Orangelight Story: Hi, How Are You? By Ashley Burns

Bree Blatchford

A great cause of my anxiety and depression came on during my teenage years. A lot of us during this stage in life are figuring ourselves out and testing our boundaries and limits. I was always the late bloomer in a group of people, the girl who had to be home at an obnoxiously early time, the person people loved to get a reaction out of, the teenager who would stare in front of her mirror before school and cry because she felt too fat, and most importantly someone who always just wanted to be “cool.” A compilation of all of these things caused a significant lack of self-esteem, worth, and belonging – a recipe for disaster in any teenage girl’s mind.


All of my close girlfriends started experimenting a lot earlier than I did – whether it be with sex, alcohol, partying, or disobeying rules. I was and still to this day in my friend group tend to have the nurturing, yet tough love motherly approach because I have always been an over-thinker, careful with my decisions, and am at times fear driven. That is not to discredit and say that any of my friends don’t possess any of these traits, but I’m usually the one who will skip out on a party and curl up at home. That’s just who I’ve always been, and to be honest, I’m entirely OK with that in adulthood. But, let’s stay on topic and keep trekking, shall we?


I felt so displaced during the ages of 13-18 simply due to the fact that kids my age, including my friends, were experiencing normal teenage things and the people I so desperately thought I wanted to be associated around didn’t give me the time of day because, again, I wasn’t possessing any “cool” qualities. Off the bat, I always felt different because I never felt like I was good enough for people. Why didn’t these people want to be my friend? Why wasn’t I cool? Why didn’t these boys think I was pretty? Why wasn’t I skinny like the other girls? Those questions taunted me for years because I was constantly trying to fit in. In turn, this caused a great deal of internal pain that resulted not only in a crazy amount of anxiety and depression that I have had to work through still in my adult years, but also an eating disorder and extreme lack of confidence. 


More specifically, one story out of the many situations I experienced, I remember being about 14-15 years old and coming to school in mauve colored “guacho” pants. (Remember those? They are the super loose legged, cotton jersey material pants. Not going to lie, I still wear them around the house.) I thought they were super cute and felt good in them. A girl who was quote on quote “cool” but also pretended to be my friend told her friends that I looked like a “pink hippo.” They then proceeded to call them my “hippo pants” when I wore them to school. When I found out what they were saying, I completely broke down in hysterics and that is what truly set off this image that I was morbidly “obese” and I wasn’t good enough. This became a mental obsession, a story I have talked about as an adult in therapy, and something I will always remember. It is something that has deeply impacted my life, mentally and physically. I have gone through crazy waves with my weight, and at one point a couple of years ago I was 5’9” and 128lbs STILL feeling fat. My weight is on the forefront of my mind every single day, sun up to sun down. What is interesting is it probably seems small to the person that said it or is reading this - they were just unflattering pants - how could it cause that much chaos and emotion? Well, it did.


You want to know the crazy part? None of those girls or boys knew the impact they had on me and probably to this day, still don’t have the slightest clue. Did they know they were a key ingredient for why I went to therapy? Or why I was scared of going to school some days? Why I didn’t feel worthy of things? Why I didn’t love myself? Why I would starve myself? No. They sure as hell didn’t. It is crazy to think that I thought I needed their seal of approval in order to navigate through this world. Obviously, being a naïve teenager didn’t help the case either. We live and we learn, right?


I’ve learned with time and maturing, that I live life for me everyday and I am my own kind of “cool.” Being teenager focusing on certain negative people always made me feel like I’d never be anything great because I wasn’t just like them. And, shoot, why would I be because I didn’t have a perfectly skinny frame, perfect hair, “cool” friends, perfect boyfriend, perfect GPA or perfect life? (That is sarcasm, duh.) So to the people that made me feel small and “uncool”, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m proud to say, I’ve built and continue to grow a business for the past five years that has turned into my full time career, I was published in my first magazine at 20 years old, I am healthy, I have the most amazing community of friends on the planet, my boyfriend is my number one fan who constantly reminds me everyday that I am worthy of love and everything great, and I have a family who supports my dreams no matter how extravagant they may sound. 


Even in adulthood, you may not know who you are impacting in a positive or negative way, and that is why I always strive to do the right thing and uplift others. I know what it’s like to walk through the halls or in a sea of people and feel completely alone and invisible. Smiling at someone or even saying, “hi, how are you?” could entirely change a person’s whole day and it takes five seconds of your time. The truth is, we don’t know the battles people go through everyday internally and it is in our best effort as humans to not make things harder on each other, but to accept, learn, and grow alongside one another. We have to be the change for future generations – showing kids now to accept and respect others for the way they are, internally and externally. I think if we all drop the labels, images of what we're "supposed" to look like, and thoughts of being “cool,” we’d be a lot more open minded to who we surround ourselves around…and maybe, just maybe, we can learn a thing or two from one another. 


I still battle with anxiety in my day to day present life - work, my body, and my future are still things I stress about. What matters is I'm aware of my struggles and take proactive routes in working through them. I still have bad days, though, and that is OK! That is life and all a part of the process. So, don't give up on yourself if you find yourself in that place, too.


If you are currently battling anxiety or depression, please know it’s ok to speak up about it and it is going to be okay, even when you’re feeling like it won’t be or people are making you feel smaller than you actually are. Whoever YOU are, don’t let anything or anyone hold you back from chasing dreams, achieving goals, being loved, feeling beautiful, or having the confidence you deserve. 


All that time I was just trying to fit in, but little did I know, I’m supposed to stand out.


On that note, hi, how are you?

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