A Duel


The light glares while my tired eyes sting with every blink. I drift in and out of sleep as warped yells from my Mother echo through the halls. The soft blankets that surround entice me. Paralyzed I remain while my heartbeat increases as my adverse reality creeps into view. A fog shrouds my thoughts then slowly pervades my feelings. I hear footsteps approach again.

“Seriously, Penelope. I have a meeting at 8 am.”

Utilizing every bit of strength I have left in the pile of bones and flesh in which I reside, I lift my torso and slowly roll over. My exhausted brain struggles to comprehend the challenges ahead. Oh god, I don’t want to get out of bed. My depleted disposition weighs me down like a lead suit. One by one. One by one. You’re okay. You can be a person today. And so, when I sit up, a sense of triumph briefly washes over me. Gradually, I hoist my limp body up and trudge down the ladder of my towering loft bed.

Soon after, a circadian sense of dread engulfs me. I stand, staring, eyes glued to one section of my blank wall. Frantic and incoherent feelings all race through my head while my body remains absolutely still. Reality itself grows distant; I disconnect. My serotonin, or more-so lack thereof, brings me to a state of calm chaos. Soon, completely encompassed by my anxiety and melancholy, I collapse. I am dragged into a spiral of foreboding. There I stand, a million miles away, having lost complete focus on the task at hand. A numbness succeeds it due to the override of emotion.

“We’re gonna be late again for God’s sake.”

I flinch as my thoughts are pulled back into consciousness. My eyes dash from the blank wall to my closet. Today proceeds as normal. I get changed, take my medication, leave my room, and brace myself for the next battle of the day.

To most, the occurrences of my average morning are strange. Nonetheless, inner quarrels such as this pervade my life. Having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety at the age of fourteen, a struggle to overcome my lack of motivation, waves of morosity, and fatigue are present in my every action. Although depression and anxiety may be lifelong conditions for me, I have learned to cope. There are times in which I can not function. In those moments, I give myself a break and let go of the, often unrealistic, expectations I have for myself. There are times in which I feel as though I want to hide and avoid facing the world. In those moments, I find the strength to transcend the fear holding me back. Depression and anxiety have proven to be a villain to me, constricting my ability to complete simple activities. Thus, I fight to break through the suffocating restraints of mental illness every day.

I will always view some of it as a hero. I will always view it as something that forced me to find the hero in myself. My mental conditions have relentlessly tested me over and over again and the fact that I am still here is proof that I have and still overcome it, each and every time. With this, I am a hero to myself. Despite my close proximity to letting the hopelessness take over and giving up, I continue to ascend the perpetual duels I have with mental illness.

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Penelope Luchs, a sophomore in high school in Princeton, New Jersey, possesses an innate curiosity and observant disposition which has led her to pursue writing. Among Penelope’s love for all things artistic and creative, she has challenged herself with explaining the inexplicable, arbitrary feelings and themes of life. Penelope’s essay “A Duel” covers a window into her experience with mental illness and the complex feelings that accompany it.

Penelope Luchs