I was born on June 5th, 1998 at 2 pounds. A doctor told my parents I wouldn’t grow into the healthy boy they hoped for, and today I stand nearly 6 feet tall. All my life, people have told me things about myself, things that were never easy to hear and things that that have me caused me to doubt myself throughout my life. I was born with a condition called Panhypopituitarism, which requires me to take a lot of medicine. Throughout life, I have heard people tell me I don’t look my age, many times commenting on my appearance. The reason I wanted to open up in this article is to tell you that no matter what everyone wants you to be, or tells you to become, you have to believe in yourself and don’t let doubt creep your mind like it has mine.
Mental health is something that isn’t talked about enough as it should. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, it can be hard to try and deal with it because you’re constantly doubting yourself and being sad without knowing why. The first time I discovered that I had depression was in my senior year of high school. Looking back, I have probably dealt with it for a lot of my life, particularly in middle school, without properly identifying it. The source of what caused this for me, I feel, was almost losing my mother due to lupus. That was an extremely difficult time in my life and throughout high school, I lost 4 of my close aunts and uncles. What finally caused me to realize this feeling was more than just a passing thing was when my grandfather passed away two years ago. There has been a lot of death surrounding my life, and the passing of so many loved ones in such a close time has had an impact on me as I’ve grown up. Through all of this death and passing of loved ones, there has been one thing that has helped me cope, find escapism and stay true to myself, that is reading comic books and watching anime.
While in middle school, I learned about a character named Jason Todd, the Red Hood, and I watched him in the animated Batman film Under The Red Hood. In the film, Jason confronts Batman about letting the Joker kill him. He has a heated conversation about what true evil is, and where the line stands for Batman as a symbol. I ended up loving the films so much that I decided to invest in the character of Jason Todd heavily. I decided to read many of the comics Jason was featured in. I related to the character so much because he didn’t want to be defined by his past. He wanted to be himself and live his life how he wanted to, despite all that he has been through. The Red Hood continues to be a character I love and admire. In many ways, Jason Todd gives me hope.
As mentioned before, another aspect of my mental health that I had to address was my anxiety. For those times whenever my anxiety gets really bad and I don’t know where to turn, I like to sit down and watch the anime, One Piece. For me, One Piece helps a lot because the cast of characters happiness in each other even when their own problems seem too big to tackle. They help each other get through it. My personal favorite character in the series is a woman named Niko Robin, who at a very young age had everyone she knew killed. However, through everything she went through, she still chose life over all and despite mind-bogglingly hard times, she endures and keeps her hope alive. There’s a moment in the show when she tells her friends she wants to live, and the emotion of the scene resonated with me deeply because sometimes I feel like I don’t want to live. Knowing that there is a group of characters like Red Hood and Niko, popular characters that feel the same way I do helps me so much. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in the world.
I strongly feel that if we have more representation of characters that deal with mental health issues, kids can feel like they’re not alone in the world. The impact of these characters and heroes can be used for relief and even help prevent self-harm or suicide. Anime has always to me been a form of media that I feel connected to deeply and one of my absolute favorites is Naruto. Naruto is about a young boy who is possessed by a fox demon. His life has a rough origin and he is alone and hated by his village because his parents died to save him. Throughout the series, we see Naruto grow from someone who is hated, despised and alone to being looked up to and respected as an equal. To me, that shows huge growth in his character and many will be able to relate to his struggles in life. Being able to conquer your problems no matter what is is no easy task. Finding a character that you can resonate with is very important. In Naruto, characters like Kakashi and Sasuke, characters who both lost their families at young ages was important for me to see. To see characters that had to deal with being alone and not having anyone to talk to or anyone who understood them made me feel less alone and less isolated.
The last example I want to give is with a film called Love Simon. While not a comic or anime, I was completely shocked with how much I ended up relating to it. It was one of the few films that made me cry because I could relate to Simon on a personal level. Recently, I came out as bisexual to the rest of my family, primarily to my mother. It didn’t go well, and afterwards, I felt horrible and didn’t want to continue with my life because I wasn’t accepted by my mother. All of the depression and anxiety came back in full force and I started to lose confidence in myself. If my own mother couldn’t accept me, then how could the rest of the world accept me? Today, as I’ve grown older, and wiser, I am starting to repair bonds and also mentally changing my perspective. I’ve come to learn that if no one accepts me or believes in me, I have to. This is my life and if someone isn’t happy with who I am, that’s ok. No matter what, I have to make sure I’m happy in this life. That is one of the most basic, primal feeling every single person on Earth wants, to be happy.
My advice, no matter what you go through in life, try to smile. Sometimes even smiling isn’t even in the cards for many. Many individuals hide their pain behind their work, school or even sports. Even I have hidden my sorrows, and it can be hard to fake a smile, sometimes you’re forcing yourself to fake it just so you don’t feel like you’re a problem. Sometimes, you do all of this simply to try to help people who may be going through the same thing. Because I know what it feels like to be alone, I want to try and help others who might be battling similar mental health struggles. If you’ve ever felt like you’re not good enough, or struggle to find any rhyme or reason to live, I want you to know that you are enough. Take one day to yourself because you deserve it, whether it’s doing nothing or reading your favorite comic book, or favorite anime. Do something that will make you happy because you deserve it. Everyone in the world, regardless of race, religion or orientation deserves a chance to be happy. Even through the storms of life, there is life ahead, and that life is worth living.