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Fighting the Monster Inside Me
Alina S.
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My dear friend,

Hey, what’s up, love? I heard you’ve been feeling bad. I can see it in your eyes.

I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there—that’s why I can see it and others can’t. You feel lonely, heartbroken, angry, right? Well, let me tell you—you’re not alone. You never were.

I’m going to take this time to tell you about my experience. Maybe the same one you’re going through right now. You feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. But you have to fight. The problem is, you don’t know who or what.

You and me, we’ve got the same enemy. The one who lurks in our everyday thoughts. Who attacks us with no warning. This enemy is not a person or a thing, but a force. I choose to call it Mr. Hyde because it is the monster that lives within me.

Dr. Jekyll is who I am when I’m happy, when I feel loved and important. But Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde used to switch places on me, spontaneously, without warning. All of a sudden, I would turn sad, angry, moody. That was Mr. Hyde taking me over, transforming me into a totally different person.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Mr. Hyde’s real name is depression. By finding that out, I learned how to beat him. And so will you.

I still recall when I first started feeling helpless, lonely, sad, angry, and confused. At that point in my life, I was going through many dilemmas. I was in my first year of high school. My school responsibilities were getting greater at the same time that my parents were getting divorced.

My mother, who helped me with all my problems, was depressed herself. My father was getting edgier and seemed more out of control. It got to the point where even my older sister, my only source of relief, didn’t have all the answers. She started losing her cool, too. My house felt like a ticking bomb, ready to explode and destroy everyone in it. That’s when Mr. Hyde moved in and became my sworn enemy.

My teenage life was turning upside down. Instead of chilling with my friends after school, I would hurry home and stay cooped up in my house all day. In spite of all the tension there, it was the only place I felt safe. In my house, I didn’t have to put on an act for anyone that everything was OK.

My doorbell would ring and it would be my friend asking if I wanted to take a walk or just chill. I would always make up an excuse, such as feeling sick or being too busy with my homework.

That wasn’t like me. In the past I would always hang out with my family and friends with a smile on my face, no matter what situation we were in. I always loved to listen to music and dance along with it. But these things no longer brought me joy.

Even though I was an honors student, I felt like nothing. Even though I had the love of my family, my best friend, and occasional boyfriends, I felt like nothing.

People who know me have always said that I’m feisty and a fighter. My mother tells me I’m “like an ax and a machete” because I always stand up for what I believe in. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a nothing.

Depression does that to you. It had me looking towards nothing, feeling nothing. My head was full of negative thoughts. I became self-conscious and obsessive, trying to figure out how others were reacting to my every word, move, and action.

I was always asking myself, “Do people step all over me?” I was always on point, ready to fight anyone and anything for no reason. I got into fights and arguments just to prove to myself that I wasn’t a punk, a nobody. It was exhausting.

It was as if Mr. Hyde was getting stronger and, in the process, taking away all my best qualities, like being kind, loyal to my loved ones, optimistic, intelligent, and determined to do what was right.

I didn’t like who I was becoming, so I was mean to myself. I felt I deserved nothing but unhappiness. I spent too many nights crying for a sorrow I felt in my heart that nobody, including myself, could explain. I know you feel that way too.

Let me tell you, by my second year of high school I was at my worst. I was only 15 and I was waiting to die. Mr. Hyde was trying to take away my quality of never giving up. It felt like suicide would be my only escape.

One day I was sitting at my kitchen table, trying to work on my geometry homework, but unable to concentrate. I looked up and saw a big kitchen knife. I stared at it in a daze, thinking, “I can cut my wrists now and never feel this bad again.”

I got up from the table and put the knife away and left the kitchen. A couple of days passed before I told anybody. I had never felt that way before and it scared me very much. I had always felt my life was precious and Mr. Hyde was even trying to take that away. He was determined to completely take over, but I finally decided I wouldn’t let him. Suicide isn’t a solution. It isn’t for anyone, not me and not you.

So, guess what I did? I got in the ring with Mr. Hyde. I started to fight back, because I wasn’t going to let him win. No, señor, not me, not ever. And he isn’t going to win with you, either!

image by Melanie Leong

I fought back by going to get help. A friend from school introduced me to a counselor who I will call Angel, because he has been mine. At first I felt weird talking to him. I felt he didn’t need to hear my problems. But I also felt I had nothing to lose, so I started seeing Angel on a regular basis.

I had never thought about getting counseling before, because I thought a therapist wouldn’t really care. But Angel showed me he did care, just by saying the right things or giving me a hug when I needed one. He made it easy to talk. He showed me he understood and was there to help. He won my trust simply by being sincere and caring.

I know you may be thinking, the way I used to, “What can a stranger do for me?” The fact that he was a stranger actually made things easier. It eased my concerns about the impression I gave off. I didn’t worry about him judging me because he didn’t really know me.

The first thing Angel ever asked me was who I loved the most. I responded by saying, “My mother, my sister, my brother, my father.” He looked at me and said, “Funny, you never mentioned you.” I had spent so much time condemning myself in every possible way that I was unable to give myself some of the caring that I have for others.

Angel made me see that I had to start helping myself. He taught me to respect and appreciate myself, to make myself comfortable with “me.”

With Angel’s help, I realized that much of my sorrow came from my past. The counseling process helped me understand what depression was and how it affected me. And, most of all, how to deal with it.

Angel helped me learn to think more positive when situations got me down. I would write in a journal every day and look for activities that would help me express my feelings. I started playing handball to keep myself active and sane. I even went on medication for a while.


After I started talking to Angel, I told my family and my close friends about the struggle I was having—about the fears, the anxiety, the insecurities and pain. I knew they couldn’t shield me from depression, but they could help me fight it.

After that, Mr. Hyde had to deal with an entire group, not just one person. My point is, you can’t be alone on this. You need partners, a team. My family and best friend made up my support group. Every one of them had a way of making me feel better. My mother would hold me and hug me so tight when I felt bad that I felt secure in her arms.

My sister reassured me when I went to her with my everyday worries. She would say, “No, you didn’t look stupid in front of them,” or “Cry it out, it’ll be better that way.”

My best friend would go with me to the park to run and scream when I felt I needed to let my frustrations out.

Even my father, who never expresses his emotions, told me one day that even though he loved me and my siblings the same, he always had a special bond with me. Then he took me shopping for a new outfit. That had the biggest impact on me. My father, who is Mr. Tough Guy, took time out to make me feel better. For that, I love him in a special way.

Last, but not least, my brother, my twin, only had to give me a smile or act silly to make my day brighter.

Telling the people closest to me how I felt and what I needed made our relationships stronger and better. It put us on a new level of understanding. For instance, when I secluded myself, they knew I wasn’t just being cranky. They understood it was a warning sign of Mr. Hyde’s arrival. They stood by me during my hardest times and I will always be grateful to all of them.

Things started to turn around. I started to feel good about myself again. When I was a junior, I was inducted into the National Honor Society. Last spring, I graduated from high school and now I’m in college. These accomplishments have reminded me that I am somebody, and an important person at that.

I feel like myself again. I can dance and chill all day without feeling bad. I don’t feel the need to pick fights anymore. I don’t have to prove to anyone that I am not a punk or a herb. I feel more at ease with myself. I still have days when I feel like Mr. Hyde has just punched me in the face. But I always knock him out before he can do too much damage.

As I write this, I get the butterflies—just like when you are getting ready to fight or challenge someone. In a way, I’m still fighting, always will be. But I’m not alone and you aren’t either. I’ve learned how to control my sad days and what to do to make them better, and you can too.

As for my long letter, I’ll end it now by telling you that I’m not writing this so you can feel pity or compassion for me. I just want to let you know that I have felt your pain and that you are not alone.

This is what I ask of you: to fight back with whatever tools you have, to prove to Mr. Hyde that he isn’t stronger than you. If you need a little help, just remind him of his experience with me. Go and speak to the people who you know can help. Look for them in your family, at your school, anywhere.

If you do that, Mr. Hyde is sure to succumb enough to let you start doing your thing. Always remember to keep your head up, stay strong, and honor yourself.

Peace.

Your friend,
Alina

DEPRESSION/SUICIDE
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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(NYC-1999-11-03)



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