When they say “It Gets Better,” do they mean it?


Trigger warning: article mentions sexual harassment and depression.

Hi, my name is Julissa, and I want you to take just a second, and think about your school lifetime. From about Pre-K to whatever grade you are in now. Have you changed? Did you change for the better? Do you still have all or most of the same friends you started with? Are you the same person as when you were in Pre-K/Kindergarten versus now?

Hopefully, you’ve answered that you have changed, and for the better. If not, then you are certainly something unique. The point is that over the years, you change. You meet new people, your tastes and interests change, your perspective changes, your personality changes, and yet in a way, you are still the same person. I’d bet that if you asked your current friends if they were the same now as they were in Pre-K/Kindergarten, most of the time, they would say they’re a little different to completely different. It’s normal because it’s what happens over time.

For some of you like m,e however, you went through certain events in your life that no one should go through.  Sexual harassment, verbal abuse, self-harm, self-doubt, depression, anxiety and panic attacks are events and issues that can be experienced at any point in your lifetime, just like they did for me. You could be as young as I was, (8 or 9 to 13-ish) and experience sexual harassment from the people closest to you, the people you’re told you can trust. Or you can be older and still be anxious and afraid that it could happen to you again, and you wouldn’t be ready for it. It’s sick, disgusting, and scary. It brings panic attacks and anxiety attacks when they’re mentioned by name, or when the event is brought up again out of nowhere. According to AAUW, nearly half of all students in seventh to 12th grade experience some form of harassment, which means something so awful is something so common.

Even years later, when you’re “over it,” it can still hurt. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however, and that is that it does get better. Maybe you’ve heard it a couple of times, or maybe anyone you confide in tells you over and over, but let me tell you the truth. It. Gets. Better. So much better.

In my case, I met my boyfriend, Victor Valdez, a graduate of Parkdale and a veteran of The Paw Print. I was quiet, with quick one-word answers, and had no motivation to live or learn or do anything productive. You can call it lazy, but I’m calling it what it is. Apathy. The lack of motivation to do or care about…anything. I wasn’t looking for love, nor was I interested, but in a way, he lit up my world. Over time with him, I became more loving of myself and my body. I learned that it’s normal to have stretch marks and flaws, to stutter and stumble over simple words sometimes, to get writer’s block and art block. I learned with Victor that there is nothing wrong with me. I confided in him, and learned to be more trusting with those who truly care about me, but also to be careful of those who lack good intentions. 

I can openly admit that yes, loving yourself is important in the process of loving others, but it can be done. It is possible to fall in love with someone and learn through them to love yourself. It’s hard work and dedication, but if done right, it pays off to the max. I have truly overcome most of my anxiety and panic attacks, and I’ve gotten better at talking about what I used to go through. I can finally say that I am proud of myself, and that I’m proud of how far I have come, both by myself and with his help. I can truly say that my life has gotten so much better. I have my cat, Mochi, who as of writing this, is about 8 months old. I have my newest addition, Satchmo, a (as of writing this) 10 week old Rottweiler, who is getting so much better at learning, understanding, listening to and completing commands. I have a job, and though it doesn’t pay much, it helped me get so much for my room and my pets. The friends that I have met this year are vastly different from the friends that I’ve met in and out of school years prior.

The hardest part is both over and yet to come. I have made it through 100 percent of my bad days, and I’ve made it to the light at the end of the tunnel and so can you. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s not going to take a couple of hours for you to come to terms with your hardships. You need to give yourself and your life time to catch up. The truth of the matter is that time is all it takes. Just like it took time for you to change from Pre-K to your current self, it is going to take time for things to get better, and it’s worth it. You are strong, things get better, and you will find your happiness in time. Just like I did.

The events in your life have led you to read this article, just like they have led you to the person you are today. The real question is, will you give yourself the time to be better?