MISS LOUISIANA TEEN USA - "THE STRUGGLE...AND POWER WITHIN ME"
By Emma Brooks McAllister
In just a few weeks, on April 28, 2019, I will compete in the Miss Teen USA Pageant in Reno, Nevada. I'm very excited but also scared. You see, I struggle with depression and anxiety. But I have a power within me too. I am Emma Brooks McAllister, and my passion for spreading awareness about mental health comes from the fact that I know the dark side of depression and the chaotic jumble of nothing and everything that comes with anxiety too. This year, as Miss Louisiana Teen, my main goal is to continue growing the advocacy of mental health and to break the negative stigma associated with the subject.
I have been aware of my depression and anxiety since the end of seventh grade. And then at the beginning of eighth grade is where these feelings that were suppressed started to really come to light. No one teaches you how to cope with these emotions, so of course I had no clue what to do. I would bottle everything up, and eventually, I would explode. This pattern started to become more regular, and the person I was faded. The more I did it the worse my feelings got, and I was still just clueless on how to cope. Without any guidance I had unhealthy coping mechanisms that were harmful to myself. I did let my mom know a little about the feelings I had and what I was doing. She always told me every time, “no matter what happens, in the end, everything will be okay.”
It seems so simple, but what she said made me realize was that I HAVE POWER!
I thought about it, and yes, everything will be okay in the end, but not on its own. I have to want to get better. I have to ask for help. And I have to work for it. The one aspect of this process that I was not aware of before, was that it takes time. I thought it was going to take no-time, because I started therapy and medicine. However, healthy coping mechanisms and a support system were two very important aspects of a healthy mindset that I did not have or know about. I thought I was feeling better, and then about a year and a half ago, times got really tough and I was not as mentally prepared for it as much as I thought I was. I ended up being admitted into a psychiatric ward, and I spent nine days completely re-evaluating myself and learning about mental health.
Again, one of the missing pieces was a support system. A support system can involve a person you trust or a group of trustworthy people that you can talk to and who can motivate you or just let you cry. Everyone is different, so if a support system like this is not for you, then a local support group or an anonymous online support group may be a better option. After coming home, I was honest with my two closest friends, and I told them I needed their help. I did the same with a few trusted adults and my mom. They all understood and have been such a great support system. Also, the girls that I had befriended at the hospital have remained in my life and are still a part of my support system today.
Then, I needed my coping mechanisms. These can be hobbies, or just simple activities. Coping mechanisms are important because these are what keep you and your emotions in check. It can be focusing on your breathing, running, music, art, reading, or watching a movie. If it helps you calm down and recognize what is going on around you, then that is your coping mechanism. However, there is a misconception when referring to coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms are not related to unhealthy habits such as drugs, alcohol, self-harm, or anything else that’s harmful to you or anyone else. It can be perceived that “oh coping mechanisms is just me doing something that makes me feel better.” I am here to reassure you that is not the case! Personally, I like to do yoga, listen to music, or write. Sometimes, a punching bag comes in handy!
One of the biggest realizations I had while in the hospital was, I was not the only one who was at their own personal rock bottom. Before, I felt so alone, and I felt like no one understood. However, being there, I saw different people going through different things, but I saw the same pain I had in them. Everyone carries their own personal cross, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as heavy. Depression and anxiety are two demons that touch the soul of every human being, but we rarely ever talked about it. THERE IS NO PROBLEM SOLVING IN SILENCE.
My depression and anxiety is a blessing and a curse. It has been a curse because it has caused so much pain in my life. However, it has been a blessing because it gave me the chance to find my voice. I want to join the conversation on Mental Health and to help be a voice for the unheard. And you can be that voice and find your power within too!
Emma Brooks McAllister was raised in Houma, Louisiana and is currently a junior at Vandebilt Catholic High School. She was in competition dance for six years before starting pageantry competitions, as well as joining the Forbes Modeling Agency in Baton Rouge, La. Emma’s dream after graduation is to study pre-med at LSU, become a Dermatologist and continue her career in modeling.
Emma's platform as Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2019 is to spread Mental Health awareness to adolescents and to push towards changing the stigma of mental illness in our society. You can follow Emma's journey at misslouisianausa.com and @MissLATeenUSA.