Throughout my life, I’ve experienced many challenges. I’ve undergone six different surgeries throughout my childhood and teenage years, transferred into several different schools, been abandoned, then tortured by everyone who was once close to me, lost people who I was very close to, and gone through countless therapies and medical treatments, leaving me with many scars, but also the inspiration to carry on and make the best of the life I have.The way I see it, life is full of battles. Not just countries at war or dangerous plagues, but everyday battles we struggle to get through in order to carry on. It’s how we fight and make it through these struggles that defines our character as well as our lives. Struggling to pass a difficult course, pushing through to make it onto a team, or trying to overcome disease. It’s been said that in order to know a person, you must walk a mile in their shoes; which is the exact experience you will have by reading this essay. This is the story of my life, the life of a bear.
I have always known a good life, one that many might envy. While growing up, my parents worked long, hard hours to provide for my sister and I. They sacrificed some family bonding time in order to build a business that would cover our expenses and provide everything we needed. I had a wonderful family and even greater friends. I grew up with an abundance of friends, we grew up together, spent many nights sharing secrets in one another’s basements, helped each other through school, and spent several summers away at camp together. Around school, we were known as the “Fab 5”, some may have called us popular. These girls were my sisters, sworn to be friends forever. I have never been closer to anyone. After years of friendship, however, we never expected our bond to end in just a few days.
One day, all of that changed. I was thirteen, sitting alone at my lunch table waiting for my friends to show up when a loner boy sat down next to me. I chatted with him while waiting for my friends, and that was all it took for my friends and my popularity to abandon me. The people I had once been the closest with took me on as Enemy #1. Viscous rumors circled the school, people teased me, pushed me around, spit on me, called me names, stuffed awful things into my locker, and even beat me up. Girls ripped my hair out. Boys called me terrible things. People scarred my arms and legs with numerous cuts and bruises. One boy even told me of his plan to murder me.
After the majority of the students had turned against me, I was left with one friend. She was a beautiful person, who cared so much and listened to all I had to say, until she got sick. After several months of struggling, she died of cancer. I was left without a single ally. She was my best friend, who had helped me through so much, and just like that she was gone and I was alone.
I fell into a fog, I felt constant pain and loneliness. Now, I know that I was experiencing depression. I began getting awful nightmares every night, I would wake up screaming, begging for help. I began experiencing panic attacks and the onset of severe anxiety several times each day, only making my bullies worse. It was then that I tried to die. I had a bottle of sleeping pills ready for me, waiting to let me sleep forever. But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have it in me to die, but I didn’t have it in me to keep fighting either. So I ran away. During my freshman year, I transferred to another junior high, which was just what the doctor ordered.
My freshman year was a glorious experience. I began to build a few new friendships, my appearance became much better, and after a while I learned to smile again. Though my new friends and better social standing were much better than where I had come from, nothing could cure the constant pain I felt, or end the constant night terrors.
My sophomore year I began at my city’s public high school, which combined both junior high schools I had enrolled in. It was like Hell had begun all over again. This time, I had friends to get me through it, but nobody was ever close enough for me to be able to share how I really felt. The year was a struggle though, my good friend moved away, her parents cutting off our ability to contact one another. I had to give up my dream of becoming a dancer due to surgical complications, and I lost my grandfather, someone who had always believed in me. Once again, I was left alone.
My junior year began with everything getting worse. I had a course schedule without a single enjoyable person to have class with, and after a car accident with two popular girls early in the year, everything got even worse. People hated me more than ever, I began spending my lunch period hiding under a back stairway where nobody could find me. My panic attacks returned with a vengeance, along with the constant fear that somebody was going to hurt me. My nightmares exploded into terror like never before, and the sleepless nights began.
Once again, I felt extreme pain. I had nobody to turn to, so I turned to a razor. Each night, I cut open the skin on my hips. Slicing through my own flesh helped to distract me from how much pain I felt inside. Getting my pain out with a razor gave me a deep, twisted sense of calm. I stayed up every night with my razor, fearing the nightmares in the shadows, and dreading school the next morning. Since then, I have tried three different times to kill myself, but never quite getting it right.
Finally, I decided it was time to run away from it all. My parents agreed at last to transfer me to a different school. Starting at a Catholic high school in the middle of the year was a major adjustment. Learning how to adapt to a new school and catch on to the religious aspect was overwhelming, but worth it. Slowly, I made friends again, and stopped fearing social interaction. However, in the last few weeks of school, I was beyond stressed. By this time, I had been diagnosed and treated for major depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and general anxiety, with little success. The buildup of everything in my life had gotten to be too much for me, and a doctor ordered that I be admitted to a Mental Health Unit immediately.
The hospital was not where I wanted to be, but after a few days I realized I needed to get better. I was under constant supervision, sent to group therapies and meetings with doctors, and pumped full of many different medications. Though I was exposed to many new medications and therapies in the unit, nothing was more helpful than meeting the other patients. Though I was the youngest patient there, everyone treated me as an adult. Through the many discussions I felt better in knowing that I wasn’t alone, and that mental illness is a spectrum that holds diseases far worse than those I was experiencing.
After all of the treatments, therapies, and medications I have tried, I have not yet found a successful combination, but I have found one method that has proven foolproof for me: running away. I have come so far, only to run away from what hurts me the most. Many would call me weak for doing this, but in reality, running away has made me stronger. I have run away from the negative people that were only holding me back, I’ve run away from the haunting thoughts in my mind, I’ve run away from the human desire to hurt the weak: I’ve run away from my weakness by becoming a bear. Now, I am a bear both mentally and emotionally. I don’t care what people think of me. I don’t mind if they laugh. I’m strong. I’m independent. I’m not afraid anymore.
It’s how we fight and overcome our everyday battles that defines our character as well as our lives. We all battle something, and my struggles almost killed me. However, the strength of a bear helped me to overcome and keep working to find a treatment that works. The love and support of everyone in my life helped me to carry on, and everything that I have been through has left me filled with inspiration and ambition. Losing people I was so close to inspired me to become a doctor. Feeling so hurt by others inspired me to be a better person. Success in my new high school inspired me to succeed in college. Finally, having people help me through all of my medical problems and return to my dreams has ignited a fire in me to help people for the rest of my life. My name is Michelle Loy, I struggle each day with depression, I have found bear-like strength, and it is my ambition to succeed in college as well as medical school to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. As a doctor, I fully intend to make my life into something that counts, and to live a life full of strength, and someday, happiness. No other bear could ever compare.