August is nearly over, and I’ve been adjusting my day-to-days to get back into the swing of things for a new school semester. This week was the first week of my junior year of college! I’ve never really been one to be particularly enthusiastic about these things, but this summer, I have learned and grown so much so that I feel steadier in where my mental journey is headed in parallel to my physical life. My undergrad years are half over, and I feel that now I can finally reach higher, run faster, and jump farther. No two people unfold the stages of their lives in the same order or at the same time, and that’s completely okay. I’ve had and will continue to have those self-imposed, premature, mid-life crises when it seemed as if all of my peers had their lives together, in terms of living in apartments, paying their own rent and bills, confidently building up resumes, and doing all that driven by dreams and goals they set to achieve within the next five or ten years. Too often have I felt like a vegetable, sprawled across the carpet of my bedroom next to a party-sized bag of Cheetos, most likely procrastinating on something or other via endless scroll on Instagram, fantasizing about a life I wish I had. Those were miserable days and nights, many of them spent brooding with a cloud of depression above everything I could see.
I always like to say I’m getting better. Sometimes, when I backtrack, I say that I was stupid to think I was getting better, but that’s the evil voice in my head (WHO ISN’T REAL!!) covering my eyes. Everything you do in your life is a work in progress. It’s hard to think about it that way, but there’s always room for improvement. And that improvement is indeed attainable.
I wanted to go into a bit of detail with regards to how depression has affected my education. I thought it was most appropriate, considering my improvement occurring alongside back-to-school season. As far as I can remember, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to go to school. Growing up in a wealthy suburban city, it was easy to forget that not everyone is able to attend school and that most who don’t have the opportunity desire it much more than many people who do and take it for granted. As I’ve said before, college was never an obligation, but I’ve never seen it as optional. I felt like my father had a tendency to avoid allowing me the option to do something other than college after high school. I understand this concept because he was trained under a different cultural and generational worldview that honed in on the idea that schooling was the way to be successful.
With this in mind, my hospitalizations throughout the latter part of high school and beginning of college led my father to consider the stress factor that comes with education and its affect on my mental health. The first hospitalization gave my father a lot of shock, and he told me that I could take some time away from school and put my education on pause. As appealing as that sounded, I refused — not because I didn’t believe that school stressed me out, but rather because I knew that pushing through it would pay off in the long run. I recently realized that not giving up on school or putting it on hold was an act of bravery. Oftentimes, I hear others’ suicide stories in which people drop out in order to focus on recovery. I understand the reasoning, and I would probably do the same, if school had a lower priority in my life.
But I could never let go of the obligation I put on myself to get higher education. I know, deep within, that, despite how much I whine and complain about the trivial burdens of school or how poorly of a student I view myself as, school is one of the best ways I recover. Staying in school has forced me to responsibly structure my day-to-day schedule and trained me to be productive. And as I begin my third year of college, school is now something that has been opening my eyes to the rest of the world that is so unfathomably bigger than I am, allowing me to learn and grow into what I wish to be in that great big world we live in. The classes I’m taking this semester will provide me with skills so that I can become a better blogger, and maybe the Instagram feed fantasies could possibly become my reality. This possibility, among others, pushes me forward. Sitting in class, focusing on taking in as much information as my little brain can handle, distracts me away from that gray cloud of depression that I couldn’t shake for years. When I can see a positive future for myself and when I can set aside the brooding thoughts of why I’m not good enough, that makes me want to get better and want to be better. Because if or when those possibilities come true for me, I want to be happy and be able to make the most of it.
(For those who are close to me, I hope this attempts to explain why I have jumped into the deep, dark oblivion of 18 semester hours and 2 jobs.)
I hope those currently in school have a satisfying semester, and I hope that if you’re struggling to recover, you find something positive to hold on to, something that you can immerse yourself in. Recovery is a difficult, unexpected roller coaster ride, but the worst is never forever. I promise.