Opinion writer urges students to accurately assess their stress

by Sammy Bonasso, ’20

American students often hyperbolize their situations, particularly regarding stress. When we brand ourselves “starving,” we usually refer to skipping breakfast or taking a late dinner as opposed to having hair detach, ribs protrude, cheeks sink in, perpetually-cold bodies and constantly-foggy minds.

Inadequate research has been conducted on starvation due to ethics, but these are symptoms billions, including me last year, have experienced.

I wasn’t anorexic during 2017’s cross country season, but I certainly wasn’t eating enough, either, and I lost 20 pounds in a month and a half because of it. I recognized my undereating, even if subconsciously, but—my mouth to God’s ears—I didn’t realize how emaciated I was until after I increased the measly 110-or-so pounds on my 5’ 9” frame. It also didn’t help my weight to be expending so much energy at practice every day.

By myself, running felt normal—eventually, my body wouldn’t even allow me to increase my speed while running on my own. But, running with others, when I had to follow their pace, was hell. The entire duration of these runs surpassed the realm of extreme fatigue and entered that of great, often torturous, pain.

I experienced this several times during the season and two weeks after. Finally, on the Friday at the end of these two weeks when I was running with a teammate, I injured my leg. As ironic as it sounds now, this has been one of the best occurrences in my life. I stopped running over winter, and by track season, I was at a healthier weight and performed much better.

Jaded readers might expect me to perform a literary kiss to the biceps at this point in the column. However, I’m not seeking to glorify myself, and I apologize if I’ve appeared as arrogant or self-pitying so far. Many would consider me stupid, and rightfully so: I could have explained my situation to my coach, parents or even counselor, but I refused to and suffered greatly for it.

I merely wish for this story to render us realistic. I experienced the greatest pain—or “stress”—so far in my life and potentially my entire life during this time, and I recognize it involved more pain than many have experienced.

Nevertheless, although we have all suffered, few of us have experienced true hopelessness or fear of losing our lives like so many people have: Holocaust victims, soldiers lost in war, starving citizens under a communist regime—you name it. Who are we kidding? The generations of our grandparents and parents have endured far more than most of us. Some experienced the Great Depression’s poverty, World War II’s fear and the Cold War’s threat of annihilation all in their lifetimes.

Moreover, although I understand the academic and social pressures of today’s students, I find existential crises over a C or failure of a friend to text back overdramatized (of course, life-threatening cases exist among us, notably depression and drug use).

Regarding advice, a simple “life goes on” severely lacks efficacy and is trite among high school opinion writers. I’m also not saying “suck it up, buttercup; others have had it worse.” Rather, I believe recognizing how people far less fortunate than most of us have endured and survived their stress should, in turn, give us hope and grit to push through our lowest points.