Life Story Anxiety Posted August 19, 2020

No jive in 05'!

I made many wonderful memories during my homeschool years. I also made many terrible memories during my college years. As far as my high school years, well... it's complicated.

On one hand, I had the time of my life in Barberton. I had a comic strip featured in the school newspaper for nearly all four years. I went to a ton of places with the band. I ended up running the TV studio. I was liked enough to be nominated on homecoming court. I was voted Mr. School Spirit. I ended up with all kinds of awards and scholarships after all was said and done and...

*sigh* ...I wish I could just leave well enough alone. I had so much fun here, and the memories I made will last forever. That much will never change. But I, myself, have changed greatly since then... and what bothers me is how people still come up and say stuff like, "You used to be the life of the party. You were such a clown. Why don't you lighten up? People liked you better that way!"

No, they didn't.

I was ridiculed and bullied heavily once I transitioned from homeschool to public schooling. It became so bad that I was contemplating suicide at one point. Thankfully, I unintentionally discovered how to get a laugh out of my homeroom class. On one fateful morning, I tripped through the door right as the bell rang. I ended up falling and farting right in front of my teacher. Everybody was howling, but I wasn't embarrassed. In fact, I remember being quite excited about evoking this positive reaction. It may not have been genuine love or affection, but it was several steps up from hatred. More importantly, it was a reaction that I could control.

So I started doing more funny things, effectively building a wall that prevented anyone from getting too close and realizing how lame I was. I ended up creating a false me, an "always on" character who represented the real me outside the barrier. That is who people seen the most -- and it differentiated from the real me in nearly every conceivable way. It didn't matter if people hated the clown, because I was protected. But if people loved the clown, well... I knew the truth. I knew things would be different if they met the real me.

But if high schools are supposed to prepare young adults for the real world, mine really should have picked up on my deeply flawed coping mechanism. I'm not saying Barberton doesn't have an effective school system, because they do and always have. But having fun was all that mattered to me. It was my medicine, and I had free reign to overdose on it as long as I wasn't actively getting in trouble and had maintained a decent grade point average.

I could have went somewhere better, like my sister eventually did. When she transferred to Cuyahoga Falls, she was properly diagnosed with autism and was able to get all kinds of help and assistance. I could have had that. I could have fixed my problems and saved myself a world of trouble later on in life. Instead, I doubled down on exposing my insecurities, fears, and flaws for the sake of comedy. I tried so hard to keep those at bay who were never really my friends to begin with.

I eventually realized my mistake. Ignoring your problems will always make them worse. I wasn't going to get lucky again, and college wasn't going to be this blazing vodka-soaked party I was hoping for. So I ended up doing the next best thing, albeit very late into my senior year:

I dropped the act.

All the laughter stopped and all that soon remained was that awkward kid everyone hated on the playground. I was back to square one, but in the process I learned how to ask for help. I learned how to relate to others and to address their needs. In time, I would be the one convincing people to destroy the brick wall they've been hiding behind their entire adult lives. I don't think English has a word that properly describes how ironic that is.

I guess the lesson here is if you know someone who might be depressed or suicidal, but you've been denying it because they're always smiling and joking around -- PLEASE do something about it. It doesn't have to be complicated; Simply being there for them is often enough. They can't distract you with their charade forever. Stick with them, and they'll eventually realize they don't have to do anything for you to actually like them. Getting them to lower their defenses and having a conversation about their problems, however boring or painful that may be, can make all the difference in their life.

And if you, yourself, are feeling down -- here is the national suicide hotline. It's a great option to fall on, and I've used it quite a few times. Take it from me: You can be accomplished, respected, and loved by many... but that doesn’t mean jack squat if you don't learn to love yourself.