Alana Saltz
February 23, 2015 10:36 am

The 2015 Academy Awards were mostly a blur of poorly delivered intros, odd musical numbers, and surprisingly awkward hosting courtesy of the usually amazing Neil Patrick Harris. However, amid the stumbles and flat jokes were a handful of heartwarming acceptance speeches given by Academy Award recipients, some that addressed important and timely issues like women’s rights and immigration.

But the speech that touched me the most was given by Graham Moore, screenwriter for The Imitation Game, while accepting the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He said,

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I'm standing here, and I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird, or she's different, or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different. And then when it's your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along."

I couldn’t believe it. It was like Graham was speaking directly to me. And that’s definitely not something I’ve ever experienced while watching a ritzy, star-studded Hollywood awards show before. Actually, it’s not something I experience often, period.

Like Graham, I struggled with suicidal thoughts as a teenager. In fact, at the age of 15, I came incredibly close to ending my own life. I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 10, and those feelings of darkness and hopelessness only got worse as time went on.

In high school, I had a lot of trouble making friends and finding people who understood me. Because of the medication I took to treat my depression, I became severely overweight. I wore ugly, baggy clothes and was incredibly socially awkward. I cried all the time and my mind was consumed by terrible, sad, and anxious thoughts that I couldn’t stop myself from expressing to others.

I felt like the weird girl, the depressed girl, the loner, the loser. I didn’t think anyone would ever truly care about me or love me. I constantly faced rejection from potential friends and the boys I had crushes on. It didn’t seem like anything would ever change or get better.

One night, I held a razor blade over my wrist, hoping to find the strength to push down and end the pain and loneliness once and for all. Luckily, something stopped me. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was a tiny sliver of hope that someday, things would be better. But I didn’t end my life. I asked for help, and spent the next month as an inpatient in an adolescent psych hospital.

Overcoming my depression and those relentless concerns about being too strange and different to love was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, it’s something I continue to struggle with, because recovery is rarely a straight line. I still fight feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and hopelessness. Sometimes I find a part of myself that wants to give up again.

But watching Graham Moore on that stage, the one I’ve daydreamed of standing on someday while accepting my own award, made me feel seen, heard, and understood. He’s been through what I’ve been through, and not only did he survive—which in itself is a huge accomplishment—but he also succeeded in the glamorous world of Hollywood where so many others fail to be noticed.

Now, I don’t know much about Graham Moore or his life. And winning an Oscar, while an incredible accomplishment, does not mean that his life is perfect now or that the past is all behind him. I know because I’ve come a long way since I was that girl holding a razor over her wrist. I graduated high school, college, and graduate school. I found a wonderful boyfriend and have been working hard at achieving my goal of becoming a published author. I even wrote a memoir about my struggle to overcome depression and anxiety disorder as an adolescent. I hope someday that I, like Graham, will get to share that story with the world. And I hope it can bring comfort and understanding to others who have suffered from mental illness.

There are days that I can’t see the progress I’ve made. Sometimes, I still feel like that weird, strange, different girl. Sometimes, I still feel silenced, scared, and alone. That’s why I loved what Graham said in his speech. He reminded me that it’s okay to be different, it’s great to be weird, and that I do have a place where I belong. I belong with my family, with my boyfriend, and the handful of friends I’ve found who accept me for who I am. And I belong in this world as much as anyone else does.

We all struggle. We all fight. We all feel out of place. Those are things that we all go through, and we don’t need to go through them alone as long as we’re honest and support one another. It’s okay to admit that you have trouble sometimes, or all the time. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong.

It’s rare for someone in the public eye to speak out about mental health issues, suicide, and being different. It’s even more rare for someone to devote his or her moment in the spotlight to helping and inspiring others. So, thank you, Graham. Thank you for being brave, sharing your story, and giving a voice to so many people who need one. And if I ever am on that stage, or any other, I promise to share the same message that you did.

(Image via.)

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