WEST BLOOMFIELD/WALLED LAKE — High school. Bullying. Social media. Homework. Stress.
Throw in some teenage angst, and that’s easily a recipe for depression.
But motivational speaker Jeremy Anderson wants teenagers to know that high school, if done right, can be a haven to those in need.
Anderson spoke to a full house Dec. 4 at West Bloomfield High School during UMatter Week, a program dedicated to teen empowerment and breaking down the stigmas of mental health challenges and suicide.
“How I’m feeling (matters), because I matter,” he said. “When we say ‘you matter,’ we’re not just saying your existence matters, but your thoughts, your feelings, your energy — what you are going to give this world matters. This world needs the best version of you.”
Every day I wake up in what seems an unexplainable dystopia reminding myself of my non-existent worth. I am worthless. It is a vicious cycle of negativity. The sun is just a lost planet, and darkness is all I see. It chips away at my brain. Each day that passes, a little part of me falls off and disintegrates.
Countless days and nights in agonizing pain, it feels like you are being stabbed in the chest by a sharp knife. You feel completely and utterly alone. You begin to question what you are in this world and why you are alive. You are scared of yourself.
The tears that pour out of your eyes is just one of the physical parts. Your chest aches of anxiety, your head pounds from hours of crying, you are nauseous, your leg shakes, you feel weak, your body feels heavy as steel.
There is no word to perfectly describe depression. The closest I can get is horror.
It is your childhood nightmares. It is your teenage nightmares. It is your adult nightmares. It is your worst nightmare. It is a nightmare except for the fact that you can’t wake up from it.
Through all the suffering, I am still here today. How? When your mind tells you you want to die, how can you survive?
The fury. The anger. The fuel.
This was something I didn’t learn until one of my darkest periods. Those months were the worst I had ever felt in my life. After a never-ending battle, I finally was on the right track with the right help. This was only because I used the power of my words to speak up and communicate. If I didn’t, my life would have turned out very different.
Life can suck. A lot. For many reasons. Everyone has their personal struggles and everyone goes through something in their life.
I used to let mental illness define who I was. It controlled me. Now, I learned that the hardest things you face in life only make you stronger. My illness is my drive. My fuel. It fuels me to face it head on, and not let it win. I am tired of quitting. Tired of not seeing the sun rise.
I matter because I know the pain. I know it. I feel it. I experience it.
I matter because everyday I strive to let that dark hole inside of me spark a soaring light on the outside.
I matter because I have been through the worst of times. If I can make it out alive, so can you;
“The semicolon was chosen because in literature a semicolon is used when an author chooses to not end a sentence. You are the author and the sentence is your life”
The Semicolon Project
At the time, my mother was in our room putting our clothes away in a closet and she immediately scolded my sister for saying this. Fast forward a few years, and now, I am in her situation. I often find myself staring at the white people in my classroom thinking about how much easier their lives are because they don’t have the added barrier of being black in America.
Even though I know that being white won’t solve all my problems and that being black is amazing and beautiful, I still can’t help from feeling my blackness is a burden.
I want to hear more black people who have problems feeling like they matter, so I thought that I should start with myself. And I guess this is my way of overcoming this feeling because writing this is like lifting a weight off of my shoulders. I strive every day to remind myself that I am important and that I have so many people who love and support me. I just need to love and support me, too.
We were seven miles into our backcountry hike on Upper Yosemite Falls when we came to a consensus that something wasn’t right. We hadn’t seen a mile marker for hours. We were all out of water and completely lost in one of the most dense forests on the planet.
Just when all hope was lost, a flash light began to shine in our direction. The man yelled for us to come towards the light for help. We finally reached the man and were amazed to see the cleared out section of forest in which he and his wife had been living in for 6 years. After hours of small talk we learned that the couple was fed up with their middle class desk jobs and the two picked up and ventured into the wild. 6 years later, they are happily living one with nature; they hunt for food and hike down to the lower Yosemite Falls to shower.
On my travels, I found that the core of our spirit truly comes from new experiences.
Everyone dies but not everyone lives, so go outside and live!
I stopped hanging out with friends and got no sleep. Day by day obstacles came upon me, and instead of facing them head on I wouldn’t face them at all.
Depression is something you have to live with your whole life. Life’s a roller coaster. It has ups and downs. One second you’re the best you’ve ever been and a second later, bam!, you’re down and there’s no way of getting back up. You feel as if the whole world’s crumbling upon you, or that the world has stopped spinning. The roller coaster keeps going and you get back up. Ups and downs are just part of life.
Depression has taught me to handle downs differently and to move past them. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. IT’S OKAY to feel the way you’re feeling. Be open about it.
I feel it is rather empowering to know that what we do is a direct result of what we want for ourselves. We choose to follow the progression- high school, college, graduate studies, career, retirement. But we absolutely should not let that progression dominate our lives.
If there’s something we are passionate about, absolutely anything, I don’t think we should let the fact that we’re in high school be an excuse not to do it. Rather, let’s acknowledge that we can make the choice to dedicate more time to that, that thing that excites and energizes us and which bring us the utmost happiness, and a little less time to maintaining our GPAs. We may even find it’s possible to do both.
So let us not wait until we are older to follow our dreams. The choice has always been ours. The only thing stopping us is ourselves.
The countless times I have tried to wrap my head around the very idea, that this boy that smiled from ear-to-ear, took his own life and is now gone, pains me. Needless to say, I was well aware of the impact he had on me and all my friends. He was that person who had the entire room locked in a trance. His personality was a magnet and his ever-growing spirit never failed to bring up the energy wherever he went.
But none of this compares to the toll death takes on you, especially when it’s a good friend. The worst part is when you begin to feel helpless. There were days on end where I kept questioning whether there was something I could have done, a difference I could have made.
The grieving process and constant questioning never fully dissipates. But the only way I got myself up in the mornings was knowing that although I wasn’t able to help him, I am still able to help others. Ever since that realization, I have developed this driving force within me to reach out to the broader spectrum of people with mental illnesses and to help prevent suicide.
All of it consumed me. Made me a bitter person. Made me someone I truly was not. I became distant. Stopped responding to texts. Stopped answering calls. Stopped posting on social media. Stopped hanging out with friends.
Started sleeping a lot. Eating a lot. Watching Netflix a lot. Crying a lot. Yelling a lot.
It is a dark and scary time.
And what makes it worse is when nobody around you understands it. All everyone sees is the mask I put on everyday at school. Nobody sees beneath it. Nobody sees the crushing pain.
I’ve seen 4 different therapists. Spent countless hours crying, sleeping, and isolating myself.
My self-esteem at an all time low. I hated myself for who I was, blamed my learning challenges for not being smart, compared myself to everyone around me, and I always managed to hide everything from everyone.
I still face many of these battles, and they will always be apart of me. But I have learned how life is a privilege. When someone close to me died way too young, I started to rethink the meaning of life and the gift it is. In the matter of seconds, life can be taken away so easily, it’s terrifying.
So what made me keep pushing through? What motivated me? I could’ve easily given up. Could’ve easily said I quit. I am not dealing with this anymore. I’m done trying to live with a mind that wants to die.
But a little fight was left in me. Life will get better. It’s just a moment in time, It will pass.
Depression will haunt me lifelong, but I am not letting it define me. I am stronger than it.
“גם זה יעבור”
This too shall pass.
life erupted into being –
sudden, like the exhalation of a conductor
signaling the start of a symphony.
in the beginning,
there was blood,
and it carried music, certainly.
and it was passed
generations – to me.
we look different,
so we sometimes forget that under earth-toned skin
we are all red
like tempered celestial bodies,
like forged passion.
but I remember
through the music –
when I pull bow across strings,
my violin sings,
and it harmonizes with my smile
and with the sparkle in onlookers’ eyes.
melodies fill a room until it becomes saturated
and the air is thick with dreams and other
that cause hair on arms to rise
and minds to wander.
music had the same effect
when Paganini first played his caprices
for shivering crowds,
or when David plucked his lyre for Israel.
generations – to all of us.
you matter because you are one of us –
people made of space and time.
we share blood and we share music,
but that is just the beginning.
But then he got worse when my youngest brother was born, and started abusing all of us one by one. Each in different sly dangerous ways. However, he never once put his hands on me. Till this day I don’t know why, but I think it was because deep down, he knew I wouldn’t take crap from him and just fight back to the death. Literally. But he was terrible to everyone in my family and damaged us terribly. I can’t even explain the extent of it, but he ruined us, and took us apart piece by piece as if we were a puzzle to be played with.
It was after 18 years, when my mom finally had the strength to break his cycle of abuse and got the police to put an order of protection in place and have him removed permanently from our home. He was finally gone and we could finally start healing. But we still had a long bumpy road ahead of us, and it wasn’t going to be an easy ride. We have been safe for the last 4 years, and that’s how long it has been since I have seen my dad. It’s pretty sad that he refuses to get healthy enough to try and fix our relationship, but I swear I will never put some unhealthy in my life again. NEVER! It is a lot of stress to have a single mom trying to put food on the table for her family, and it means I really have to pick up the slack. But I love my family more than anything and would never wish for my life to look any different. I believe you get stronger from struggles and I think of myself as someone who gets stronger and stronger every day.
It may not seem like much, but here’s my story.
I have to remember that I am one of the lucky ones who’s still here
With each breath that fills my lungs
I am reminded that my battle was won
Thankfully I realized before it was too late that
I Matter because He created me
And saw fit for me to be alive
Because I’ve been through nightmare-ish things
But still I thrive
I Matter because of the two X chromosomes in my DNA
And all the information I’ve attained
I Matter because of the dark color of my skin
Because I am not afraid of showing the real person I am
I Matter because I believe in The Dream
And because I want everyone to succeed
I Matter and so do you because we chose to fight
We Matter because we chose life
What they fail to realize is that compliments and words of encouragement can also fail to help someone.
When my grandfather died, my main concern was becoming someone he could be proud of, and that led to creating huge standards for myself. While I did improve, I was never good enough for myself. Any compliments I received went in through one ear, and out the other. I always thanked them for their kind words but I just couldn’t believe I was good enough to get any compliments and that they were all lies. I was not good enough for those words, I was not good enough for anyone.
In hindsight, they probably were complimenting my achievements because I was always improving, but since I never reached the impossible goals I set for myself, there was no way for me at the time to be able to see that.
The best thing you can do for someone going through something is to stay by them and maybe they will eventually be able to see that those kind words are not lies.
I started to gain weight, my grades slipped, I started to say to myself that I was fat, I wasn’t good enough, I was stupid. These thoughts became ingrained in my mind. Until one day, I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere by sitting around. I realized the only way to boost my confidence was to persevere. Even though I was in 5th grade, I made it my goal to make the middle school basketball team. Every day I worked on getting my mind right and eating better. In seventh grade, the tryouts began. I changed my wallpaper to a picture of the words “you can do this”. This inspired me to work harder.
This paid off when I made the team. This was one of the proudest moments of my life and it showed me how important resilience really is.