Hello! My name is Valentina Bostick and I’ve struggled in the past with depression and anxiety. I still struggle now, but significantly less. I’m going to share my story and how I got out of that dark hole.
Some facts about me:
- My name is Valentina Bostick
- I’m 17 years old (Senior in highschool)
- I enjoy chess, reading, writing, and hanging out with friends
I have my own website - valentinabostick.com
I blog about depression, anxiety, mental illnesses and mental health. In addition, I have a section called ‘Getting Your Life Together’, where I talk about life tips, mindset, habits, and so much more in order to help you improve your life
What was the catalyst for my mental illnesses?
My father died from a heart attack when I was in the 5th grade (I was 10). No one expected it and everyone was very surprised when they heard about his passing. And everyone who knew him took it hard, especially me.
My parents had been divorced for years and my mum had an apartment across the city while my father kept the big house where my sister and I grew up. My mother didn’t have the money nor the willpower to take care of such a house, so my sister and I permanently started living with her in her apartment (we alternated weekends before).
Now, my father played a significant role in my life - he took care of us while my mum was at her 9 to 5 job, he picked us up every day after school, and he was the reason I became interested in chess in the first place.
When he died, it absolutely destroyed me. Since I was so young at the time, I’ve never had the misfortune of experiencing the death of someone I loved. Additionally, my mother never made the effort to talk to my sister and I about it. I felt very, very alone.
How did his death affect my life in the years ahead?
I didn’t know it then, but I became depressed. The girl who was friends and outgoing with everyone in elementary school slowly started to lose contact with everyone in middle school.
I still had (and made) other friends, but I found it difficult to talk to anyone. Even a simple hello took sapped all of my energy. I didn’t see the point in talking to anyone.
To make things worse, because of how I performed on my standardized tests in elementary school, I was put in honors classes and I even skipped a year of math. Everyone knew I was smart. I knew it too - but I gradually stopped caring about school. All it did was make me socialize with people I didn’t like and sit in classrooms where I was bored.
Because of the report cards that were sent out a couple times a semester, my mum found out that my grades were ‘terrible’ (in reality, they weren’t that bad). I tried, I really did, but I just couldn’t find the place in my heart where I cared. Everything tired me out. Getting up in the morning was a struggle all in itself.
My mum started grounding me as a punishment. I didn’t have a phone, so she started taking away my tablet, which was my only escape from everything. When she saw I still didn’t do my school work, she started to ground me for longer and longer periods of time. I eventually gave up on trying to get back my tablet.
Instead of being on my tablet all of the time, I started to read. In second grade, I was able to read at a High School level and by the time I graduated elementary school, I could read at a college level.
I found that reading for school and reading for pleasure are two very different things, and I enjoyed the latter immensely. I started reading anything I could get my hands on. Young adult novels (most of the jokes went over my head, but I enjoyed them nevertheless), Harry Potter, Hunger Games, anything - you name it, I’ve read it.
My mother grew only more frustrated and angry. She sat me down at the dinner table every night and insulted me about my grades. And called me “lazy” and other names too. But I stopped caring. The only thing I cared about were the characters in the books. I prayed every night that I would suddenly be dragged away from this miserable life and on an adventure.
Then, she and I started arguing about everything and anything. Little things usually, but one thing that always came up was my poor academic performance. I started to resent her. All I wanted her to do was leave me and my books alone. But she didn’t.
She started forcing me to start doing my homework after dinner, and insisted she would watch me do it. Of course, I would leave before I was excused, and we would end the night in another screaming argument. She never backed down and of course neither did I.
Being an intelligent child, I knew exactly which things to say, which things would hurt her the most when it came out of my mouth. Some nights ended with arguments; others, we didn’t speak for days.
But I didn’t care.
What made it even worse was that she had a boyfriend at the time my father died. It was nothing personal towards him, but I started to resent him after a while. I felt as if he was trying to replace my biological father and that thought didn’t sit well with me.
How I improved
Luckily, I had friends that stuck by me. I honestly don’t know how, I wasn’t a very good person in middle school, and I don’t know how they tolerated me, but they did. They made me laugh. Genuinely.
Around 8th grade I figured out that I at least had to try a little bit in school and maintain A’s and B’s so teachers and counselors would leave me alone. Gradually, my work ethic started to improve, and as a result so did my mood since my mum and I started fighting less.
I still had trouble talking to people, mostly because I did not care about what they had to say. Additionally, the interaction drained so much of my energy that I found it not worth it. But I could handle more interaction than I could a couple years back.
I still had trouble with doing my homework - reading the new book I snagged from the library was much more appealing to me. And that’s often what I did in the evenings. And finish my homework right before class started.
Deep down, I knew that something wasn’t right with me. I knew that I should be socializing more, and trying to connect with other peers. Not spend so much time avoiding everyone. Avoiding myself, to be honest.
Furthermore, I got the feeling that my teachers knew something was wrong with me (I knew that they were well aware of my father’s death). Several times, I saw a couple of them whispering and sneaking glances at me. And I knew that they were going to question me about my actions, or even worse, call me to the counselor’s office to talk about my feelings.
Paranoid of the consequences, I started making an effort to be more friendly. Smiling whenever someone spoke to me. Looking in their eyes. Verbally commenting instead of nodding my head.
It didn’t happen immediately, but I watched the extroverted and friendly people and how they acted, spoke, their body posture, their facial expressions. And I copied them as best I could.
I found myself feeling more full; not as empty and numb as I’d been the 3 years prior.
The big bang
While I’d been gradually improving, what really snapped me out of my daze was my trip to New York the summer before I started my Junior year of highschool. My sister and my mother accompanied me; my mum was visiting one of her dearest friends and she wanted to meet my sister and I.
I admit, I was dreading the encounter because I wasn’t fond of strangers, and jumping off a skyscraper sounded more appealing than being grilled about my personal life and what my future aspirations were.
But, I liked to travel and was fascinated by airplanes. So I went. I’d never been to New York and I wanted to see if it looked like how it was in the movies. And I’m very, very glad I went. My life would be extremely different if I didn’t go.
As soon as I saw the city from a couple thousand miles up, my breath was taken away. And once I regained it, it felt...easier. Easier to breathe.
Maybe it was because I was thrust into the homeland of entrepreneurs and creativity. Maybe it was because of the genuine kindness of my mother’s friend’s family. Maybe it was because New York was so beautiful.
While I was there, I found that it was easier for me to get up in the mornings. To sit down amongst them and talk about what I wanted to do that day and what to see. And the more I explored, the more I laughed - the easier it got. I found myself actually seeking out their company. And enjoying it.
A sudden realization crashed down upon me one night when I was sitting on their balcony and looking at the stars. For the first time in several years, I was completely transparent with myself: I wasn’t happy.
Some days were better than others. But I wanted to be like their family. Always laughing, supporting each other. And I was done being so miserable and mopey all the time.
When I got back home from New York, I started learning Russian more thoroughly. I worked harder than I ever had in school. I started doing my homework. I wasn’t at 100%, I was still procrastinating, but it was better than nothing. My mum’s and I’s relationship had improved immensely since I started highschool, but I tried to improve that too.
And every day from then on, it became easier and easier to breathe. To feel. Of course, everyday wasn’t always good and I still struggled. But I remembered how happy I was in New York and I clung on to that feeling. I imaged the type of person I wanted to grow up into too.
I did very well in my first semester of my junior year: 3.857 GPA (weighted)! I was proud of myself. I didn’t perform at 100% but it was so much better than my sophomore year. Unfortunately, I didn’t do as well in my second semester because my grandfather passed away (cancer) and it hit me hard.
Now, I’m about to enter into my last year of highschool. This last summer gave me a lot of time to heal and sort through my emotions. Now, I’m researching colleges I’m interested in. I’m planning on majoring in Psychology (aiming for a PhD) and minoring with an MBA. Now, I’m working on my website and helping people who are going through what I went through. Now, I know how to code. Now, because of my struggles, I know what I want to do in life, and that’s what motivates me. It’s what fuels me and now I will never burn out again (and, if I do, I know how to overcome it).