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Surviving Depression: Inside the Twenty Percent

December 29, 2017

This story appears in Ingress Magazine Issue One, UPSTART RESTART. Read it HERE.

 

Today’s polls on the mental health of teenagers in the United States are pure numbers. Approximately twenty percent of adolescents in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental disorder, with the bulk of mental illness episodes occurring during young adulthood. What is not embedded within the innumerable data, however, is the journey of the faces behind the twenty percent; the beginning after the end. What is not understood is the lengthy process involved in the creation of a new mindset, a clear conscience, a second chance.

 

Madison L. Fischer*, a junior in high school, has had her own unique struggle when it comes to mental illness. During the late summer months of her sophomore year, Fischer cultivated an awareness of the loneliness and depression she felt--landing her in a psychiatric ward on 24-hour watch for two weeks.

 

"Beginning again with a clean mindset and healthy mentality is never easy."

 

“I stayed at home [a lot], I wasn’t feeling good about myself- I didn’t like my appearance,” Fischer noted, elaborating on her toxic mentality last year. “I tend to overthink things, and I used to think that people would be so much better without me, and ‘Why should I even be here?’ It just led further and it got out of hand.”  Only fifteen years old when she attempted to take her own life, the teenager eventually allowed the virulent thoughts to fester. Her determination, however, succeeded, and Fischer survived with a drive to prosper and a mission to start anew.

 

Beginning again with a clean mindset and healthy mentality is never easy, but Madison Fischer is an idyllic example of overcoming mental illness. While in the hospital, Fischer journaled daily--a catharsis for the millions of emotions hiding within the deepest cavities of her mind. One of the most relieving methods she used to liberate her repressed feelings was compiling lists of events and people to look forward, a conglomeration of happy thoughts. An avid actress and singer, Fischer views her school’s theater as a happy place. Her teacher visited her while she was in the hospital, offering wisdom and guidance in whatever way he could.

 

 

“I felt so trapped.” Fischer recalled.  “The third day I had a complete mental breakdown. [My teacher] called me every couple of hours and told me that everything was okay and to just take it one day at a time.”

 

The notion of isolating the challenges of each day remained ingrained within Fischer, and she credits this advice with having a lasting impact on more than just her experience at the hospital. When she returned home, a sense of uncertainty and uncomfortableness hung palpable in the air. Throughout it all, her path to healthy mindfulness was structured around regaining the rhythm of the life she lost. The everyday cycle of school, theater, and hanging out with friends resumed and spurred her hope of recovery.

 

Offering advice to teenagers struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression is difficult, Fischer notes, but her hope for the generation struggling with mental illness is clear. “You’re having a mental battle with yourself, so it’s hard to listen to what anyone has to say.” Fischer details. “But keep pushing through. It’s going to get better- even if it gets worse.”

 

"'But keep pushing through. It's going to get better--even if It gets worse.'"

 

Spending her Sundays singing Amy Winehouse and the riffs of her own captivating melodies, Fischer now feels utterly content with her current mindset and those she surrounds herself with. Although some of her self-consciousness still lingers, she’s made vast improvements from the days when inhibitions practically latched onto her veins during the peak of her battle with mental illness. In describing the role her support network played in helping her recover from her suicide attempt, she credits her mother for exhibiting unwavering strength throughout her struggle with depression and her friends and teachers for the unconditional support they demonstrated throughout the toughest part of her life. “I’m thankful for the experience,” Fischer commented. “I wouldn’t have gotten help if it hadn’t reached that level.”

 

 

The twenty percent of adolescents in America have names, they have journeys, they have stories, they have faces. Madison Fischer is just one face amongst a thousand; sharing her incredibly brave story to not only demonstrate, but combat the strife teenagers face in the modern day and age. It is never easy to begin again and transform a mindset, but but there are many resources ready and available to help the people who reach out to them, no matter how big or small the problem may be. “Reach out to someone.” Fischer advises.  “If you want to stop feeling this way, you need to get help.”

 

*All names have been changed to protect privacy

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

 

All photos by Clare Mulroy.

 

Sources:

“NAMI.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness,

www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers.

 

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