
Photo by Xiao Glahn

With school getting busy during junior year, it became harder for me to be physically healthy. This not only affected my physical health, but also my mental health …

Stacks Image 1113
Photo by Xiao Glahn

With school getting busy during junior year, it became harder for me to be physically healthy. This not only affected my physical health, but also my mental health, as I felt tired and stressed with dismal physical activity. I decided to put my foot down and exercise (ankle weights and cardio) every other day of the week plus both days of the weekend. I’ve succeeded in my goal and maintained it to this day. I have more energy, feel more relaxed and stronger, and it is a perfect outlet from school. The best part is, being able to release my stress while exercising has enabled me to focus on my schoolwork afterwards.

Close

Stacks Image 1053
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

The day after the election was a weird day. We had a mandatory session at 8 am. Most people, at least all of the people I know, were hungover and sad. And at the …

Stacks Image 1060
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

The day after the election was a weird day. We had a mandatory session at 8 am. Most people, at least all of the people I know, were hungover and sad. And at the end of the session, one of my fellow medical students stood up and spoke to the class. He said that we cannot be divided and we have to treat all patients with compassion and we cannot let this culture of turning against each other or having hatred towards certain populations to prevent the way that we treat patients or even the way we treat each other. I thought it was a very beautiful speech. It was very touching.

Many people started crying as he was talking. But the medical school class, we don’t really discuss politics. It’s one of the the things that I think is lacking in medical school, the fact that we never have conversations as a group that aren’t medical. Every once in awhile, they encourage us to talk about gender or race dynamics, but usually no one really wants to participate, so they aren’t very productive conversations.

I don’t really know where a lot of my peers stand politically, but I know where my friends stand. It is a shame. I don’t think it’s unique to just my medical school though. There’s so much science you’re expected to learn in 4 years, so it makes sense that we mostly talk science, but I think the lack of social or political conversation is extremely problematic. We should’ve talked Trump vs. Clinton because I think Clinton would have simplified our professional lives, but that’s just my opinion.

Close

Stacks Image 1069
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I was a humanities major, and I think the arts and culture and history largely impact medicine. One of the reasons I chose medicine is because there are so many …

Stacks Image 1076
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I was a humanities major, and I think the arts and culture and history largely impact medicine. One of the reasons I chose medicine is because there are so many different ways you can be involved! So, for instance, I could easily see myself going into global health and working as hard as I could in a specific community. My passion is Africa. So I would love to go to West Africa or Southern Africa and dedicate my career to individuals who don’t have access to good healthcare. And that would be one way to be an activist. But, I often also think that it would be interesting to go into international development and do something on a larger scale- maybe policy or public health- and fight for a national healthcare program or fight for better healthcare access for the average American. So, there are just so many different ways that you can get involved as a physician and it’s one of the reasons why I really like the medical field.

I majored in African history. I loved it, I really miss it and I hope to get back to it. I think studying for medical school is very similar to studying for history. You have to memorize huge quantities of information but then you have to take that information and bring it to your present context. And so, as a history major, a lot of what I did was looking at what is happening today in, for example, Ghana, and thinking about how you can look at Ghanaian history to understand what’s happened and why people are reacting the way that they’re reacting right now. I think in that sense, I use my undergraduate education in medical school all of the time. Here’s all this body of information that I had to memorize and here’s this patient-- based on what the patient is saying, and how the patient is presenting, I have to use that body of knowledge to interpret what’s happening. So, I use that skill. But I don’t use my actual information very often. It’s okay. It comes back. I still geek out any time anyone wants to discuss it with me.

My favorite thing about medical school is the societies part of it--we are all paired with a mentor and each mentor has a different specialty. I happen to be paired with a surgeon. And every Monday, we interact with real patients and then also with actors and actresses. We have to, kind of, play doctor. That’s my favorite part of medical school because the reason I want to go into medicine is to talk to people, and that’s the only time, at least in the first two years, where you actually go and interact with them, you do a differential diagnosis, you actually have to think about what you think about when you’re a doctor as opposed to studying all the time (which isn’t as fun).

Close

Stacks Image 1016
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

It started with the need to have equal things happen on both sides of my body. If someone were to tap me on my left shoulder, I would need them to tap me on …

Stacks Image 1023
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

It started with the need to have equal things happen on both sides of my body. If someone were to tap me on my left shoulder, I would need them to tap me on the right shoulder, or I would feel off-balance and fall over all day. I feel a compulsion to scratch my legs to the point where they bleed, despite not having dry skin or any other reason justifying the scratching. I haven’t officially been diagnosed, but such symptoms of OCD have been manifesting since fifth grade. I am really hoping that I can be diagnosed soon. I can’t go to a psychiatrist because of my insurance, and it’s incredibly frustrating, especially since there is clearly something wrong.

Close

Stacks Image 1032
Photo taken by Julia Zamora

I don’t want to live in a place where being compassionate toward another human being is compromised by something as trivial as money. We need universal …

Stacks Image 1039
Photo taken by Julia Zamora

I don’t want to live in a place where being compassionate toward another human being is compromised by something as trivial as money. We need universal health care. Those who need access to health care should be taken care of without being scared of going into debt-- not everyone has the resources to get a good insurance provider, and some people would rather die than put their family into debt by getting treatment.

I also believe that we should get rid of the pink tax, but I don’t see that happening, seeing as our senate is mostly composed of older men who don’t understand periods and the way that they work.

Going through chemo wasn’t the cheapest thing. Our insurance helped, but not to the extent where I felt that we were living comfortably. We got bills for almost three years after the treatment, and it was all crazy expensive.

I’m kind of healthy now. I eat more snacks than my doctor would prefer, but I run 3 miles every day with my puppy. She’s honestly the only reason I exercise. I have depression, so whenever I'm feeling sad, my puppy comes to cuddle. She's a great homie. Before her I was isolated, and would find excuses to not hang out with friends or to bail on plans. But, I know that my puppy needs to be outside and get her exercise, and I have to be the one who walks and trains her. She's the reason I've been more outgoing, and while I admit that I still sometimes bail, it’s really more because I’m not a fan of crowds.

Close

Stacks Image 979
Photo taken by Kasey Carpenter

My sophomore year of high school I was diagnosed with depression. It changed my life significantly. I had went from having a lot of free time to going to therapy …

Stacks Image 986
Photo taken by Kasey Carpenter

My sophomore year of high school I was diagnosed with depression. It changed my life significantly. I had went from having a lot of free time to going to therapy almost everyday and taking medication every night to help me. Depression changed how I saw the world and the things I did. It wasn't an overnight change either.

Things started to take a turn for the worse my freshman year-- but it wasn't until my diagnosis did I realize when things started to change. I'm now a senior in high school and I can't say that it has gone away, but I'm definitely better than I was before.

Depression never really goes away, you just find ways to make it easier on yourself to deal with it. If anything, depression makes you a stronger person because you've hit that low point in your life and you're still here, better than you were before.

Things aren't always going to be easy but having depression helped me push through those hard times because I learned how to deal with rough times through therapy. I'm a stronger person today than I was my freshman year and I'm going to be stronger 4 years from now.

Close

Stacks Image 995
Photo taken by Anonymous

My grandfather died of heart disease when he was 53. All of my father’s siblings have had open heart surgery within the last five years and two of his brothers …

Stacks Image 1002
Photo taken by Anonymous

My grandfather died of heart disease when he was 53. All of my father’s siblings have had open heart surgery within the last five years and two of his brothers have had but survived heart attacks.

Growing up in a household where my parents are constantly discussing cholesterol and going to heart appointments is interesting. Everyday there are stories of someone suddenly dropping dead of a heart attack and you can’t help but wonder if that situation could become very real and personal.

Knowing that in adulthood I will have to find ways to fight against the wonderful genetics I have been granted is scary but I am so incredibly grateful for the knowledge and medicine the modern world has granted us. Not only are there new surgeries and life saving mechanisms, but theres also information on how to live a healthy lifestyle. People now know what food will clog their arteries and that doing cardiovascular workouts are so good! There are specific medications to lower high cholesterol and all of these technologies are only getting better.

Close

Stacks Image 942
Photo taken by Anonymous

Living with eczema is a daily struggle and I have to be constantly aware of my environment and what I am exposing my skin to. I've always been a healthy …

Stacks Image 949
Photo taken by Anonymous

Living with eczema is a daily struggle and I have to be constantly aware of my environment and what I am exposing my skin to.

I've always been a healthy person overall but I've struggled with skin diseases for my whole life. Dealing with various cases of dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, I am used to having to use certain lotions and creams and avoiding others.

In the past 6 months, my dermatitis has spread to my face and the area around my eyes. Because of this I have to be extra cautious of what cosmetics and skin care products I use near my eyes. This ends up being more expensive and if I use the wrong products my skin suffers greatly, like stings and turns bright red kinda suffering, so I have to be aware of what is going on my skin at all times. I also have to rely on steroid creams when the seasons shift from fall to winter and from winter to spring in order to prevent my skin from cracking and getting super itchy.

While this isn't really a life threatening health issue, it alters how I live my day to day life because I have to avoid anything scented on my skin, which is more of an issue than some might think, in order to avoid flare ups and further irritation.

-Jaime Hutchison

Close

Stacks Image 958
Photo taken by Anonymous

So I had been feeling sleepy ALL OF THE TIME and I assumed it was due to natural teenager hormones and such, but in reality, it was because of my lack of …

Stacks Image 965
Photo taken by Anonymous

So I had been feeling sleepy ALL OF THE TIME and I assumed it was due to natural teenager hormones and such, but in reality, it was because of my lack of exercise--I'm talking complete lack of exercise. I did absolutely nothing. I got home and slept and did my homework, that was it-- and because I was eating nothing but junk food and sugary food.

I later realized what I was doing to myself and I actually started to see the inside of my body as disgusting; and, I knew my body was always sleepy because it was missing the right nutrition and proper exercise.

So I'm trying to do something about it now.

I love junk food too much, so I'm honestly trying to eat a bit less of that and a bit more healthy stuff, and I have a trampoline out back, so I'm using that about 30 minutes a day to workout. It makes me sweat a lot, and I've read that it really helps your lymphatic system.

Close

Stacks Image 905
Photo taken by Anonymous

Like many other preteen girls, I struggled to figure myself and my emotions out for quite some time. In eighth grade, I realized I am someone who's …

Stacks Image 912
Photo taken by Anonymous

Like many other preteen girls, I struggled to figure myself and my emotions out for quite some time.

In eighth grade, I realized I am someone who's very prone to situational depression. That year, my family lost all of our cars and I had to bike to school in the heat, on the bad side of town. I had no friends during that time so I hid in the bathroom at lunch, got bullied at school to the point my grades were slipping, and when I confessed to someone (who I thought might be my friend) that I had considered suicide, she said I was weird and ran off. I tried to talk to my parents many times and they simply reminded me to pray.

I was too angry with my situation to do that yet- so I resorted to harming my body, hardly eating, skipping school, and sleeping constantly. I finally realized wallowing in misery only made things worse, it wasn't who I am, and wanted to stop feeling like death was the only way out of this situation. My dad mentioned coping mechanisms- so I researched that. I began focusing on my health, did yoga, listened to a LOT of music, and finally prayed.

I stopped holding in tears and cried whenever I needed to cry. I tried to remember my sense of humor and used it to get by every day by not taking my bullies seriously. I faked a smile until it felt real, and I thought about all the things that were good every night, instead of the bad things. Eventually things got better over time and I no longer felt the heavy weight of depression on my chest, I simply felt stronger. Since then I've had a few short bouts of situational depression which only last for as long as the issue is occurring.

However, I know how to cope with that pain now. I know how to help myself without drugs, doctors, therapists, or any of the like. I can help myself on my own, by treating my mind and body how it deserves to be treated, no matter what kind of trials I'm going through- so that even if I have times of situational depression I'm still happy to just at least be alive, and am always counting each blessing.

Close

Stacks Image 921
Photo taken by Anonymous

Over the years I have found that the best way to take care of you physical and mental health is to listen to your body. You know your body the best and are the first …

Stacks Image 928
Photo taken by Anonymous

Over the years I have found that the best way to take care of you physical and mental health is to listen to your body. You know your body the best and are the first one to know when something is wrong. Never let anyone push you to do something that you know isn't rightful you or your body. Never be afraid to speak up about any questions or concerns you have regarding your health. Remember to always be assertive about what is going on because you know yourself best!

Close

Stacks Image 868
Photo taken by Maitri Sojourner

Our health care is in disarray, and those who have been able to obtain health care for the first time through the Affordable Care Act are being threatened by our …

Stacks Image 875
Photo taken by Maitri Sojourner

Our health care is in disarray, and those who have been able to obtain health care for the first time through the Affordable Care Act are being threatened by our current administration. Stories are powerful, and we need to take our messages to legislators. It's important now, more than ever, to speak up for marginalized groups--women, minorities, etc.--that we all need affordable access to health care.

Close

Stacks Image 884
Photo taken by Anonymous

I never really understood what Frontotemporal Dementia was until my Grandpa was diagnosed. I thought it was the same as Alzheimer's, but it's definitely different …

Stacks Image 891
Photo taken by Anonymous

I never really understood what Frontotemporal Dementia was until my Grandpa was diagnosed. I thought it was the same as Alzheimer's, but it's definitely different. People don't just forget what they ate for breakfast, or where they put their car keys-- they forget who they are. They change mannerisms and the way they talk, and they become different people right before your eyes. The worst part is they don't even realize that there is a change in themselves, which makes it especially hard on family. You want to help them understand, but there's no way to. The truth is that their brains are slowly dying, and there is no way with current medicine to reverse it. The only treatments are to minimize the impacts of mood swings and headaches, but those things don't matter when you think about what's actually happening to their brains. We are so blessed in our case because my Grandpa "landed on happy". He always has a smile on his face and is happy to see us smiling back, even if he doesn't recognize who we are. He used to always say "happy day" as an answer to any question, and for that I'm thankful. It makes this whole situation seem a lot easier, especially to my Grandma, even though it's sad.

Close

Stacks Image 831
Photo taken by Tai Huesgen

Much of my mother's side of the family has some sort of mental illness. However, almost all of them have gone untreated for most of their lives. Of the few who …

Stacks Image 838
Photo taken by Tai Huesgen

Much of my mother's side of the family has some sort of mental illness. However, almost all of them have gone untreated for most of their lives. Of the few who have been treated for mental illness, it has become very clear that treatment is nearly ineffective.

My mother has bipolar disorder, chronic depression, OCD (possibly OCPD), and some sort of anxiety disorder. For each of these, she has been diagnosed and given medications for. Many of the medications she received did not work out for her. It is very usual to have to try multiple medications before finding one that works for them. And yet, when she did find a medication that would work, her own mental illness would betray her. Part of being bipolar is having lows and highs. Although the lows are low, the highs are also high. Giving medication to even out these lows and highs to make a person more even tempered and emotionally stable has both a positive and negative side. For most, they cannot bear to lose the highs, and as a result, stop taking their medication. For them, the discontinuation of the medication is a relief. They no longer have to take responsibility for their emotions, they love life to the fullest, and even more than most of us can possibly imagine. But then, they fall into a low. Despite how much my mother loves her highs, for her children (myself included), we hated the highs as much as the lows. During her highs, she became uninterested in being a mother. She went out partying and drinking, refusing to wait behind to sign school documents and listen to her children. During her lows, she was unbearable. She would fall into deep depressions, scaring the shit out of us as she threatened suicide.

That is not to say this was the daily experience with my mother. Some of my best memories of my childhood were the ones she was in a high and wanted to spend time with my siblings and I. No matter what happened, nothing could get her down. However, as life became progressively harder (her mental illnesses made it difficult to save money or pay bills consistently), the lower her highs got and the deeper her lows became.

My grandmother, my Bubbie, also has bipolar disorder, in addition to (unconfirmed) narcissistic personality disorder. As a result to her (probable) NPD, she refuses to be diagnosed for any mental illness or go to any doctor of any sort. However, with her persistent manipulations to benefit her own situation, including taking financial advantage of her daughter (my mother) on multiple occasions, it is clear to us that she has no care in the world except for herself. At one point, my mother fell into a low, and we moved into a house owned by my grandmother. She had already paid off the house, but forced us to pay over a thousand dollars a month (far over the electricity and gas prices) to fuel her gambling addiction. When my mother decided to move out, my grandmother convinced my mother she was unable to rent out the house after her because it had suffered damages under our stay, despite the fact the house had damages when we moved in due to a hoarding issue with both my grandmother and grandfather. Throughout our stay, my grandmother would ask for advances or loans and would refuse to admit we had given her any money multiple times. But, as a result to her gambling issues, my mother had to open a bank account for my grandmother under my mother's name, because banks refused to open an account for her. As a result, any record of my grandmother owing us money appeared to be a transfer between multiple accounts of my mother's.

Unfortunately, in a family full of mental illness, exchanges similar to above were a constant. Some mental illnesses keep people from getting diagnosed, while some keep people from getting properly medicated to prevent bad home situations. Until we fight the stigma around mental illness or fix the treatment of people with mental illness, shootings and situations like the ones I grew up in while continue to crop up around America.

Close

Stacks Image 847
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

I was born with murmurs and a portion of my aorta had not been fully formed by the time I was born. I had 4 open heart surgeries, all performed in a transgressing …

Stacks Image 854
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

I was born with murmurs and a portion of my aorta had not been fully formed by the time I was born. I had 4 open heart surgeries, all performed in a transgressing time period of 6 years. My first surgery was when I was 1 month old and my last was when I was about 5 years old. Currently as an outpatient after 6 long years of treatment, surgeries and medication I can say I finally have time to breathe peacefully. All four of my surgeries were practiced in the University Medical Center of Tucson Arizona, and I still have to go to annual check ups with the cardiologists.

My surgeries were coarctation of aorta, ventricular septal repair, and metal device application to close off murmurs. The longest surgery lasted 16 hours! And it changed my everyday life because I have to be more careful with the way I eat and exercise, I can't go on scary rides on fairs, I can't get MRI's, I started going to church, and it got me closer with my family.

I started off going in every two weeks, then every month, every six months, and now only once a year. I'm very blessed to have wonderful doctors that care for me, and a wonderful family and set of friends that support. To this day my only condition is mild aortic insufficiency, and hopefully no more surgeries come my way.

Thank You,

Deevany Flores, Age 17

Close

Stacks Image 794
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

I watched as my sister picked up the phone, and I listened as I heard his frail voice wish her goodbye. I stared at her, but never once pressed my ear to hear …

Stacks Image 801
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

I watched as my sister picked up the phone, and I listened as I heard his frail voice wish her goodbye. I stared at her, but never once pressed my ear to hear the other end of the line. He didn't ask about me, I didn't ask for him. Just like that he was gone.

Do I regret it? I don't know.

Part of me does. Part of me beats myself up, late at night, convincing myself it was a low move. I cry wishing I could've reached out sooner. The should have's and could have's are like broken records circling in my mind.

But part of me doesn't. Part of me whispers to myself saying I did the right thing. I told him what I was feeling three years prior and he didn't want to accept that. He was the adult, he could've reached out to me. Part of me is angry that he could go three years without acknowledging me. Three.

Yes, I wish I could've had a better relationship with my own grandfather, but because of him, I questioned myself, I questioned my voice. I thought if he didn't want to hear it, it'd be best to bottle it up.

I guess what I'm trying to say is if there's one thing I learned it's that everybody will hear what you say, but they may not listen. Everybody is going to have their own opinion, and their own way of coping. Don't take it the wrong way, don't let it affect who you are, and don't ever question yourself... do what you think is right.

Close

Stacks Image 810
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

There is one word that sums up my first encounter with the American health system: expensive. Prior to my visit, I had been suffering from a headache that …

Stacks Image 817
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

There is one word that sums up my first encounter with the American health system: expensive.

Prior to my visit, I had been suffering from a headache that refused to go away no matter how much I slept, how much water I drank, nor how many painkillers I took. On the seventh day, my parents finally decided that I should consult a professional, especially after I noticed my vision decreasing dramatically, leaving me unable to make out the squiggles on the blackboards at school.

You see, during this time, I did not have insurance as my application for federal insurance was still pending, and against everyone’s advice, my parents deemed my health more important than money, so they stubbornly took me to the medical centers.

One urgent care, two emergency room visits, one ct scan, one IV drip and countless amounts of painkillers later, my parents were diagnosed with hypochondria: abnormal anxiety that one is sick even when one is not, as the doctor told my parents that I was absolutely fine...

...Fine until we received the medical bills.

It was as if I was the victim of a prank, waiting for the doctors to jump out from behind the cameras and tell me that this was all a joke. So when reality hit me, I was only able to utter the word, “f***.”

The process that came after was excruciating as I called billing centers and eligibility centers to see what could be done amount the staggering numbers. However, since I did not have insurance, I was told there was nothing that could be done. So, my parents agreed to monthly payments, although to me, monthly payments are equivalent to chipping away at a mountain.

After that experience, I finally realized why “affordable health care” was uttered by every presidential candidate during this past election year. Health care is a right that should be guaranteed to every citizen, independent from their demographic,

However, according to Fiscal Times, as many as 29 million Americans – about one in 10 – lack insurance coverage. This staggering number only reminds us of a deteriorating health care system that is in need of reform. However, it will probably take us longer to pay off my hospital bills than it will be for this reform to happen.

Close

Stacks Image 757
Photo taken by Anonymous

Have you seen an assembly line on tv? Where at first it seems easy and manageable; the pace is slow and the work is pretty simple. Then the conveyor belt …

Stacks Image 764
Photo taken by Anonymous

Have you seen an assembly line on tv? Where at first it seems easy and manageable; the pace is slow and the work is pretty simple. Then the conveyor belt starts to speed up and the work seems less and less doable. That’s kind of how anxiety is for me. At first it seems pretty okay and for the most part I feel pretty put together. Then soon it starts to get kind of tricky, things that seem like they shouldn’t be a big deal start to weigh on my mind more and more. And then I let it all spiral. My brain decides to panic and that becomes the only thing that gets focused on.

Now maybe not everyone deals with that and when it happens I sure as hell wish I didn’t have to, but it also has forced me to rethink what my "put together self" is, so that when it happens it isn’t quite as severe as my brain leads me to believe. I think having anxiety forced me to be more organized; I have a planner and try to make sure it’s up to date. I put more effort into being organized so that inevitably when I spiral a little bit, I can pull things together a little bit easier. And maybe that’s the point; using the adversities you face to be a stepping stone.

-HP

Close

Stacks Image 773
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

I tore my ACL two years ago and wasn't able to get it fixed until this past fall. I was depressed for some time and it threw me off so much. I would go to sports …

Stacks Image 780
Photo taken by Xiao Glahn

I tore my ACL two years ago and wasn't able to get it fixed until this past fall. I was depressed for some time and it threw me off so much. I would go to sports activities and then quit because my knee couldn't take it. Then I wasn't able to face people and avoided them because I was ashamed about quitting and missing school so much. I felt guilty.

The doctor was always nice and he would answer all of my questions. But, it was kind of scary when I got checkups on my knee because I wouldn't know if I was recovering like I’m supposed to or not. Of course, each to their own pace, but no one wants to be behind. Therapy is going well, but it is a lot of work. We do 5 minutes of running for now and walking up the stairs. Lunges. Little by little I feel like I’m improving, but this process takes a lot of discipline.

Close

Stacks Image 720
Photo taken by Anonymous

I had a random spasm one night as I stood up. I had work the next morning, and I was worried because I could barely move or even sit up properly. The pain …

Stacks Image 727
Photo taken by Anonymous

I had a random spasm one night as I stood up. I had work the next morning, and I was worried because I could barely move or even sit up properly. The pain was really bad, and I didn't end up going to work; to me, this was an important reminder that I needed to stay fit. I needed to strengthen my core, as not doing so leads to having a bad back. I'm not overweight, but I'm not as fit or healthy as I used to be-- I'm sort of in between. And I've been taking my size for granted. It took this incident to scare me and make me realize that if I'm just content and not truly where I want to be in terms of my health, I should just try to improve my fitness rather than waiting to hurt myself again.

Close

Stacks Image 736
Photo taken by Asma Daud

My father developed lung cancer when I was very young, which created a lot of instability in our household because he had to be hospitalized for a few months …

Stacks Image 743
Photo taken by Asma Daud

My father developed lung cancer when I was very young, which created a lot of instability in our household because he had to be hospitalized for a few months, and my mother had to take care of my brother and I while working. My brother, on the other hand, was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder; this was difficult to deal with because the atmosphere in our home was very tense most of the time as a result of his aggressive behavior, as well as his excessive drug use. A few years ago, my mother found out she had a fibroid in her uterus which then caused her to develop anemia. She was extremely sick and weak, and unable to do anything without having excruciating pain and blood loss. All of our family members have gradually, yet completely recovered from these illnesses, thanks to God's compassion. These mental and physical health issues resulted in a tough time for me and my family, and many hardships followed. To this day we are recovering from the damage that these situations caused, both emotionally and financially. But dealing with these circumstances only made my family stronger. We are now, more than ever, able to handle situations that deal with the psychological imbalance of anyone we are close to, and the difficulties of any physical health matter.

Close

Stacks Image 683
Photo taken by Anonymous

Nearly every person in my family has struggled with depression, anxiety, etc. so I wasn't shocked when I started experiencing those feelings. I convinced …

Stacks Image 690
Photo taken by Anonymous

Nearly every person in my family has struggled with depression, anxiety, etc. so I wasn't shocked when I started experiencing those feelings. I convinced myself that my feelings and behaviors were normal because I didn't want labeled as "depressed." I sort of brushed it under the rug for awhile until I began to feel out of control. I wasn't myself anymore. I had struggled with body image before, but the state of my mental health worsened that. I became obsessive. I avoided social situations in fear that I would eat. Every part of my day revolved around my unhealthy relationship with food. I don't like to share the gory details but I did everything I thought it would take to obtain the body I thought I wanted. No matter what, I told myself I didn't really have a problem. I kept it a secret and nobody questioned me. A common misconception is that someone has to be rail thin to have an eating disorder. I didn't fit the stereotypical mold so I flew under the radar for years. It took a long time for me to get where I am now but I feel better than ever (with the help of medication). I still go through rough patches and I refuse to be ashamed of that.

Close

Stacks Image 699
Photo by Anonymous

My mom getting breast cancer was a wake up call for my family, and I’m actually grateful for the outcome. She was diagnosed when I was in 7th grade. Since …

Stacks Image 706
Photo by Anonymous

My mom getting breast cancer was a wake up call for my family, and I’m actually grateful for the outcome. She was diagnosed when I was in 7th grade. Since she had been experiencing a lot of uncommon symptoms for a while, she sort of knew that something was wrong. My mom had uncommon symptoms like skin discoloration, spikes of pain in random areas of her body, veins popping out more than they should, excessive fatigue, nausea, a sudden stop in her menstrual cycle, etc. Not all of these may have been symptoms of breast cancer, but it was crucial to have them checked out.

Our local family doctors didn't look into it much and told my mom that she was most likely going through menopause. The fact that they looked no further aggravated me later on, when I found out that it was cancer, because it’s an illness that could have ended my mother’s life if had been found any later. I know doctors aren't perfect, but it still made me worry. My mom’s mom also had breast cancer, which brings up the possibility that breast cancer is hereditary in my family. I could be next.

The possibility of me getting cancer didn’t bother me much. All I wanted, especially at the time that my mom was initially diagnosed, was for my mom to get better. But the process was painful, and it was the most heart-wrenching feeling in the world to see her hurt like that.

This health scare made me see life through a different perspective, and it made me take better care of my body. In fact, I used to be very overweight, but I lost all the weight with the help of a healthy diet and consistent exercise. My mom is a more active and happier person, and we are so much more healthy in general.

Close

Stacks Image 646
Photo taken by Anonymous

Once there was a lonely girl
With nothing but a smile
Her footsteps left flowers in their wake …

Stacks Image 653
Photo taken by Anonymous

Once there was a lonely girl
With nothing but a smile
Her footsteps left flowers in their wake
A garden grew for miles
The birds chirped
A lively song
Of happy notes and a rhythm strong
While the sun shined bright and warm
But underneath
There was a storm.
The petals bloomed
But the leaves sagged
While the pollen saw the sun
The flower stems were gagged
She tries so hard
To grow up tall
Pushed against the hate
That made her fall
She almost drowned in the pouring rain
But she pretended it was a game
So no one knew
She hid a frown
Because she never
Brought them down
The broken leaves were all for her
A secret curse she must endure
Beneath harsh rain
And burning sun
There was nothing
To be done.
But she stood upon
An earth of soil
Her roots were always
Close and loyal
And once she made her life her own
She would never be alone.

Close

Stacks Image 662
Photo taken by Anonymous

Growing up, I was bullied for being fat. And then later I was bullied for being fat and mean because I was trying to defend myself. All of this really left a dent in my …

Stacks Image 669
Photo taken by Anonymous

Growing up, I was bullied for being fat. And then later I was bullied for being fat and mean because I was trying to defend myself. All of this really left a dent in my brain that I was eternally going to be fat-- and it was really hard for me to love myself. Girls like me, they just need to know that there's more for them out there and they just need to find the right person to tell them that they don't need to defend themselves by attacking others. I've been through a lot of those ups and downs in my life, and I think that it all goes into making me stronger. People who give us strength and power and safety and comfort, those are the people we need to surround ourselves with.

Close

Stacks Image 609
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

The buildup of stress before the doctor’s appointments wasn’t because of what could be wrong with me, but because I was going to be weighed. Was my weight going to show a …

Stacks Image 616
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

The buildup of stress before the doctor’s appointments wasn’t because of what could be wrong with me, but because I was going to be weighed. Was my weight going to show a difference? Would they finally see all my hard work? Over time I was told “She doesn’t have an eating disorder…she’s at a normal weight.” They didn’t understand that every time I heard that I was at a normal weight, it pushed me even further to become underweight. Hearing that I was at a normal weight was like hearing I did not complete the requirements to go onto the next school year. It was devastating to me.

It was the third doctor’s appointment with a gastroenterologist when my family heard for the third time that I needed to go to a psychiatrist. After the gastroenterologist found out I calorie counted, and saw that saying, “it makes me feel in control,” brought me to tears, he decided to tell my family that the stomach issues I was facing was most likely due to my eating disorder, which could only be worked out with a psychiatrist. It was a wakeup call for my parents, my dad especially, who told the doctor that he believed people were mistaking my “determination” for an eating disorder. This worried the doctor even more.

Seeing the psychiatrist was new. It was finally not a disappointment. I am a very open person, and it was easy to talk about how my obsessions surrounding weight loss manifested throughout my life. She then diagnosed me with depression which surfaced before my eating disorder.

It was like finally having what I knew to be true be validated. For years I was made fun of for my chronically melancholy personality and my “vanity” sprouted from my obsessive thoughts surrounding the fat content on my body. I wasn’t looking for pity. I wasn’t looking for attention. I was just looking for an answer…and she gave it to me.

Getting mental health care was hard, because of controversy, and feeling guilty for having my family spend money on my self entitled petty problems. But it was necessary. I got my answer. And I am on the road to being better now because of it.

Close

Stacks Image 625
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

Reading this you may be thinking that I am very unhappy or unhealthy. The thing is the majority of the time I do not feel that way. I'm a positive person with some negative thoughts …

Stacks Image 632
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

Reading this you may be thinking that I am very unhappy or unhealthy. The thing is the majority of the time I do not feel that way. I'm a positive person with some negative thoughts. I am a happy person but I get sad sometimes. I have done some things I regret, but I have learned a lot from my mistakes. I do not think I ever had a disorder, but I believe you and I are much different. We all have feelings. We all have our own struggles. We all make mistakes. And we are all still learning.

If you notice someone hurting, or endangering themselves, I urge you to say something. One person in my life did, and I think it saved me. Be that person, for yourself or for someone else. It's never too late.

I am much better than I used to be, but I still have a lot to work on. I think I still struggle with disorderly way of thinking from time to time.

Close

Stacks Image 77
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I've struggled with depression and anxiety for a large part of my life. The first time I was diagnosed, it was amidst my parent's divorce. I went through therapy …

Stacks Image 86
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I've struggled with depression and anxiety for a large part of my life. The first time I was diagnosed, it was amidst my parent's divorce. I went through therapy and tried various coping strategies until I ended up taking an antidepressant. For months I took Prozac and went to therapy until I reached a point where I felt like it wasn't helping me anymore. So, I stopped taking my medicine (with doctor and parent approval) and stopped seeing my therapist due to scheduling conflicts. A few months later, I started having trouble again, not wanting to spend time with my loved ones, losing interest in anything I used to care about and feeling sick to my stomach with anxiety. I was really angry with myself because I thought that since I had gone to therapy, I should be fixed! I had this idea that mental illness was a "one and done" kind of deal and I felt like my body and mind were betraying me. Eventually, I realized that my body wasn't failing. I realized that depression and anxiety, or any mental illness, isn't something that is just "fixed" it's a (potentially) life long process. I developed, and still am trying to develop, compassion for myself because you wouldn't get mad at someone for getting a cold so why would you get angry with them for struggling with mental illness? Ultimately, the most important thing for me is reaching out for help. There are people in my life I know I can rely on to lift me up and to help me find resources to manage my mental health. My message to you is that you have people in your life that love you so dearly, let them know you're struggling because they can only help if they know what's going on. And even though it's hard, don't give up, the process is worth it.

Close

Stacks Image 79
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I’ve never had serious depression or anxiety, or any other mental affliction for that matter. I was, however, in therapy for 8 years. Following my parents’ divorce, everyone …

Stacks Image 96
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I’ve never had serious depression or anxiety, or any other mental affliction for that matter. I was, however, in therapy for 8 years. Following my parents’ divorce, everyone expected me to be upset, to cry, or to be depressed. Maybe if I didn’t ask my parents if they were going to divorce a year before they did I would have cried or been more upset. And even though I adjusted well, I sat in a room with a woman I didn’t like for an hour every other week. We played Connect-Four and Candyland. I avoided talking to her about emotions, or about anything other than the game at hand, for that matter. I’m not trying to discount the value of therapy—it just didn’t work for me. It did the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. It made me think there was something wrong with me because I didn’t seek the help myself. Because I was forced into it when I didn’t need it. On the other hand, I have a friend who attempted to commit suicide. For her, therapy is a really important part of everyday life. She needs it and enjoys it—it helps her more than any other treatment has. She and I had opposite problems—her family avoided getting her help until she was desperately seeking it out independently (when it was almost too late), and I was pushed into it, which made me doubt myself and feel very uncomfortable. The stigma surrounding therapy definitely didn’t help me open up either. I’ve only told a handful of people I was in therapy because I was embarrassed. I didn’t want people to assume there was something wrong with me because of what a court system made me endure. Growing up isn’t exactly easy, but with strength and good friends, I’ve been able to leave my embarrassment behind me and become comfortable in my own mind.

Close

Stacks Image 573
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I’ve always been over-critical of myself. This is a part of being a human being and I get that. However it can get to a point to where it’s extremely unhealthy. You …

Stacks Image 580
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I’ve always been over-critical of myself. This is a part of being a human being and I get that. However it can get to a point to where it’s extremely unhealthy. You second guess everything you do. You compare yourself to every girl you meet, and along the way you forget to enjoy the little things in life. I became obsessed with being what I thought was “perfect.”

This isn’t something I tell a lot of people but because of this habit from ages 18 to 20 I started to make poor choices health wise. I undernourished my body to the point of starvation to reach an ideology that may not even exist. Because I was so obsessed with being “perfect,” I only allowed myself to eat 300 calories a day or less, constantly worked out, and sometimes purged.

I knew it was wrong but I was so invested that I couldn’t stop. I was emotionally detached from my family and friends, constantly sad or angry about the littlest of things. It was like I was trapped in my body; I hated everything including myself if I never wanted to go out, only spoke if I absolutely had to. Anxiety and depression soon added to the mix which in turn made things worse.

I can honestly say that these were the worst and hardest years of my life. This isn’t something that just gets better and goes away. I’ve gotten some help, not willingly I might add, but I’m definitely glad it happened. There’s absolutely no pill or magic doctor that can “fix” me. I still struggle every day and I don’t know that I’ll ever be the same, but I can honestly say I’m stronger than I’ve been in a long time. I’m not the “old me” but I am in a much better place than I was.

Close

Stacks Image 589
Photo taken by Anonymous

When I was 13, I was always watching what I ate and if I did eat, I would make myself throw up. I was that girl who had been chubby for a while and then …

Stacks Image 596
Photo taken by Anonymous

When I was 13, I was always watching what I ate and if I did eat, I would make myself throw up. I was that girl who had been chubby for a while and then suddenly became skinny, and I did that because people actually started to look at me for looks. Having that in school made me feel so much more confident even though I was destroying my kidneys and hurting myself. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder-- bulimia if we are being specific.

Close

Stacks Image 535
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

Learning about the population that we serve is interesting and important, especially because we can bring attention to underserved women, children, and …

Stacks Image 542
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

Learning about the population that we serve is interesting and important, especially because we can bring attention to underserved women, children, and those with special health care needs. We try to make sure that these groups have much needed health services at their disposal. I really enjoy this profession, along with the benefits and flexibility. To get to work, I actually drive for about an hour and half daily. There isn’t much traffic normally, at least for the first forty minutes up and down the mountain on which I reside. It’s a pretty drive, especially with the scenery, but I have to put on a new set of tires annually.

As a teenager, I didn’t know what career I would’ve liked to enter, but I knew that I needed to go to school. I dropped out a couple of years later, against parental approval, and I regret that. Education is extremely important, and if I could go back in time, I would have finished my undergraduate degree.

I was a real estate appraiser for 10 years after dropping out of college, but the market crashed and I knew that I didn’t want to stay in that industry forever. So, I am actually going back to the university right now to finish my undergraduate degree. I’m majoring in organizational leadership. I figured it would be very broad, and I could use it no matter what I do, whether I stay in this job (which I love and have no desire to go anywhere), or not.

It’s really hard working full time, going to school, and having two young kids. I’m very tired, and I don’t have a lot of free time. We get home at 7 o’clock at night, have dinner, get the kids in their bath, read to them, tuck them into bed, you know, all that routine, and then I get to all of my school work.

Close

Stacks Image 551
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

One of my step-sisters had breast cancer, and she lives in Mexico, so I couldn’t talk to her about it much. When I first found out, I was devastated and also a bit …

Stacks Image 558
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

One of my step-sisters had breast cancer, and she lives in Mexico, so I couldn’t talk to her about it much. When I first found out, I was devastated and also a bit paranoid. The first thought that popped into my head was “What if there is cancer running in the family?” and “What if I get breast cancer?” I began researching symptoms of breast cancer, along with details about the disease itself. At that point, I was less paranoid and much more worried about my step-sister. But after a while-- about three months-- she called and said she would be visiting. That made me really content and a little more at peace, because I would finally get to see her and talk about the experience with her, but those three months were pretty scary for me. My step-sister is now recovering nicely thanks to therapy and all those medicines.

Close

Stacks Image 462
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I've never been a self-injurious individual—well, not in the cutting or eating disorder way—but the summer before my senior year I developed some very poor …

Stacks Image 469
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I've never been a self-injurious individual—well, not in the cutting or eating disorder way—but the summer before my senior year I developed some very poor body habits. As a pubescent teenage girl, hormones were rushing through my body and my skin became laden with blemishes. I started to pick them because I thought they would go away faster that way. However, as many know, popping zits just provokes more to develop.

I started to hate my skin and developed lost self esteem in my looks. It sounds superficial but my confidence in everything else I did started to dwindle too. I kept picking because I hated my face and by doing so I just caused more. This vicious cycle depressed me and I loathed my face, low self-esteem, and obsessive nature.

After I went to the doctor and received medication, my skin slowly cleared and I felt better about myself. I was going pretty steady for a couple months until school started up. I didn't revert back to picking, but I fell into another self-perpetuated cycle of obsession. This time it was food.

When I was anxious, sad or stressed I would eat. I do not mean just grabbing a snack bar or something to satiate me— I would eat entire bags of cereals or trail-mixes. I couldn't even detect if I was actually hungry; I would just keep shoving food down my throat until I felt sick. After doing this for sometime, I noticed I was gaining weight, which led to self-loathing again...so I ate. I even tried to purge a couple of times but sticking various items down my throat like pencils, toothbrushes, my finger etc. It didn't work though.

Lately I have been trying to control my eating habits but my poor self-esteem and anxiety seems to always manifest in different (usually unhealthy ways). I realize that I am self-injurious in a mental way by putting myself down, which leads to physically hurting myself. I don't like hurting myself because it usually results in further self-hate. For the past few months, I have been trying to deal with my stress and self-esteem issues by talking and exercising more. Whenever I do an activity now that affects my body, I evaluate if I am doing it because I hate myself or love myself. It is important for people to take care of their bodies and mines with a positive mindset or else they might drown in never ending self-dissatisfaction.

Close

Stacks Image 478
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

OCD once controlled my life; everything I did, said, ate was impacted by my OCD. But now I control it. I had always known it was there, but after my parents …

Stacks Image 485
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

OCD once controlled my life; everything I did, said, ate was impacted by my OCD. But now I control it.

I had always known it was there, but after my parents divorce it flared up and I adopted the convoluted idea that it was helping me maintain control over my life. It started off as little things, quirks, that my friends all found amusing when I mentioned it. So, I was never super concerned.

I had to chew my food 13 times before swallowing and I had to check all of the locks and the oven three times before bed or before I left the house. I was incredibly annoyed by imperfections on my skin, so much that I would scratch and bite at my hands and arms almost as if I was digging for the perfect skin underneath. I still struggle with this.

Quickly my OCD got worse. My arms and hands would bleed after a flare up and I would have a panic attack if someone moved anything in my room. I was depressed and suicidal on top of this, so when I began to hurt myself, I would freak out if the cuts weren't perfectly parallel. Intrusive thoughts would make it hard for me to function outside my room because my mind kept telling me that I might stab my family or that I might open the door while I'm in the car and jump out.

My mom was supportive and she helped me seek a therapist. My therapist helped me; she helped my combat my intrusive thoughts by having me confront them (which was terrifying at first but soon worked) and she helped me find healthy ways to get over self-harm urges.

My story isn't a unique one, but it has changed my life forever. I still have bouts of OCD and I still struggle with depression but I have the tools needed to get past them and live a healthy life. If anything positive comes from this, I hope it is that someone out there knows that they aren't alone with their thoughts and that therapy could help.

Close

Stacks Image 373
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

We all suffer from poisonous thoughts, self-criticism, and self-doubt, but when does that become a "disorder?" I have never been formally diagnosed with …

Stacks Image 380
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

We all suffer from poisonous thoughts, self-criticism, and self-doubt, but when does that become a "disorder?"

I have never been formally diagnosed with any type of disorder or mental illness. I have never sought out counseling or therapy. In most people's eyes, I am completely normal, happy, sane. But that does not mean I always feel like it. None of us do.

Close

Stacks Image 388
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

The profession I have chosen requires elite athleticism and artistry, sinuous lines, low body weight, and an incredible amount of hard work and dedication. Sometimes …

Stacks Image 395
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

The profession I have chosen requires elite athleticism and artistry, sinuous lines, low body weight, and an incredible amount of hard work and dedication. Sometimes I like to blame my negative thoughts and body image issues on this profession, but I do not believe that is entirely the source of my problems. I have always been a person who worries a lot.

When a loved one passed away, that worry turned into full blown anxiety. And as I got older and became aware of the societal pressures to stay thin, be pretty, look good all the time...that wore me down to become a person I never thought I would be. And when the people I loved betrayed me by eroding my self esteem I did things I never thought I would do. I skipped dinner, I binge ate or wouldn't eat , I cried about numbers on the scale, I abused medication, I over-exercised.

I am not proud of these things. I am doing better now, but I know that without the support of just one person, things could be completely different.

Close

Stacks Image 423
Photo taken by Sehrish Choudhary

I try my best to keep myself optimistic. I AM THE FUTURE. There are days that I wake up to the sun in my face and I just don't feel like the whole fun, light, glowy …

Stacks Image 430
Photo taken by Sehrish Choudhary

I try my best to keep myself optimistic. I AM THE FUTURE. There are days that I wake up to the sun in my face and I just don't feel like the whole fun, light, glowy, and happy stuff because I don't have that within me that day.

But the thing I say to myself every morning is, “You got this far, you showed the world how bold you are. Just propel forward, show the people who you are, who you have become, after all, those people are beneath you. Suicide is for losers, quitters, suicide is a death sentence for all the hard work you put in. You let the world eat you whole, you let your enemies win if you commit suicide, which is why I am here today. I am here today, breathing, smiling, laughing, acting okay when I'm not because of me, not anyone else. Suicide is for the quitters and I am not one to quit. You are a warrior, a gladiator, fight till the end, achieve happiness. Do it all at your own terms; be your own hero."

There's no definite answer to life, but that’s the beauty of it all. You have to go through life to figure out your place in the world. You have to make a name for yourself in the world. You have your ENTIRE life ahead of you. It’s only high school, take it one day at a time, one breath at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be in a place in which you never imagined you would be.

Close

Stacks Image 439
Photo taken by Hikari Igarashi

I made a friend in seventh grade and I thought she would always be my "best friend for life." But gradually things started to change as she made fun of more …

Stacks Image 446
Photo taken by Hikari Igarashi

I made a friend in seventh grade and I thought she would always be my "best friend for life." But gradually things started to change as she made fun of more people and began to threaten the safety of others around her. By threaten, I mean violence. After I told her to stop hurting others, she refused to listen. So this was the moment I thought I might also be in danger physically and mentally. She was already mentally hurting me. Even to this day, I feel threatened being around her. But I'm slowly trying to solve this issue by spending more time with new people. I'm dealing with this by trying to avoid her as much as possible and not interacting with her more than necessary. I also try to talk to my other friends about how to solve this issue.

Close

Stacks Image 334
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

In school, I find it difficult to focus. Simple tasks become too hard. My family’s insurance has been on and off so I haven’t visited my therapist …

Stacks Image 341
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

In school, I find it difficult to focus. Simple tasks become too hard. My family’s insurance has been on and off so I haven’t visited my therapist consistently, and I tried medication for my anxiety but it only worsened my mental state.

My mom wants me to talk to my counselor so that I can work with teachers to help me when my anxiety gets between my schoolwork, but it’s difficult for me to talk to a complete stranger about all of this. Of course I want help, but I feel guilty and I don’t want special treatment for what I’m going through.

Pretty much everyone in my family has some type of mental illness. My grandpa has depression, and my mom has anxiety and PTSD. I didn’t really think anything of this for most of my childhood until I was formally introduced to mental health and mental illness.

Before I came to the content realization that living with anxiety is okay, my mental illness had been slowly building up from around 5th grade. My young mind couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way; I frequently asked myself if I was going crazy.

I had a good amount of friends that I would spend time with almost on the daily. Many of them lived near me, and we would bike to each other’s houses and just be kids together. As I grew older, and my anxiety progressed, I slowly fell into this hole in which I began to feel more and more anxious and uncertain about social activities.

I wanted so badly to be more social and expand my friend group but something always stopped me from going through with reaching out to new people. I stuck with a couple of my oldest friends and spent the majority of my time with them. As I went through middle school, my anxiety progressed along with insomnia, and friend groups started changing. I never identified with any particular “group”, I was just friendly with everyone. I would try and open up to my friends at school and they didn’t seem to understand what I was going through. I felt lonely. After eighth grade, I moved back to the small town I grew up in, thinking all of my old friends would be the same.

Of course, I was gravely wrong. I found myself in an even lonelier situation than before. And my mother, my best friend, was struggling with her own anxiety and depression from the harsh midwest winters. It hurt me to see her suffer, so I kept what I was going through private and put on a fake smile to keep her from worrying, but inside I could feel myself starting to crumble. By nearly the end of freshman year, I had attempted suicide, come out of an emotionally abusive relationship, and found myself in an adolescent psychiatric facility.

At that point, my mom and I knew for sure what would be best for us; we moved back to the place where we were happiest, and we felt confident in trying again. Since then, my view and understanding of mental illness has completely changed. I now have recognized my strength from going through that trauma and whenever I struggle with my anxiety I trust in going to the people who understand and love me. Though I have been through a lot of mental illness induced trauma from myself or other people around me, I have learned to make everyday a chance for me to work on being happy with my illness and just focus on living life. I also took up journaling ever since my hospital visit and I haven’t stopped since.

Close

Stacks Image 349
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I transferred schools as a junior. Not a very unique experience, I know. What is unique is how I handled it. As a three year old I went through a near-fatal …

Stacks Image 356
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I transferred schools as a junior. Not a very unique experience, I know. What is unique is how I handled it. As a three year old I went through a near-fatal illness that left me with speech, physical, and cognitive disabilities that affect my ability to cope with different social interactions. People who have Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) have difficulty in larger crowds. I cannot speak very loudly or very quickly and I feel an overwhelming sense of insecurity around people I do not know.

I knew I needed friends; so, I gathered up all my strength and introduced myself to some people. And although I made friends, I went through a period of anxiety and extreme fatigue. I told my mother I needed to see a therapist because I needed some help. My therapy visits proved helpful, but in a matter of weeks I was back to my "normal" and relaxed self. It helps to be helped sometimes.

Close

Stacks Image 149
Photo taken by Tina Finley

I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I couldn't comprehend that strong and painful emotions could surface without being directly caused …

Stacks Image 141
Photo taken by Tina Finley

I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I couldn't comprehend that strong and painful emotions could surface without being directly caused by things or people around me, so I'd pick something to be my scapegoat (often making the situation worse). After a while I realized it had to be more than just outside forces; I couldn't have felt and acted in a way so uncharacteristic of myself without some factors being out of my control. The thing that helped me most was when my parents finally believed I struggled with mental instability and I wasn't "manipulating" or "testing" them. They have aided me in my search for help and now I finally feel stable again. But I can't help but notice girls acting the same way I did, feeling as out of control and lost as I did. I think there should be more education in middle school and high school about hormones and brain chemicals and all that good stuff that will make girls feel out of their minds, so they can begin to recognize as early as possible that they'll be okay. That their feelings might not be due to someone around them, but because of something that can be managed and conquered. Girls shouldn't have to go through their adolescence thinking they're crazy or have to research everything on their own and speculate, they should have access to awareness and informed guidance.

Close

Stacks Image 151
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I've never been formally diagnosed with any mental illness, but let’s be honest-- no one has a so-called "normal brain." As a girl, I feel pressure to not feel pain …

Stacks Image 143
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I've never been formally diagnosed with any mental illness, but let’s be honest-- no one has a so-called "normal brain." As a girl, I feel pressure to not feel pain, either physically or mentally manifested. Maybe it’s because I grew up believing that showing weakness is bad. Obviously this isn't true, but no one wants to be criticized for not being able to deal with things that negatively affect them or for being any less normal than they already are. I'm working on being more accepting of both my own mental problems as well as that of those around me because these issues are more common than society would like to believe, and are just as serious as physical injury. No one should need to be afraid to seek help or treatment.

Close

Stacks Image 154
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

Growing up, my dad had dealt with clinical depression and bipolar disorder. My mom had a very stigmatized view of any mental disorder …

Stacks Image 161
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

Growing up, my dad had dealt with clinical depression and bipolar disorder. My mom had a very stigmatized view of any mental disorder so she transferred that view onto me. For a while I thought my dad was just a weird, isolated guy that I didn't want to be around or better yet become, since any time I acted out at home my mom said I was "crazy just like your father." Once I got into high school that perspective was perpetuated to a certain extent, but I learned to surround myself with more people who accepted the reality that mental health disorders are legitimate diseases which has helped to better and normalize a relationship with my dad.

Close

Stacks Image 169
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I accept my imperfections. I feel comfortable in my no make-up face and I love trying new fashion (I don’t care if it’s bold). But I am just constantly dieting and trying to …

Stacks Image 176
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I accept my imperfections. I feel comfortable in my no make-up face and I love trying new fashion (I don’t care if it’s bold). But I am just constantly dieting and trying to accept my body. All my life, I’ve been considered chubby, and so I tried to lose weight. In fact, I shamefully admit that I was anorexic during 8th grade. No matter how hard I try, accepting my body type is a struggle.

Close

Stacks Image 191
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

When one of my extremely close friends was dying of cancer, I decided not to go visit her. I was afraid of seeing her ill. I knew her really well …

Stacks Image 198
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

When one of my extremely close friends was dying of cancer, I decided not to go visit her. I was afraid of seeing her ill. I knew her really well and she was a huge role model as a kid, and I thought that seeing her sick would destroy that image of her. I guess I didn’t want to remember her that way. I still regret it.

Close

Stacks Image 206
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I’ve always loved science. I used, and still use, the scientific process of inquiry when baking cookies. This is one main reason why …

Stacks Image 213
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I’ve always loved science. I used, and still use, the scientific process of inquiry when baking cookies. This is one main reason why I became a researcher. The other is that I like to know how things work. Biologically, I mean.

Close

Stacks Image 227
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

Right now, as I’m applying for jobs, it’s really difficult to compete with clinical psychology students. Our skills are exactly the same, but I come from a …

Stacks Image 234
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

Right now, as I’m applying for jobs, it’s really difficult to compete with clinical psychology students. Our skills are exactly the same, but I come from a family studies background. I always knew that I wanted to work in healthcare, but the direct physician role wasn’t for me. Thankfully, I was able to bridge my interest in developmental psychology and family studies by focusing on atypical development in children. I get to observe and interact with children and their families in the clinical setting, and I absolutely love it.

Close

Stacks Image 242
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

It was an easy master’s degree, but being a genetics nurse is extremely challenging. My field is changing every day, so coming to work everyday is like coming …

Stacks Image 249
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

It was an easy master’s degree, but being a genetics nurse is extremely challenging. My field is changing every day, so coming to work everyday is like coming to a new job everyday. It’s very painful when my patients die, but two months ago, the FDA finally approved the first of its kind gene therapy. This therapy treats and stops the progression of a disease that would otherwise cause those with the condition to die at a very early age. Some of these kids are going to grow up and live and be adults, so it was really exciting when the therapy was approved. Getting to call the patients that qualified for the therapy and setting them up for the treatment was wonderful. We had originally told them that they were going to die, and now they’re going to live.

Close

Stacks Image 263
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

The thing about extra education is that even if you don’t use it, you still learn how to think in a different way that you probably would not have been able to …

Stacks Image 270
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

The thing about extra education is that even if you don’t use it, you still learn how to think in a different way that you probably would not have been able to do without it; or, you would have had to do a lot of work to get that kind of different thinking and perspective. I started out wanting to do business. I moved here to do that, and I got a job at the university in pediatrics because my undergraduate job was in the residency program in neurology. So, my boss at the time figured that I would know a little about the medical side of things. He kept teaching me more research skills, and I kept learning more and more and more. Toward the end of my MBA education, he said I might as well go get a PhD because I was doing the work anyway. I liked doing business type of work, but I didn’t want to work for a huge company. It was just not what I wanted to do. After getting my MBA, I went to work for a nonprofit for a couple of years. But then I ended up coming back because my boss was amazing and I really wanted to continue working here. And I think my MBA helps me with a lot of things, like figuring out how to apply for grants. It’s kind of stressful to apply for grant money, but every four or five years a grant expires, and so almost every year we have a new project starting and I get to learn about a whole new condition and hire new people and just switch gears. I’m kind of doing the same thing daily, but what I do changes just enough so that it seems different all of the time.

Close

Stacks Image 278
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I think that there is an emphasis on being happy in American society. I consider myself to be a happy person, but I have bouts of sadness. Every few …

Stacks Image 285
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I think that there is an emphasis on being happy in American society. I consider myself to be a happy person, but I have bouts of sadness. Every few years, I have about six months straight of sadness. I am not sure if I can call it depression, but I can say that, during those periods, I feel hopeless and without purpose. I don't talk to anyone about it because I don't want to upset them. I have learned that, with time, these sad feelings will pass. Also, since I do not have clinical depression or anxiety, I feel that my issue is minor. I think that I have these episodes partly due to a hormonal imbalance, but I know that they are triggered from events. Still, I can't complain. Ever since high school, I have realized that at least half of the people that I know have depression or anxiety, and they either take medication or speak to psychologists.

I first realized that I was different--in that I am generally happy--my freshman year of high school. I was on a choir trip, and we had a circle talk: an evening discussion that provided a safe place to tell the group anything. I was shocked to learn that about half of the girls had depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and that some had even attempted suicide. I had no idea; I thought that they were as happy as I was. It was very important for all of us to have this discussion: it was a bonding experience to know where everyone was coming from and what they were going through. However, if you are going to talk about mental illness, you should only do so in a safe environment with people that you can trust. In choir, we all knew that circle talk was a very personal experience, and our trust in each other was the only thing that made it work.

I think there was a stigma attached to mental illness when I was in middle school and high school; people didn't ever talk about it. But as I went through college, I continued to see that most of my friends and family members had depression or anxiety of some kind. We live in a society that puts a lot of pressure on people, which I think exacerbates depression and anxiety. I don't know how to best treat these conditions, and I know that they can be genetic, but I do know that if people were kinder and more respectful to everyone, everyone would reap the benefits. I think it is important for people to talk about it, but I don't think it is helpful to discuss it in casual conversation: it makes people too vulnerable and a passing conversation makes mental illness appear to be trivial, and it's not.

If I could give my 15-year-old self advice, I would say that it is okay to feel any kind of emotion. Of course, if extreme sadness goes on for more than a few months, you may want to talk to someone, a parent, teacher, or professional. Society makes it seem that if you're not happy, something is wrong with you. I don't think that you have to be happy all of the time, and it is a difficult goal to attain. Instead, try to figure out what you enjoy doing, and do it. I believe in setting goals. Always try to do something: what is the worst that could happen? You could be rejected, or you could be told "no." However, life is full of rejections and obstacles. I think it's best to develop a thick skin early. I would also tell girls that it's okay to say "no" to anything. People often ask me to do them favors, and I usually say "yes," even if I don't have the time. It's okay not to do something if you don't want to, or if you don't have the time. It's okay to feel angry; it can be cathartic to get your anger out, provided you don't hurt someone. It's okay to be sad, even if your issues are "small" compared to others. They are your emotions: you are entitled to them. Don't feel guilty. I have felt guilty too often. If you do what you think is right, and if you are kind to others, you should not feel guilty.

Being a teacher has taught me to encourage my students to have a balanced life. I dedicated myself to school too much: I never went to a party in high school. I felt too much pressure to achieve and to go to a good university and to get a scholarship. I worked part-time jobs in high school as well. As much as I enjoyed the extra money, I wish that I had had more time to spend with my friends, to make mistakes, and to enjoy myself. I love the independence of being an adult, but I miss being a kid who didn't have to worry about cooking, cleaning, and paying the bills. As a teacher, I hope that my students take time for themselves daily--and I tell them to do so--and that they can be in school without stress. The grade you get on a paper or test won't matter in a few years; high school drama between friends will be forgotten--I don't talk to any of my high school friends any more. I stressed out way too much in high school about those things, and I can't even remember why. Enjoy the moment and focus on the good things in your life because there are too many bad things out there.

I recently found a sheet of paper that I had written in high school. It was my list of things that made me happy, and I wrote it during my second bout of sadness. Almond Joys, Jane Austen, monsoon season, and singing were on my list of things that made me happy.

—Lily Stevens

Close

Stacks Image 299
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I gradually realized that checking social media was becoming a compulsive behavior, and that it was making me more stressed and less happy …

Stacks Image 306
Photo taken by Sruti Bandlamuri

I gradually realized that checking social media was becoming a compulsive behavior, and that it was making me more stressed and less happy. It was causing me to neglect my responsibilities, which only made me feel more out of control. At the same time, it was taking the place of much healthier activities like meditation and playing with my dog. Once I realized that social media was the reason why it felt like I had less hours in the day, I knew I had to quit. I didn't delete accounts, but I deleted apps like tumblr, instagram and facebook, so that I wouldn't have easy access to them. Suddenly, it was no longer an option to waste time by mindlessly scrolling through posts (that I didn't actually care about in the first place). So, I had to face my schoolwork and my mental state. I think that a lot of people use social media to stay mentally occupied so that they don't have a spare moment to focus on inner problems. I was doing this, as well.

Close

Stacks Image 314
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I don't find it surprising that 20% of Americans suffer from mental illness. A number of my family members struggle with depression and anxiety …

Stacks Image 321
Photo taken by Liz Ketcham

I don't find it surprising that 20% of Americans suffer from mental illness. A number of my family members struggle with depression and anxiety. Despite the prevalence of mental illness, a stigma still surrounds bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and more. I think it's important we, as a society, are more open about the struggles of mental illness so that people feel comfortable seeking treatment and talking about the challenges they face.

Close

Created by Sruti Bandlamuri, © 2016 Sruti Bandlamuri All rights reserved