No direct path to happiness

St Margaret’s College head girl Jem Vaughan speaks about depression in her end of year speech:

Jem Vaughan was diagnosed with clinical depression in June, half way through her final year at St Margaret’s College.

She said she was not sharing her story for attention or pity but in the hope of connecting with anyone who had a similar experience, or might do in future.

“Whatever sadness, anxiety or worry looks like for you, please remember you are so incredibly valued and loved and you are always enough, just as you are.” 

“On paper 2018 was a dream year for me,” Vaughan told her classmates. 

“Captain of netball teams, good grades, attending the coolest school ever … amazing friends and an incredibly loving family. I feel blessed.

“Despite this, at the beginning of the year I actually found myself really unhappy. I was tired all the time, I lost my appetite, I was crying a lot for no reason.

“I had been really sad for quite a while and feeling really guilty about it, angry at myself. My problems seemed so trivial, so why was I unhappy?”

Vaughan learned after her diagnosis that mental illness “doesn’t discriminate”.

“My most important realisation was that there’s no direct path or checklist that will lead you to maximum happiness. Trust me, I tried to follow the path and it doesn’t make you feel any different from anyone else on any other paths.”

She shared three lessons that she learned throughout the year.

The first was that everyone has their own story “and it OK if yours isn’t perfect at the moment”.

Teenagers often judged themselves by the “highlights reel” of their peers’ social media, she said.

“We wear rose tinted glasses when we look at everyone else’s lives but then we take them off when we look at ourselves.”

Vaughan said lives can’t be ranked: “Your own messy, non-linear, imperfect life is the best life for you.”

Her second lesson was to “work hard at loving yourself”.

She told her classmates to allow themselves to be proud of their achievements – even if that was just getting out of bed in the morning – and celebrate nice moments like playing with your dog or eating all the cookie dough before baking it.

“Discover that the world doesn’t implode if you stop going 100 miles an hour.”

Her final message was to spread kindness and gratitude.

“I’m sure we have all noticed there is some pretty ugly things happening in our world at the moment so it’s our moral duty to do anything and everything we can to centre ourselves around being kind,” Vaughan said.

“We’re lucky enough to be in a pretty privileged position so let’s use it to be kind.”

It takes courage and strength to speak like this.

Being open about depression  is healthy and helps to educate people about mental illness.




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