This is my senior speech. I feel this is something I need to share.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story: One Heck of a Journey”
What I went through is not uncommon. However, my experience and what I choose to do with it is completely unique to me.
Before I begin, I must tell you that I am scared and worried about your reactions, but if this speech helps even one person in the audience, it’s worth it. I’m going to tell you my story in chapters because if you look at just one chapter of my life alone, you may not understand where I’m coming from.
I have had depression since I was a kid; my sadness went beyond the norm.
Let me paint a picture of what depression can feel like. There was this little boy in elementary school. He was one of those rare cases where he was adored by both his peers and teachers. Now he was worried about middle school. What if nobody liked him there? What if he did not make it on the sports teams? The new school year rolled around and he was terrified, but eventually, he came to terms with what he thought would happen.
He does not try in school or even try out for the sports teams. That is his depression acting for him. Depression can actually change the way you think. It changed this little boy and his life. Here is an example of how it can change the way someone thinks: Someone notices a shortcut to school one day, so the person takes it. It is a lot less effort. However, his or her friends refuse to take that route because it is in a bad neighborhood. But the person doesn’t care and doesn’t think he or she needs friends. Eventually the person forgets the regular way.
This is a lot like depression which literally changes the way you think. Let’s say the little boy fails a test. This might make another kid sad, but, for this boy, failure might result thoughts of suicide. To get out of this way of thinking is a very big challenge.
According to “Youth Suicide Statistics,” suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
What happened to me was one heck of a journey. I was a shell of a person. People would often ask me if I was okay. I always said that I was tired or just really bored, when really I was truthfully thinking about my depression. Robin Williams described this perfectly when he said, “All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul, and they will never notice how broken you really are.” Some people actually knew something was wrong and I appreciate their help. By sharing this with you, I am not trying to prove myself to anyone except for myself. I am going to show all of you evidence that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Oh yeah, pun intended.
Growing is hard and cannot always be done alone. On June 1st of 2016 until June 7th and again on December 19th until December 29th, I was hospitalized for my depression. My first day back at school after the hospitalization I burst into tears.
I had to go to IOP (intensive outpatient therapy) for seven weeks afterwards. This is what psychiatric patients are advised to do upon discharge. It is exactly what it sounds like: incredibly intense. If any of you have ever been on Machal during Lagonquin week, it was that kind of intense. IOP equipped me with the skills to cope and deal with my depression. I missed a lot of school, but my teachers were very understanding and did what they could to help.
A famous Jewish source once said how in Teshuvah (repentance) you have only really redeemed yourself when you have faced the same situation again and succeeded where you didn’t before.
Growth is when you evolve into a better version of yourself. It is when you succeed where you once failed. For me, growth was when I found myself in a situation where I could stay where I was- miserable- or choose to live. I needed something to fight for. That something is moving to Israel or at least going for a gap year. So I decided I was going to try again. Not like before, but ever harder. I had to really make some changes. I began asking for help when I needed it, and started exercising every day.
That itself was a challenge. Then something I did not see coming at all happened. No seminaries would accept me. Why? Because I had been hospitalized for a mental illness within the past year. When one seminary emailed that they were going to call me, I was so excited. I even let my dad sit quietly and listen in on the phone call. I was not expecting them to call me and tell me no. I felt crushed, but what was I going to do? After the call had ended, I remember my dad’s exact words: “Wow, that makes me really want to cry. How about you?” I felt like they did not care or believe that I had grown and learned from my illness.
So I applied to another seminary and another. They all either had odd restrictions or they simply waitlisted me. In the end, I applied to Bar Ilan Israel Experience and was then accepted.
Telling this story is evidence of my growth. I am stronger and braver and more happy than I have been in a long, long time. I used to feel like I was not worth it. Not worth living or having a family. I felt worthless.
My friends gave me hope, and my family gave me the strength I needed. Going from feeling worthless and hopeless to feeling special: that is what growth is to me.
“Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on”- Unkown
What was your reaction to Dalia’s powerful story? Share your comments, questions and advice below.