• Matthew Chen

Just Numb the Way it Feels: My Mental Health Story

I remember often buying tickets for a movie with barely enough money to afford them. I did it all just so I could accompany my friend to the movies, to make sure they weren’t alone. For a long time, I’ve been giving in to the ideas and hopes of others, following paths and pacifying wishes people have had for me. I’ve spent weekend afternoons out when I really just wanted to stay in. I’ve chosen to pursue certain career choices that aren’t what I want, but what my parents want for me. I’ve stayed up late to help out a friend when I really just wanted to go to sleep. The list goes on. 


Being a teenager is, perhaps, one of the most interesting, intense, and complicated periods in life. Our experiences are especially acute and exciting; it’s a prolonged search for a place, self-identification, and belonging. Teenagers face real-world problems too and often encounter their first serious challenges: at home, at school, and in their relationships. Along with these problems, comes the pressure of people-pleasing in order to be liked and accepted. We often do things for people we don’t want to disappoint and we’re all familiar with giving into favors, requests, and subtle demands due to our fear of disappointment and anger.


Ever since I was a child, I was always taught that it’s admirable and selfless to do things for others. I’ve constantly tried to put others’ needs before mine and made it my priority to be by their side when they needed me the most. I’ve worried about people’s opinions of me and above all, hurting that person’s feelings. More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve given up my own happiness for the sake of someone else’s.


As resentments rose within me, I tried to push them down as far as possible, hoping to ignore my feelings. Saying ‘no’ has been and still is a huge struggle for me, as I’ve gotten used to always saying yes to people because I fear that saying no and speaking up for myself would make me appear selfish. I thought that in order to be respected by others I needed to put others first at all times but at the same time. I’ve asked myself: 'When is it enough? Haven’t I reached the point at which the pain of refusing my own desires outweighs the pain of disappointment? Haven’t I grown tired of spending all my time pacifying the wishes of others and denying my own?’


Ironically, the result of this pattern of behavior is feeling very much alone. When I was at my lowest and desperately needed someone to talk to, I was listening to other people and helping them fix their problems instead. At times, I would cry myself to sleep because of all the emotions that had built up inside me. I would stare blankly at the ceiling asking myself ‘What am I doing?’ And to be honest, I didn’t know. I thought that I was helping others, but in reality, I was the one that needed someone’s help. 


The problem was that I knew that would never happen because I was too afraid of exposing myself and letting people know about my feelings and emotions. My fear of being selfish and disappointing others held me back and kept me down. To this day, the fear of saying no and disappointing others still affects me. I still sometimes feel like the whole world is crashing down on me and I have no one to save me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that level, where I finally learn to attend to my own needs and advocate for myself. For now, I guess I’ll just have to leave it as a stated goal and allow it to be something that I am working on. They say the first step is admitting that there’s a problem, so for now, that’s where I’m at!

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