Rehab. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word? I’ll take a stab and say that it’s not a positive association. If you think rehab is a place only for addressing substance abuse, you’re wrong. Out of all the things I have struggled with, substance abuse is not one of them. For me, everything started with the lockdown that happened because of COVID-19. It caused my depression and fueled my anxiety.
My learning disabilities made online learning rough. It was difficult when we first went into lockdown in March of my sophomore year. I had a hard time focusing on Zoom meetings. I felt like I wasn’t learning anything. It seemed like I was reading articles and assignments and they all left my brain as soon as I went to the next sentence. Nothing could keep my attention for more than a few minutes. Sitting at my computer for hours felt horrible. I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea how to fix it.
I never could ask for help when I was a kid, and it was still hard for me to break the habit of keeping to myself no matter what. As a result, going into junior year, my grades plummeted. Three months in and I was failing every class. I felt like a disappointment. I felt like there was no point in trying anymore; I felt like I would end up amounting to nothing because of my grades. I told my mom around October about my trouble focusing in class, but I resisted telling her how much it was actually eating me up inside. Then, finally, a month later, I told my mom the rest. I sent her a link to a rehab place I wanted to go to, and told her that this was the support I needed. She was supportive of my decision.
On Jan. 28, I went to the center. The first day was rather strange; I kept to myself, too scared and anxious to say hi to anyone. It hadn’t really hit me that I was going to be gone from home for a while. That first week, I spoke to a lot of professionals, all asking me the same questions: Why are you here? What are you hoping to achieve? What’s your plan?
I thought going to rehab would be simple. I would tell them school made me depressed, they would give me some coping skills, and then I would go home. As it turns out, my journey was more difficult than I expected. My family therapist had me read to my parents a list of 10 resentments I held against them. In my family, I’m the peacekeeper. I try to keep everyone happy and together. I never wanted to cause any trouble. Whenever things bothered me, I just kept to myself.
Telling my parents my true feelings was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. But it was worth it. It helped me realize that people deserve to know when they’ve hurt me. It’s not my fault if someone gets upset when I tell them how their actions made me feel, I can’t control that. My parents were very supportive and understanding and expressed their willingness to change.
I was in rehab for about three months. I didn’t realize how much I had changed until my first night back home. I was talking and laughing with my friends and family. I was eating. I was doing things I enjoyed. I was living. It was a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, but nothing has been more worth it. Help is not something you need to earn or feel you don’t deserve — it’s your right. You have a right to be happy, and you have a right to go chase happiness.