Please give a warm welcome to a reader T who has the strength to send me this story. I know a lot of people can relate to this. I really can’t thank people enough for submitting their stories. Depression is such a topic I feel strongly needs more awareness too. You are not alone and if you want to submit a piece don’t hesitate to email me. And if you want to donate to my campaign to promote suicide awareness, that would mean a lot too. (The walk is in two days!)
Without further ado, I’ll introduce the lovely T.
Absolutely everything I had done up until graduation was motivated by one sole purpose: earn a scholarship to get out of my home state. Notebooks were filled with re-written notes to maintain the maximum gpa, lunchtimes with friends were neglected in exchange for hours spent in the art room to perfect my portfolio, and weekends intended for fun were instead spent working at a local restaurant for minimal pay. The dream of a fresh start at a reputable school hundreds of miles away was all-consuming. Even with varsity letters, academic esteem, and a small group of close friends, home never quite felt like home. All the expectations I had worked so hard to exceed felt worthless if I did not get away and make something of myself in a brazen show of independence. My family life, to me, was riddled with shackling secrets from which I desperately needed to escape in order to prove to myself that I was more than a small town and inherited problems.
On a warm June day, with hundreds of pairs of eyes staring down at me from the bleachers, I read aloud my valedictorian speech with a certain poise infused with optimism, and fear. I was off to Boston to a large, private university with a decent-sized scholarship. Things were aligning as I had hoped.
But the stresses I had begun accruing during high school proved not as easy to shake as I had assumed. Boston was wonderful. My first half of the semester was bliss. I was testing the waters of freedom, meeting new people, and living by my own rules. Some of those rules, however, still had the lingering taste of the self-critical, over-analyzing nature of my past self. Slowly, the weight of stresses started to build. Anxiety of the financial burden of the expensive tuition, even with the scholarship, was an omniscient dark cloud of burden. That, plus the self-imposed stress over maintaining a perfect gpa rekindled old coping mechanisms of isolation and body-consciousness; and, with no childhood friends or family members around, I was free to sink deeper and deeper into these toxic habits. I began socializing less and less, and when I did, it often involved ostentatious drinking and excessive kiss-and-tells, but eventually even that lost its appeal. I was losing friends, losing weight, and losing sight of where I was going. I was becoming a shell of myself, my mind a constant fog so that to this day memories of that time are nearly irretrievable.
Freshman year passed in this manner, slowly worsening, slowly growing more alone and lost, aware of a heavy sadness but too far down the hole to climb out so easily. By the end of the school year, I was realizing there was a serious choice I had to make: stay in my dream city but slowly waste away entirely, or brave a drastic change.
That summer I was holding onto to reality and sanity with weak threads. I began exhaustive research into transferring to schools back home to corner myself into a situation where I knew I would be forced to get better. State schools, while not as prestigious, were cheaper. Home life, though, was worse than ever, with tensions between my mother and I at an all-time high, resulting in frequent verbal battles with only the sharpest wordy weapons. I found a summer job at a different local restaurant, where I met a guy, who often shouldered the burden of comforting me in random parking lots when I had to flee my house for the night to escape the arguing. By the time September rolled around, I had submitted transfer applications, but still confronted a return to Boston. I feared negating all the progress I had made in regaining myself over the summer, but knew it would be my last semester there, and I was determined to make the most of it.
Well, that determination went right out the window. I was more isolated and self-consumed than ever before, and at the end of the semester I packed up my dorm room and quietly left that which I had worked so hard far. For someone who never even received a B on my report card, the taste of failure was poignant. As necessary as I knew it was, it hurt.
After Boston I retuned home, and have since finished my degree, a year ahead of schedule. That boy from the restaurant is now my fiancé. My relationship with my mother is still rocky, but on the mend. I have gained much mental clarity and things are more in perspective.
But depression does not simply dissipate. Even with many covetable things in my life right now, I still suffer through bouts of intense hopelessness. Crying for no reason, mentally shutting off, and a sense of incapacity are still, unfortunately, recurring instances. I now can handle them better and manage them with much more finesse, but still cannot fully eradicate that sense of purposelessness of it all.
The point is, focus on the progress. My coping mechanisms are much improved, much healthier. I can now identify the signs of an oncoming wave of depression, and seek healthful alternatives to deal with it. They still sting, but I’m determined to take control of them naturally, and refuse to let it debilitate me. I still occasionally look back on Boston with regret, enshrouded in the loneliness of being back in my hometown when all my good friends are still off at school succeeding at their original path. If I had been then who I am now, I would have taken much more advantage of Boston and that freedom; but, on the other hand, I would not be who I am now if I had not recognized my problems and scrounged up the courage to abandon my original plan—no, abandon is not the right word: I ‘rewrote’ my original plan. I took cues from my conscience and listened to my body, and did what I knew in my heart I had to do. Even when my heart aches on those days when I just don’t feel I have it in me to get out of bed, I can will the dull throbbing of hopelessness to give way and let forth a renewed sensed of hope, reflect back on my accomplishments, and dig up the inner strength I’ve worked so very hard to reestablish. Now everything I do I try to keep motivated by a new sole purpose: seeking a healthful and meaningful existence.
Question for you: Do you focus on progress?