Who Do You See When You See Me?

In May of 2021, Alyssa Bruening stands with friends Lexie Gibbons and Payton Jones, trying to be happy despite her struggles.

In May of 2021, Alyssa Bruening stands with friends Lexie Gibbons and Payton Jones, trying to be happy despite her struggles.

Before I get into my story, I want to ask those reading this a question: who do you see when you see me? Do you see someone who’s doing great, or someone who’s struggling? Do you see everything about me or just what’s on the surface? Before you answer, I want you to listen to my story, to see the world through my eyes and walk through my struggles. 

A really big part of my life started in January of 2021. I was in Washington D.C for the “insurrection.” Which for the record was nothing like what you watched on CNN from your couch. Yet, we were being made out as villains and no one would listen to us. My friends did not even believe me. This tension led to me breaking out into an anxiety attack. 

I hadn’t got a lot of sleep the night before, I hadn’t eaten anything, and I was extremely upset. We ordered food from our favorite wing place. I was texting multiple friends, trying to explain what happened. Among them was a guy that I would talk to about politics, and ask his opinion on my opinionated posts. He was being very kind. Honestly, his kindness gave me hope in that period of my life. He had no idea what I was going through, he was just kind. He showed me how important it is to be nice to people, because you never know what someone’s going through. Your words have weight. 

So, I put my phone down behind me and started to eat, but something told me I should answer him. So as I bit into my potato wedge, I turned back to grab my phone. The next thing I know I’m in a dark ambulance. I had a seizure. 

Soon after the seizure came tests, after the tests came medicine, and after the medicine came a complete change in my whole life. I began to go through a depression, which I had struggled with before but never to this extent. I was irritable, angry, sad, and yet at the same time, felt nothing at all. 

The smallest things would trigger me. One day, it appeared that someone was laughing at my “Trump 2020’’ mask. Then I got to my class and heard girls talking about taking too much medicine. When you have no option but to take  medicine that you can feel changing you, and you hear people talking about purposefully taking too much medicine, no matter what it is, it’s frustrating. 

Another time I was in a group with this guy. Now, I had previously liked this guy, and felt like the situation could’ve ended better. So there was a little built up resentment. He hadn’t done any work in the two days we had been partnered up, and I looked at him and said, “if you don’t be quiet I’m going to beat you with a book.” The minute I said that, and I saw the look on his face, I knew I  was wrong. 

I didn’t know how to process anything. Not to mention the filter in my mind that makes me think before I speak was lost. I would just impetuously speak, like there were no actions to the words that left my mouth. Worst of all, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. 

If you know me, you might know how my mind works. I go from thinking “oh it’s just allergies.” to “oh, no, you have toxic shock syndrome.” To “oh my goodness, I’m going to lose my legs… or arms. I wonder what would be worse… I personally would rather lose my…” It’s actually quite funny, not too great for my anxiety, but funny. 

This overcomplicated thought process was intensified at that time. Mixed with the emotions I was, and wasn’t feeling, this made me into a borderline bipolar person. 

On top of that, I had people being absolutely awful to me. People at school, adults on the internet, and it was solely based on the fact that I’m a conservative. It’s funny, people are so pro-woman until a woman opens her mouth and says something they don’t agree with. 

Going through that has made me a big advocate for free speech, because your opinions matter. Your voice matters. 

One day, I hit a point where I had been called so many names, I was told that many people were talking about me, and I just stopped caring. I was careless. My friends and my mom told people about how, “the light in my eyes had gone away.” That hurt, but I pretended and convinced myself I was ok. When actually I wasn’t at all. 

I struggled with intrusive thoughts. I wasn’t suicidal, but I didn’t want to live. I would’ve been perfectly fine being hit by a car, in fact I’d wish I would. I hated myself. I couldn’t stand myself. It was a really dark time in my life. Luckily though, I got off the medicine, and I’ve been doing really well. 

Which is why I can tell people now, to reach out when you need help. Listen to your body. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. I know it’s hard because you can feel shame, and embarrassment, but the help is worth it. 

So, back to my question, who do you see when you see me? Who do you see when you see anyone? We often look at someone and see them for who they appear to be, not realizing or recognizing who they really are, or going through. Remember: you matter. Your opinions matter. You are worthy. You have a place and purpose in this world. Yes, you’re needed by others around you, but you need you too. You owe it to yourself to reach out and get help.