Before reading this story, we want to warn you that there will be mention of potentially triggering mental health subjects including trauma reenactment and substance abuse. Also, Amanda is speaking from her personal experience and this is not written from a doctor’s perspective. If you or someone you know may be living with mental illness, please get help. Talk to a licensed and qualified mental health professional and search the list of resources on our website.
The mood in the coffee shop was jovial, as Noah Ring sat with Sabrina, his high school friend. The two sipped warm drinks and joked about old video games and YouTubers they used to watch growing up.
As the conversation shifted toward the topic at hand, a respectful stillness came over the duo. Noah grew thoughtful as he started to recount their mental health journey.
“Even from a young age, I never felt 100%,” he began.
“Do you think you felt or acted like other kids?” Sabrina chimed in to ask.
“Oh, certainly not,” he said without hesitation. “I never find others my age who seem to be going through what I’m going through or thinking what I’m thinking. Especially because of gender and sexuality, but also because even as a little kid I’ve always had feelings of depression.”
Noah, who came out as transgender at age 10, considers himself fortunate that he has a supportive family, strong group of friends, and access to good education. He made it clear that his long-term struggle with mental health goes beyond any particular life circumstances or gender labels.
“A lot of times people will be like, ‘Okay, well how does being trans play into your mental health?’ They automatically think that because you’re not straight or because you’re not cis, that’s playing into everything. I honestly don’t think it does that much,” he said. “The truth is that it doesn’t affect me as much because I don’t constantly think about it… I’m just feeling anxiety. Sometimes it’s a little odd because people think that it is all correlated.”
These feelings of anxiety and depression reached their apex around the time Noah turned 12-years-old and transferred to a new school. Then, the Covid pandemic hit. The isolation of being new at a school and taking virtual classes compounded his ongoing struggle. He began to face a series of psychiatric hospitalizations.
“I didn’t want help,“ he said. “I wasn’t really open to that. I kind of just wanted to do my own thing and let my mental illness affect me.”
While hospitalized, the doctors would suggest treatment, and he would get sent home with another prescription and protocol. But after two years of almost monthly hospitalizations and nothing seeming to stick, the situation began to feel dire to Noah.
“I didn’t really have the mindset to be able to put things into perspective,” he said. “Instead, I was like, ‘Well if I don’t get better now, then nothing’s gonna help.”
That’s when Noah’s parents found a residential facility in California, and he decided to give it a try. Fortunate to have found a residential facility that was safe and welcoming, it was during those 11 weeks that things finally began to shift for Noah.
This experience would be different from previous hospitalizations. The setting was more natural. He could go at his own pace. He could find out for himself what treatment worked best. He felt understood by his peers, and he began to open up.
“The staff were great, but more than that, my peers helped me a lot while I was there,” he said. “At night when we were supposed to be sleeping, I would go into a friend’s room and we would just talk. That was really nice.”
Those nights in residential, sneaking over to hear the stories of other youth, were key to his discovering a sense of belonging. Until then, that feeling had been mostly elusive to Noah.
Arriving back home, he began to take a different approach to his depression. He felt more inclined to spend time with people instead of opting for seclusion. He found things he enjoyed doing, and to their relief, this mostly kept his depression and anxiety in check.
“Everyone has to figure out what’s best for them. But for me it’s all about distraction,” he said. “What’s one thing that I could do right now if I’m stressed out? I could go and draw, or I could go read a monologue, or even just be around people. It makes such a difference, it helps you come away from your thoughts and see the positive.”
Now, Noah keeps a running list of things he likes to do that help move him to action instead of sinking into rumination. As an actor, one of his favorite activities is reading a script, or writing his own.
“I’m currently writing a screenplay. And, it’s a very sad movie. But it’s nice to have something where you can feel your feelings,” he said. “When I am writing, I’m allowed to feel those feelings and process them. It’s nice sometimes to embody another character and feel what it’s like to be someone else.”
And, instead of identifying with negative thoughts or going down the rabbit hole of worry and what if’s, Noah tries to use the mantra “one thing at a time,” to anchor him to the present moment.
“What I try to do now is be more in the moment, which I think is a cliché almost,” he said. “Everyone always says ‘Try not to look at the future or the past, stay in the present.’ But I mean, yeah, it’s true. Try to focus on one thing at a time. It makes it feel a lot more manageable.”
Today, Noah is grateful for how far he has come. Despite the struggles he still faces at times, he has grown a resilience in him that prevents the extreme steepness of the downturns, and makes it easier to bounce back from challenges.
“I definitely come out of things a bit faster now. If I notice that I’m having these thoughts or I notice I’m going into a darker place, I can see that and turn to those coping skills that I’ve learned, and keep figuring out what works,” he said. “You have to accept that it’s going to take a long time. There’s no set in stone cure for whatever you’re going through. You just have to figure out ways to cope with it.”
One day, when he’s a little older and farther removed from this time, Noah believes that he’ll look back and have a different way of looking at what he’s gone through.
“It’s hard to think of it like this now, since I’m still young, but in the future I think this will be a small thing in my life,” he said. “Like a bump in the road.”
Resilience Practices Noah Recommends:
- Draw: Drawing can be a great outlet for stress and anxiety. Even if you’re not a skilled artist, doodling or coloring can be a relaxing way to express your emotions.
- Read comedic monologues: Laughter is a powerful tool. Reading comedic monologues can be a great way to shift your mind away from negative thoughts.
- Go thrifting with friends: Social support is important for mental health, and going thrifting with friends can be a fun and affordable way to spend time together. Plus, finding a great deal can be a mood booster!
- Writing, poems, stories, scripting: Writing can help you process and work through difficult emotions. Try writing in a journal, writing poetry, or creating fictional stories.
- Do homework in the same room as someone else: Sometimes being in the presence of others can help alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation that we feel when we’re depressed or anxious. If you’re struggling to focus on your homework, try working in the same room as a friend or family member.
- Join HeForShe: HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for gender equality. Joining a group like this one can be a great way to connect with others who may be going through similar experiences or to show allyship.
- Resilience Squad: The Resilience Squad is a youth-led program that focuses on developing coping skills and building resilience. As part of the Hey, I’m Here campaign, the Resilience Squad shares their stories of resilience, creates resilience-based social media content, and writes articles and blogs to bring resilience strategies to other youth. To learn more contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or anyone you know needs help (24/7):
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Counselor
- Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 The Lifeline is available for everyone, is free, and confidential
- Mobile Response Stabilization Services Ohio: Call during crisis and gain access to face-to-face support at your home, school, or other location in the community.