A Mentally Ill Teen’s viewpoint on Language Learning

Before we begin- hello! This is my very first blog post, and I should take a few moments to introduce myself.

My name is Elizabeth. I’m sixteen years old. I love to learn languages.
And, I have severe depression, severe social anxiety, and autism spectrum disorder (although, to be fair, I tend to think of autism as part of myself rather than a disorder).

In many ways, these things make life a lot harder for me, sometimes even unbearable. Or it will at least feel unbearable, even if in reality, I do have the strength to get through it. But, something that has gotten me through a lot of things that I previously couldn’t do has been language learning.
I know. Someone with terrible social anxiety, writing a blog, especially about something that is the key of communication, languages, already sounds perhaps a tad surreal. Trust me, I had a panic attack for about an hour before I got the courage to create this blog. But I really want to reach out, see if there are other people like me, and even if there aren’t, I want to show the world my point of view.

I wouldn’t say I fluently speak anything other than English at the moment, which to me feels a bit sad. I feel incomplete. There are so many people I wish to speak with, that I currently cannot. But the sound of these languages, the possible friends I can make if I just keep going, if I just keep trying, has pushed me through quite a lot.

I’m home-schooled, for example. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Your own schedule, a lot more free time… and a lot less friends. My town in particular is very tiny, so I don’t really have anyone… unless you count the internet. I’m not very good at socializing on there either, though. Believe it or not, even people with social anxiety disorders get very lonely. Even more lonely then people without them I’d say, because we want friends, but if we go to try and make them, our crippling fears prevent us from saying much- or saying anything at all for that matter.
But learning languages has helped me reach out where I previously couldn’t quite a bit. Even in my broken Spanish, my broken Japanese, and even in many other languages that I have only dabbled in, I have made some friends. It helps calm me down when I think I can’t do something; I’ve already done things that two years ago I would of had a meltdown just thinking about the possibility of trying to do it.

I believe language learning to be a great thing, even if it can be very hard for someone like me, where my mind is already a mess of broken and strange thoughts. I still can’t grasp grammar concepts in any language, not even my native language of English. This fact makes it hard to study a lot. I also run out of energy quite often. That makes it even harder to study. But languages also bring me a lot of great comfort. They bring friends, they bring being able to express feelings I couldn’t express before, and if nothing else, they also bring fun media that I can now watch or listen to that I couldn’t before! (J-Pop, anyone? Or Spanish dramas?)

Despite me trying to write all this, I don’t believe I am all that good with words, so forgive me if you don’t quite see my point. What I am trying to explain is that language learning can be very helpful and fun, even if you live with a mental illness. It can help give you new opportunities, new friends, and above all else, it gives you something to do even when you are in a slump. Even when I can’t get out of bed and the world seems like it’s crashing down on me, I try to load up my apps and do at least one quick review session. It helps more than you think it would.

I don’t think I can stress the aspect of new friends enough though, quite honestly. I’ve mentioned it several times, I know, but even if you have social anxiety, sometimes you really have to just throw yourself out there, find someone you can lean on when things get rough. A new language might just be the key to doing that. Somehow, I have less anxiety in Spanish compared to the anxiety I have in English. It’s not gone, I’m not saying that at all, but it’s lesser. Being a teen is one of the loneliest, most frustrating parts of one’s life, and having a mental illness (or several) can just make this feeling worse. But I think that language learning can take some of that pain away, for reasons I’ve mentioned several times above (something productive to do, new friends, etc.)

In conclusion, for me personally, language learning has helped me overcome a lot of my fears. I’ve actually reached out and talked to people, something I used to be completely unable to do. I’ve gotten out of my bed even on my worst days, another thing I once could not do. It’s given me so many new chances, both for new friendships and just for new things to do. Somehow, things seem more fun to me when they are in Spanish instead of English, haha. Maybe it’s the extra challenge?

I hope this post gave at least a little bit of insight to how I feel, even if it’s not a lot (since like I mentioned previously, I’m not the best with words).

Thank you for reading.

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