Friday, December 19, 2014

"This I Believe: The Benefits of Misery" by Leo

This December, Advanced Composition students studied, wrote, and recorded audio essays. Students wrote and recorded their own "This I Believe" essays inspired by the weekly This I Believe Podcast. While we're publishing the text of each essay below, we strongly encourage you to listen to each student's audio essay for a more intimate experience.

Growing up, we are taught that misery is a bad thing and that we should always try to avoid it. Our parents spend our childhood trying to shield us from the tragedies of life, keeping us happy and content.  However is misery all bad? Is it only a tragic aspect of life or can it be more than that? Can it, instead of hindering us, help us grow as individuals?

Ever since middle school, due to, let’s say, romantic situations, I have been miserable with my life. Now yes I know what you may be thinking. “Leo, it was only middle school. You were young and ignorant and didn’t know any better about what mattered and what didn’t. You’ll get over it.” See, that’s the thing. If it wasn’t such a big deal, then why did that experience impact my life so much and at such an intense level to the point where I’m writing a paper about it?

I was miserable. Now sure there were moments when life did seem to brighten up and make me forget my troubles but, inevitably, it would never last. Year after year, month after month, day after day, I would wake up every morning and feel the weight of my depression conquer my spirit. I only wanted to go to sleep and live in my dreams. It was the one place where I was truly happy. I did try to make myself better throughout those years, but my attempts never worked, at least not permanently. I just became miserable again. The misery got worse when it started to become physical. Instead of waking up with depression and sadness shadowing me, there was nothing. I ceased to feel any emotion and just became numb to the world and to myself. I didn’t want that, so I started to hurt myself. Whether it was ferociously punching whatever I could to the point where I couldn’t move my hand, or cutting myself repeatedly in the same spot until a permanent scar would form, these were just about the only things making me feel something. It got to the point where I was comfortable with the self inflicted pain. It even started to feel good because at the time, something felt better than nothing.

The worst came when I was contemplating suicide but, as you can tell, I didn’t.  Sure I could have killed myself and ended all the pain and mental suffering I was going through, but I had a personal belief that denied me the right and privilege to suicide. If it wasn’t for that belief I would have been dead a long time ago.

I had hit a mental rock bottom. Since I wasn’t allowed to take the easy path and end my suffering I had no choice but to deal with it and overcome it. Of course I didn’t do it in one big step. I had to take each day one by one.

I had survived the worst of it and because of that I started to learn what it’s like to go through those experiences. I understood feelings of depression, suicide, and self-harm. I started to recognize it in other people. I saw their depression, their pain, their misery. As a young teenager, without having experienced that pain, I would have never seen it in other people. I gained empathy towards those I knew had gone through the same things I had. I learned that someone with depression, someone who has had it for a long time like I did, has learned how to hide it and become actors to the world they live in. I learned that when we start having depression we easily show it to the world but as time goes on and it lingers inside us, we become reserved and start to hide it all because we don’t want to bother others with our suffering. I learned the difference between someone cutting on their wrist and on their arm. One wants to feel and one wants to let out a cry for help. I know this because I did the same things. Everything I endured, I learned how to see people in a different perspective.

Misery made me smarter than any book or lecture ever could have. Misery made me a better person. I believe that misery, and all the baggage that comes with it, can, if we survive, positively make us better people and show us a new perspective towards the people around us. I believe that it can mold our mindsight to have empathy for those in need just like us. I believe that misery can cast us outside the norm of society and give us the opportunity to observe the world that we live in. Misery does not only harm and hinder, misery, I believe, can help.

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