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She came to school with a plastic Disney princess phone, and told everyone it was real. I was the only kid who didn’t believe her – I proved to the entire class that she was lying. She hated me from that day on, and made sure that I knew it.

Soon, it wasn’t just her bullying me, it was practically everyone. Elementary and middle school are, for the most part, a haze of half-memories of name-calling, spitting, and hair pulling.

In fourth grade, I had my first major depressive episode. I was up late into the night, curled in my mother’s lap, sobbing hysterically for no reason I could identify. It was confusing. All I knew was that I was incomprehensibly sad, and the kids at school were mean.

I was in eighth grade when the body image issues, self-loathing and self-injury, came into play. At first it was simple things, like no longer wearing tight clothing and digging my nails into my skin when I was frustrated. I was in ninth grade when the periods of going without food began, and when digging my nails progressed into the slicing of skin.

I was in tenth grade when the next major depressive episode hit. I was missing tons of school but I didn’t care. The world was bleak and pointless. I slept almost constantly. When I was awake, I tried to forget about my life by immersing myself in the life of a fictional character. That, or I was cutting. I felt useless.

As my sophomore year came to an end, I gradually started to feel better. The improving weather lifted my spirits. I chose to go on a community service trip to Peru that summer, thinking I was well enough to go.That is, until I got on the plane. As I walked to my seat, I felt panic rising.

I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t handle going to Peru.

What had I been thinking?

I begged to be let off of the plane, but the trip leader refused. Resigned, I sat in my seat and sobbed. On that flight, my depression began sinking to entirely new levels, worsening impossibly over the next few months. I was very suicidal.

In December, a boy I knew killed himself. It hit me hard. I saw what suicide could do to people, and how much it hurt the loved ones of the deceased. After toying with the idea of suicide, I decided I didn’t want to cause that pain, so I arranged to be hospitalized.

Since January, I have come so far. I put my efforts back into doing schoolwork. I saw my friends again. I rejoined the world of the living. I have learned an immense amount about my self and how to be happy. I’m so grateful to be alive. It’s so worth it.

I know everyone says it, but it’s true – it does get better.