VOICES Years of neglect has me down

Every year, our college attends the Journalism Association of Community College’s state convention. Our three-man videojournalism team took home an honorable mention for our story on Old Town Sacramento’s homeless population. Our group was dressed in our best, posing for pictures left and right at the conventions last ceremony. I paused from the action and looked through some of the pictures I had taken throughout the event, stopping on a group photo of our video team with our awards.

At first glance, I see the gold-flaked letters of each award dancing in the light. The girls that I had worked with were both sporting smiles from ear to ear. And me, I was standing upright in my pinkish blue dress shirt with rolled up tan dickie slacks on and burgundy low cut vans with a slight tear from skateboard. My hair was combed over to the right, partially blonde and dark brown at the roots.

All these small details, but I didn’t notice how big my smile was or how happy I felt being acknowledged. I looked at my face and was reminded of why I felt alien amongst my peers the entirety of the weekend. I hadn’t truly been this happy since I was in Big Bear snowboarding and drinking with my friends. It was a weekend to remember because I couldn’t remember most of it, and it felt amazing to let go.

Since high school, I have been subconscious of the acne on my face. After the fifth attempt to get rid of it using another Pro Active type medication, you tend to just give in to the fact that you aren’t a 10, but more a solid 7 on the best days.

I locked my eyes onto the LCD screen of the camera, staring deeply at the pixelated version of me and it all went downhill from there. When I get really quiet and refrain from talking or making absurd comments as I usually do, know that my thoughts have captured me. And this isn’t Stockholm syndrome where I love my internal dialogue but it hates me. All I could think about was how much of a failure I appear to those around me who thought I was going into ministry to be a pastor, or go to school to be an architect, or some type of successful business man. Nope, I am just a kid who likes to videotape  things and write about people in the community.

In my own head, I am a failure to my family.

A group of five of us drove into downtown Sacramento to walk around and see the capitol building. The anxiety was slowly building up, but until then, I was walking and talking, jumping and running, hooting and hollering, you know, regular stuff 20-year-old people do. We stopped at the police memorial, honoring all those who died in the line of duty while in the force, and the build up of all my emotions came crashing down.

I kept telling myself to keep it together, don’t cry or they’ll see, don’t give them a reason to ask, but when you’ve been eating two In-N-Out and hadn’t said a word in 15 min., someone is bound to. They laughed, taking pictures of me while I quietly killed myself inside.

“Austin, you good?” they asked, laughing off everything.

Yeah, everything is fine. Just great.

My anxiety has grown worse and worse every year of my life since middle school. In the end, the ultimate factor feeding my fears is the idea failing everyone around me. In result to my inability to talk about my problems, my outputs relating to these issues have been terrible to my life as well as others.

For a year and a half, I chewed tobacco for the nicotine high, I drank alcohol to feel numb, and I smoked weed from time to time to make all my problems disappear in the cloud of smoke. But the absolute worst method of deflecting my problems affects my family: my inability to be honest about serious stuff.

I am truthful about most things, unless someone that I don’t regularly speak to or have no idea of what I’ve been doing with my life asks me, “Is everything OK?” Yeah! No, everything isn’t alright. I wish I could run away from all this bullcrap and never return again, but that’s not what people want to hear, so I lie.

It’s far too easy to lie. I considered myself an honest, trustworthy, and faithful individual, but even now, I’m full of it. I can’t even hold myself together anymore. My dad asks me if I’m alright, mom asks about my health, grandma wonders why I don’t eat, but what really gets to me is when my 9 and 10-year-old sisters get involved.

They ask, “Are you okay Austy? Is college okay?”

“I’m fine girls, school is great! I love going and all the people there are awesome,” I reply in my most generic ‘I’m happy’ tone. I love my sisters more than my own life; ff it weren’t for them, I don’t know that I’d be where I am, so lying to them sinks me to the bottom of scumbags.

“I can’t wait to grow up to be like you,” my sisters say.

You don’t want to be me, torturing yourself every night as you fall asleep. All your shortcomings visit in your dreams and lost loves taunt you in every girl’s eyes. Regret fills your veins at a moments notice, tossing you into a wild frenzy of tears and anger, but not knowing exactly why. Why am I so messed up?

I used to blame it on my parents being separated, fighting over me, and the best: fighting with me. My mom and I have had countless amounts of blow-out fights, while my dad and I always had fun, stoking the fire under the real problems. Jealousy.

“If only my mom didn’t yell at me or would’ve gone to my sporting events more, I wouldn’t have turned out like this,” I say. Then I look into the bathroom mirror, cursing all the girls who hurt me emotionally, even though I did the same thing to others.

“This is why you are alone, Austin. You are not attractive, stable, or mature,” my mind says on repeat when the silence hits. It is like karma came back with my entire history of bad doings and decided to viciously kick me in the balls, over and over until I felt like dying.

Looking back, if I had addressed these problems when they began, years of disappointment and sadness wouldn’t be making reappearances in my college career, and I regret that. I wish I had never neglected my mental health, wiping it off while saying, “Don’t be a pussy.”

The only thing that has kept me holding on is my faith in Jesus Christ. He has blessed me with an amazing family, specifically two loving sisters, and a great set of church friends. Opening about my life and the struggles I face has become easier and easier as each meeting my life group passes. Nowadays, I have moments of normality where my depression seems to step aside and let the sun hit my cold body.

“For even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I do not fear evil for you are with me; thy cane and thy staff comfort me.” -Psalm 23:4