Originally published in February 2015
One year ago today marks the first of a series of turning points that made me who I am today and probably changed my life forever. I mean, let’s hope, anyway.
Last year I was struggling to stand on my own, caught in this place between losing everything and finding new things. And I just really wanted to die. Like, a lot.
It had been like that for the past several months but it only kept getting worse. Up until this point the only person who knew about it was my ex, except all he really knew was that I was really, really pissed at him. I had good reasons (and little did I know then that it was worse than I ever could have possibly imagined) but next to no ability to express them properly. We used to be able to have calm, rational discussions about our feelings and work through just about anything that way, but in the face of, “I don’t love you any more, not sure why,” I lost all of my ability to do that.
That wasn’t really his fault; yes it was an incredibly long and complicated relationship that was breaking apart, but most people could probably keep it together. Or at the very least, they would bounce back a lot quicker.
But I already had depression, which I knew about, but I thought it had just gone away since high school. Nope. That’s not how that works. Recovery is a lifelong battle. Depression destroyed my self-confidence (social anxiety didn’t help there either) to the point where I was basically dependent upon this person. I’d also lost almost all of my friends, so that already sucked, and without him, things went from “not great” to “I want to die” very quickly.
So one year ago today, I finally decided to tell one of my roommates, Charlotte, who was quickly becoming one of my best friends, about the way that I was feeling. I told her that I didn’t really know what to do, or where to get help or who to talk to. I was on the waitlist at my university’s counseling service, but that wasn’t good enough anymore. My last resort in my mind had always been the hospital, which is where my last counselor told me to go if things ever got really bad.
On this night I wasn’t sure – things were pretty bad; I’d had a panic attack but when Charlotte came home it stopped. Maybe I didn’t have to go. Maybe we could have just watched a movie or something and I would have been okay. Maybe I would have been able to calm myself down even if she hadn’t come home.
But after I told her she decided that we should go. She told me to get dressed and she walked with me to the closest hospital. I packed a bag of essentials in case I had to stay, complete with my favourite stuffed animal.
It was late when we got there – not sure how late, probably somewhere between 11pm and midnight. I had never been to a hospital before. We walked into the ER and to be honest I am not even sure what I said to the woman at the front desk. I was shaking like hell and the whole time I was scared that they were going to stick needles in me or that my parents would find out. She put this finger clamp thingy on me and right before she did I said, “What’s that?!?! Is it going to hurt?!” (I can’t remember what it was or what it was for but it didn’t hurt.)
After a while I was admitted and I had to go in without Charlotte to answer some questions. The doctor asked me if I felt like killing myself right NOW and I said, “Well no, because I’m distracted currently.” I mean wouldn’t you be if you were sitting in the ER?
They let Charlotte come in after a bit and she kept me awake and my mind off of things by coming up with Would You Rather games and things like that. I was too scared to actually go into my bag to get my stuffed animal to hold or anything else, but I was practically holding onto my bird and cage necklace for dear life.
After a couple of hours I started to fall asleep and I finally lay down. A few minutes later, the doctor came in, asked me the same series of questions again (to which I had the same answers) and decided that I was fit to leave because I didn’t feel like killing myself right NOW. I don’t believe that was the right decision – they were relying on their belief that I would not change my mind once I was alone again and that Charlotte would take care of me, even though she had absolutely no obligation to do so.
Charlotte and I left; she took me to Fran’s Diner across the street and we got fries. They tasted funny because I felt so sick, and some guy randomly hit on me (either that or was just VERY confused), which was odd because I looked like shit.
And after that things slowly got better. Never again have I felt quite as low as I did that night. Charlotte and my other roommate Amanda started spending more time with me and that gave me a kind of routine to stick to, and I felt like people cared about me and had my back.
I finally found people who care about me and since then I’ve only met more people. They inspire me to do the best that I can, but even without anyone, I can stand alone as the best version of myself.
Had things gone a different way one year ago today, I wouldn’t have my career that I am so proud of, I wouldn’t be about to graduate, I wouldn’t have moved into my new apartment that is my sanctuary, and I wouldn’t have met new friends who already feel almost like family.
And yes, all of those people make me extremely happy. But I did it all on my own. I was able to form great new relationships like that because I found the strength to be my own person and do kick-ass things like move into a new place with someone I’d never met and become the President of a student organization.
Today I wanted my new boyfriend to sleep over because I didn’t want to sleep alone, like last year – one of my strongest memories of that night is parting ways from Charlotte at around 4 in the morning, she going into her room to sleep and me into mine, and crawling into bed, still shaking. I had turned my phone off but now I turned it back on and saw that I had Snapchats from my ex – we’d had a fight earlier that night so I hoped it was going to be his way of apologizing, because what else could it be? But it wasn’t, it was photos of him having fun at a party that he sent me by accident. I didn’t even cry, I just thought, REALLY?!?! How could I be having the worst night of my life and he could be so oblivious and having a great time? Even though it was 4am it took me forever to fall asleep; the photos made me feel nauseous, my heart was racing and I was still shaking.
So this year I thought, how nice would it be to fall asleep in someone’s arms all calm, pretty much the exact opposite of that? But he can’t; he has stuff in the morning (so do I but I hardly care), and at first I was upset because shit, this is so important to me, but then I thought, no.
I don’t need anyone to hold me. I don’t need anyone by my side. I WANT that, but I don’t need it.
He and I were at an engagement party yesterday and at one point we were talking to the future-groom’s grandmother, who was commenting on my outfit, telling me that it was so retro and that I looked like a strong woman from another era or something. And she asked me if I was a strong woman, and caught off guard, I said, “Sure?” My boyfriend burst out laughing and said, “That’s not the right answer.”
And he’s right, though this isn’t what he meant – after writing all of this I can see that I have been through SO much, and more in previous years, and I may not have always gotten through it gracefully but I got through it. That’s the important part.
I didn’t say so because I didn’t think that it would be appropriate, but I knew the answer was yes. Unequivocally yes. Yes, I am a strong woman. I have accomplished so much and I am capable of so much more that I haven’t even gotten to yet. I’ve changed but I didn’t have to change my values to do that; I got better because I trusted other people and opened up to them; I’m building my career off of being honest about who I am and what I’ve been through. I sell myself short all the damn time but my new goal is to try to stop that.
21-year-old me didn’t sit terrified in the ER for three hours for me to sell myself short. She didn’t sit there for me to say, “Sure.”
The answer is yes.
And she would be so proud.