It took me 17 years to love myself. And I mean to really, truly, and fully accept everything I am. Looking back to middle school -- where I wanted so badly to be like everyone else, and felt as if I would never fit in -- I can't believe I made it.
I thought high school would be easier, but it wasn't. I started having panic attacks and it was terrifying. My biggest fear was having one in school. Then, one event changed everything.
In January, the boys in my class started making fun of a girl to the point where she started to cry. Everyone watched, but she ended up making eye contact with me. She said, "I just want it to stop."
In that moment, I had flashbacks to all the times I had secretly thought that to myself over the past few years, but didn't dare say it out loud. And in the middle of my chemistry class, I broke down, too. Everyone saw it.
After that, I felt like I didn't have to hide anymore. While I got treated a little differently by kids in my grade for a while, like I was delicate, the incident helped me realize that I didn't have to be happy all the time. I had shown everyone what I was really feeling inside and they hadn't rejected me.
In fact, I realized that I could be sad when I wanted to be, because we are all sad at some points -- the girl from my class, me, everyone. I've realized that sometimes you are tempted to think that everyone is perfect except for you, but in reality, no one is, no matter how much we want them to be. I was never going to be perfect -- and I'm okay with that. I stopped pretending to be happy, and when I stopped pretending, I actually became happier.
I realize that if I had quit all those times I wanted to, I never would have gotten to know myself the way I do now.
It took me almost 17 years to love myself, but now I do.
Are you struggling with suicide or do you know someone who is? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's 24-hour, toll-free hotline for support: (800)-273-TALK (8255).