Truth be­hind ‘dream year’

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

The head girl of a pres­ti­gious Christchurch girls’ col­lege has opened up about her bat­tle with de­pres­sion in an end-of-year speech.

Jem Vaughan was di­ag­nosed with clin­i­cal de­pres­sion in June, half­way through her fi­nal year at St Mar­garet’s Col­lege.

She said she was not shar­ing her story for at­ten­tion or pity but in the hope of con­nect­ing with any­one who had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence, or might do in fu­ture.

‘‘What­ever sad­ness, anx­i­ety or worry looks like for you, please re­mem­ber you are so in­cred­i­bly val­ued and loved and you are al­ways enough, just as you are.

‘‘On paper 2018 was a dream year for me,’’ Vaughan told her class­mates.

‘‘Cap­tain of net­ball teams, good grades, at­tend­ing the coolest school ever ... amaz­ing friends and an in­cred­i­bly lov­ing fam­ily. ‘‘I feel blessed.

‘‘De­spite this, at the be­gin­ning of the year I ac­tu­ally found my­self re­ally un­happy.

‘‘I was tired all the time.

‘‘I lost my ap­petite.

‘‘I was cry­ing a lot for no rea­son.

‘‘I had been re­ally sad for quite a while and feel­ing re­ally guilty about it, an­gry at my­self.

‘‘My prob­lems seemed so triv­ial, so why was I un­happy?’’

Vaughan learned after her di­ag­no­sis that men­tal ill­ness ‘‘doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate’’.

‘‘My most im­por­tant real­i­sa­tion was that there’s no di­rect path or check­list that will lead you to max­i­mum hap­pi­ness.

‘‘Trust me, I tried to fol­low the path and it doesn’t make you feel any dif­fer­ent from any­one else on any other paths.’’

She shared three les­sons that she learned through­out the year.

The first was that every­one has their own story ‘‘and it is OK if yours isn’t per­fect at the mo­ment’’.

Teenagers of­ten judged them­selves by the ‘‘high­lights reel’’ of their peers’ so­cial me­dia, she said.

‘‘We wear rose-tinted glasses when we look at every­one else’s lives but then we take them off when we look at our­selves.’’

Vaughan said lives could not be ranked.

‘‘Your own messy, non-lin­ear, im­per­fect life is the best life for you.’’

Her sec­ond les­son was to ‘‘work hard at lov­ing your­self’’.

She told her class­mates to al­low them­selves to be proud of their achieve­ments – even if that was just get­ting out of bed in the morn­ing – and cel­e­brate nice mo­ments like play­ing with your dog or eat­ing all the cookie dough be­fore bak­ing it.

‘‘Dis­cover that the world doesn’t im­plode if you stop go­ing 100 miles an hour.’’

Her fi­nal mes­sage was to spread kind­ness and grat­i­tude.

‘‘I’m sure we have all no­ticed there is some pretty ugly things hap­pen­ing in our world at the mo­ment so it’s our moral duty to do any­thing and ev­ery­thing we can to cen­tre our­selves around be­ing kind,’’ Vaughan said.

‘‘We’re lucky enough to be in a pretty priv­i­leged po­si­tion so let’s use it to be kind.’’

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