"And do you know what? When at the end of the year that teacher gave out an award to her “best” student, the award was not given to me or to the other student whom she nominated to go to preliminary trials for the National Math Olympiad. It went to a girl who was outgoing and helpful, but—although good at math—not the best in the class. This was the first time I came face to face with the subconscious bias against introverts to which I had only thus far been marginally exposed.
On a macro-level, our subconscious bias against introverts has the potential to be detrimental to society. When you put your life in the hands of a doctor, you want the most competent one that you can get; when you entrust your tax dollars to NASA, you want the most skilled engineers designing the equipment so that your money is not wasted. If we keep prioritizing gregariousness over competency, work quality will not meet its potential. On a personal level, as I get ready to apply for colleges, I worry about the effect this bias will have on me. If a university were to compare my application with the application of the girl who received the math award, they would likely assume that she is better at math than me. Universities are making decisions with faulty information, and these decisions have a major impact on my life, on the academic rigor of their own programs, and on the quality of graduates they send off into the world."
Once on a white piece of paper with no lines
He wrote a poem
And he called it “Ignorance: A Question”
Because that’s what it was all about.
Since that was the day someone
Thought there was a mold to fit in.
And thought she knew what it all meant.
And had it all figured out
Because she was being paid to speak.
And thought that the word “valid,”
But maybe it did mean nothing
Because that’s what everyone thought.
And at that time, that’s all that mattered—
What everyone thought
But the “truth” is really the only thing that matters.
At least it should.
Because “valid” is a word you need to earn
And she didn’t earn it.
At least yet.
But for her to say she did is the worst of all
Because the only “truth” is in knowing
We know nothing.
Once on a white piece of paper with black lettering
He wrote a poem
And he called it “Departure”
Because that’s what it felt like
And that’s what it was all about.
And he showed the poem to no one
Because no one needed to see it,
Not even he who wrote it
It was a departure because that’s where he went.
Even though he never moved from that spot.
But in reality,
He left himself.
And that’s what mattered
Because that’s what he felt.
That was the year it went from zero to one
And no one knew what it meant,
Not even him.
“I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad. Just like what my sister said when I had been in the hospital for a while. She said that she was really worried about going to college, and considering what I was going through, she felt really dumb about it. But I don’t know why she would feel dumb. I’d be worried, too. And really, I don’t think I have it any better or worse than she does. I don’t know. It’s just different. Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Like Sam said. Because it’s okay to feel things. And be who you are about them.”
Excerpt From: Chbosky, Stephen. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Gallery Books. iBooks.
It could always be worse.
I don't know why you still talk to me. And I don't know why others don't talk to me anymore. Everything's different. Nothing's changed. Life goes on. Until it doesn't. But then it's too late to think. Thinking hurts. Maybe it's all just out of convenience and nothing else. I don't want to believe that though. But it seems more true every day. Every minute. Every second. Maybe it has nothing to do with you. Or maybe it has nothing to do with me.
I don't know why I don't think you're real. And it's not just you. It's a lot of people. Maybe not strangers. Or it might be especially strangers. I can't really tell. I just don't feel like I did anything to deserve it. I feel like I don't deserve it. Are you there? Are you there?
No answers, just more questions.
Where do I go when the enemy is within me.
You go out.
Are you there. Are you there. Are you there. Are you there. Are you there. Are you there. Are you there.
I don't know why I'm here. I'm not doing anything. Anything useful, at least. I've had enough staring at the clock waiting and watching the minutes go by. But it can't all be for nothing. Can it?
I guess, technically, it could...
When I go places it seems like everything's already happened before. And I'm just walking through it and everything's just happening around me. But I'm not actually a part of it. Like it's happening in one place and I'm in another but "we're" both in the same place.
"Place is the first of all beings, since everything that exists is in a place and cannot exist without a place" (Archytas)
But I don't see it. I just feel it. Are you there?
I would write but I don't know what I'd write about. It just seems fake. Like a movie. Movies are too long. Maybe a music video for a different song. Are you there? Are you there? Are you there? Are you there? I keep asking the same question but I don't know who I'm talking to. No one ever responds. I'm not sure if I'd want someone to respond though. It just feels fake. Some stuff usually does but now everything does. Me, my friends, other people I see on the street. It's like everyone's going somewhere but they don't know where they're going. Just that idea scares me. And to be honest, I hope it scares you too. But I don't know whats different about now. Maybe it's just that I'm noticing more. Everything's different, nothing's changed. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Less than nothing. Maybe it's just because I know more now. But I don't think that I know anything really...
I know nothing.
PERHAPS IT WAS the middle of January in the present year that I first looked up and saw the mark on the wall. In order to fix a date it is necessary to remember what one saw.
Do you think intentions matter?
Imagine that every conversation of your life was like getting up on stage, naked, at the Met, in front of 3,000 people.
It is a feeling I get when I feel like I can’t do something. Something bigger than me is standing in the way. It feels almost literal, like walls are built up brick by brick. Some people might be deathly afraid of spiders or snakes or heights. I’m deathly afraid of other people. Just think of your worst fear and having to live with it all the time. Forever. The threshold of when I begin to feel it has changed as I got older, but it’s the same feeling. I feel as though I’m constantly being watched. The problem is that I’ve come to like being with other people too. That’d be like being afraid of spiders but having a tarantula as a pet, by choice. I know this must seem confusing but I’ve lived with it for 19 years and even I don’t understand it.
My first day of kindergarten, I walked into the classroom and stayed directly to the left of the door underneath the light switch. I didn’t move from that spot during school for about 7 months. It was like I was superglued to the floor. The only way I could describe the feeling is by saying it felt like I was walking in somewhere where I KNEW I was going to die. I feel really bad even saying that because who am I to say that it felt like dying. But what I’ve come to realize is that thinking that your feelings don’t mean anything just makes it worse. I didn’t speak, eat, or use the bathroom at all in school.
It took 7 months before anyone was able to figure out what to do. I don’t think it would be fair to blame anyone in particular. The school thought that I was doing it on purpose and that I wanted the attention. My parents took me to four special doctors. The first one told my parents not to feed me, so we didn’t stay with him very long (he also happened to be deaf). The second one also told my parents that I was defiant, had Generalized Anxiety, maybe a little bit of Autism, and also that I would stay that way for the rest of my life. The third guy didn’t help much but about 4 weeks into me seeing him, something happened and he lost his voice. Kind of ironic, isn’t it…
We finally found one doctor who was able to help. He diagnosed me with a severe form of Social Anxiety called Selective Mutism. It was a relatively new diagnosis at the time and their wasn’t much research about it. Therapy was based on slowly, but forcefully exposing me to what I was scared of. The first time I spoke to another kid in school was in the middle of first grade. Progress was slow and there were plenty of reversals. A little later on I was then diagnosed with Social Anxiety. Middle school and high school were even worse in some ways because I knew what was happening. It’s easier not to know things sometimes.
Only until recently have I found it 2.0. It’s kind of like movie reels spinning in my head about this thing and that thing that happened. The movies just keep going and going, faster and faster. Sometimes I can get stuck watching, and I know I need to stop, but I don’t know how. That’s the most frustrating part. Getting angry and upset about the things that happened in the past, the stuff I missed out on doesn't help. It still happens though. Someone told me it’s like getting stuck in quicksand. It’s something that you can’t control, and when you try to control it, it gets worse. The frustration is the worst part, because I’m so close to letting go of it, but so far from being able to.
There were plenty of times that I thought it really would just be better to crash into the tree on the side of the road while I was driving around that corner with the music playing when I felt like no one, not even me, understood. But the path of least resistance is never the easiest. There was one time I came close to jumping out of the car on the Tappan-Zee Bridge when I was with my mom on the way to the doctor. Another time I tried to choke myself with one of those outdoor red wire dog leashes. I never came close to anything bad happening. And I don’t really think I ever wanted anything to actually happen. I would get really depressed about just missing out on so much because of my anxiety. At the time I just felt so far behind everyone else. I didn’t really have any friends. I never went to a party or had a girlfriend or a first kiss. My mind would just go from one thing to another nonstop and I just wanted all of it to end.
Only until my senior year of high school did I kind of allow myself to be a real person. I was able to get close to some really great people who I felt comfortable around and that when I was with them, for some of the first times in my life, I really felt alive. As if I was present in the world and the world was present in me. I couldn’t really put this into words for you to understand but it made my feelings about the past that much worse because I realized for the first time that I was only really living my life after 18 years. It has just become a game that I have had to learn to play against.
Even now in 2015 stories like these still happen and people can’t get access to good mental health care. Kids, parents, teens, college kids, adults. It’s still a thing that people don’t talk about. My question for you is Why?
We as a society are so sympathetic to any part of the body breaking down except the brain. When people have mental issues why is it always considered something that is a choice. Like someone could just snap out of it if they tried hard enough, because that couldn’t be further from the truth.
49.5% of American youth will have had a diagnosable mental illness at some point before they are 18 and much of these people never seek treatment*. Even people with the most severe disorders don’t even receive treatment because they don’t know treatment exists or they’re afraid or embarrassed to. If you don’t believe the stigma, think about this. Think about how many people post on Twitter or Facebook about every single little thing that happens, every time they eat or leave the house. People don’t second guess posting about suffering from a cold, the flu, a broken arm, a migraine. Have you ever seen someone post about not being able to get out of bed because they were depressed? My guess is no. But don’t they all deserve attention? It’s just this societal sheet that everyone puts on mental health issues so no one talks about them.
I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to even talk about this. But I figured that being a person that can talk about it and isn’t, is me just buying into the stigma. And where would we be as a society if everyone who ever spoke out about different issues never did. Progress is slow and has to start with people who care enough to say something. I’m hopeful about the future because without hope and striving for progress, what else do we have?
* "Speak Up For Kids Mental Health Report." Speak Up For Kids. Child Mind Institute, 2015. Web. <http://www.speakupforkids.org/report.html>.
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