Escaping the mask we live in — stories of students who didn’t speak at Speak Up for Change

January 30, 2019 — by Alekhya Vadlakonda

This year, the theme for Speak Up for Change was “Escaping the mask we live in,” and in the assembly on Jan. 22, four students spoke to the school about their stories.

Junior Connor Oaklander spoke about how his two concussions and mental health struggles changed his soccer career and outlook on life. Junior Surbhi Bhat talked about the academic pressures she faced after immigrating to the U.S. Senior Leena Elzeiny talked about having a father with a mental disability. Senior Enzo Coglitore spoke about his life after his mother passed away.

In light of this year’s theme, The Falcon spoke to four other students on campus about their hidden struggles and the mask they wear.

Eating disorders leads to depression for senior

“I’ve dealt with two eating disorders within six years: anorexia and binge eating. It was really difficult to cope because these disorders were polar opposites. It also caused me to go through depression and serious body dysmorphia. It also affected friends, family and the way I view food now. I am still healing, but through my journey I'm grateful I was able to realize I was sick.”

Alienation felt by sophomore

“I didn't always have all the connections I had in Saratoga and I remember it was really hard for me because I was the new kid in sixth grade and I struggled a ton, and I literally had no one to help me out with it. I always sat alone at lunch tables and I was a loner for a long time.

“I don't really like saying this, but kids in this community form groups and exclude and alienate everyone else from them who is different, and that just made it even harder to make friends here. I kind of gave up on talking to people that entire year, but the next year I allowed myself to be more outgoing and try to get involved in activities that interested me and that definitely helped.”

Sophomore deals with fading friendships

“The beginning of sophomore year was a huge change for me. Because I didn't have classes with a lot of my friends who I didn't eat lunch with or spend tutorial with, I began growing apart from them really fast.

“I was never an extremely social person so it made me pretty insecure to see that I only had a few friends left, and even they were beginning to grow apart from me. I was wearing this constant mask of trying to act happy all the time at school while falling into severe depression at home, and my plummeting grades weren't helping at all. It's only until I started opening up to people and escaping my mask at school when I started to feel better.”

Junior works on finding true path with support from friends

“When I entered high school, I felt pressured to fit in and try to be part of a group. I didn’t feel like I could be myself; I thought others would judge and shame me. There was a point where I had no confidence in what I said or did, because of this pressure buildup.

“Eventually I realized I wouldn’t be able to put up with the expectations I set for myself, and I found people that cared and supported me. I wasn’t able to do it without my friends who stick by me through everything. When escaping the mask, the number one thing you need is support from others, and it took me a while to realize that.”