A man stands alone at the Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C..

Michael Kahmann

A man stands alone at the Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C..

I feel nothing. I don’t feel pain, sadness, emptiness– only nothing. Every single day, I put on a mask that hides the truth, when everything isn’t fine. I haven’t had more than three hours of sleep since June 2015, but there’s a reason I power through everyday. 

I’ve seen death, the kind that keeps you awake at night wishing that you had normal teenage problems involving stress and anxiety. Earlier this year my grandpa died, a man that I’ve seen almost everyday my whole life. He was a man that I loved more than anything and I couldn’t even produce a tear as I saw dirt shoveled over his casket. 

I’ve seen fear, the kind that shakes someone to their core— the fear of a man who knows he’s about to die. It’s a ferocious fear that once burned bright in his vibrant blue eyes and now ravages my sleepless nights. The little sleep I do get is always interrupted by an image of his eyes staring into me, permanently burned into my mind. 

In a study by Newport Academy, approximately 61% of teens age 13-17 have gone through a traumatic experience.  I’ve seen that same fear in a mother clutching her four kids in her arms after she’s just been in a head-on collision which I was responsible for. And that blinding fear showed up once again in my family after finding out my other grandpa has terminal cancer and only has a little bit of life left in him, after I already lost one.

There’s a reason I suffer in silence, my so-called “why”. Everyone has their own bv motive. Mine involves a loving family, an amazing group of friends, and two jobs. 

A study by teenmentalhealth.org revealed that approximately 1 out of every 5 or 20% of teenagers aged 13-17 suffer from a mental illness. Thousands of teens go untreated every year, and don’t know how to cope with their mental illness. 

I use all the suffering, pain, and hurt to drive me to get out of bed everyday, put on my mask and make the world a better place. I use the suffering to play sports, work, be a great friend, brother, and an even better man.

Yet, behind that mask still lays a curtain of regret. I wish I could pour my heart out into my relationships to make everyone happy. I know it’s a fight I’ll always have, especially as I enlist in the United States Army.

Everyone has a why. Mine happens to involve being someone that tries to give hope when it feels like everyone else has turned their backs. Mine is ignoring the wallow of self-pity that surrounds me as I lay in bed, knowing that watching others suffer and not making a difference is so much worse.