I turned twenty seven on May 27th. The last couple of months have brought intense pain, growth, and change. I lost one of my childhood friends to suicide in April. I saw his car – where he ended his life – afterwards and it was devastating. I finished my second semester back in school with straight As and a 4.0 for the year. I also moved in April and had a complete meltdown that I am ever so thankful for because it led to me finally getting the help I needed.
It was a muggy Saturday, the clouds looked like they were ready to release a downpour at any second. Exhausted, physically and mentally, My Mom and I watched as the movers carefully lugged all of our belongings, separated by yellow and purple duct tape on boxes, down the stairs and into the truck. I felt good, there was a mix of nervous excitement in my stomach. I drove over to meet the cable guy by myself. I picked up the keys, twisted the knob and opened the door into my new, empty apartment. Everything was clean and ready for me to fill with my own belongings. The cable guy came, my grandmother showed up, and then finally the movers made their way from my Mom’s new apartment to mine. Their eyes widened as they pulled up and realized all my belongings needed to come up three flights of stairs. After a couple of hours my apartment was now full with boxes ready to be emptied. My Mom had gone back to her apartment to meet the cable guy and I was starving. I drove to pick up fast food for my grandmother and I while she began unpacking.
While in line I started feeling strange, then my eyes began to well. I realized that I was really on my own now and this new, exciting chapter in my life was about to begin. On my way home those bittersweet tears turned into full on sobbing. I didn’t stop crying all day, even as we unpacked box after box of my belongings. I cried for six hours straight. I realized that my tears were more than the acknowledgement of change and were actually the start of a breakdown. I was not afraid to be on my own, I was so happy for that, so why the tears? I was so confused. I chalked it up to exhaustion and went to sleep for the first time in my new place. The next day came and the tears immediately followed. Another full day of crying and feeling like a complete failure. My Mom came over again and was becoming increasing concerned. I was worried, too. I had never been this bad – I have always been a crier but never like this. Something was wrong.
On the third full day of crippling depression I went to my Mom’s apartment and told her I needed help, that I couldn’t continue like this. That the weight of the past year, really the past decade, had finally fully broken me. The devastating way I had to change jobs, starting school full-time, preparing to move, the suicide of a friend the week before I moved. Moving was just the straw that broke the camels back. We quickly arranged for me to see my primary care physician that evening and I did. I started Zoloft on May 2nd and the last four weeks have been a whirlwind but a very necessary one.
The intense nausea came first, along with the worst headaches I’ve ever had, but I was able to wake up in the morning without crying. After two weeks the side effects settled and I felt better than I had in a long time. I found myself smiling again, able to enjoy things and breathe. At the four-week mark I am able to better rationalize my feelings, if I am having a self-deprecating thought or a moment of panic I can squash it pretty quickly. I still have anxiety and bouts of depression but they are less severe, and I know they will only get better as the weeks go by. I am feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time.
This experience has taught me a huge lesson in self-care. We are advertised this image of self care being candles, hot baths, Netflix, and pints of ice cream. While all of those are enjoyable, I’ve come to realize true self care is taking care of the difficult shit in your life. Admitting you need help, taking medication, taking care of adult things like bills, doctors appointments, and difficult conversations. I feel so much better doing all of those things while still enjoying the benefits of a nice (dairy free) pint of ice cream.
As I reflect back on the last couple of years, I see a woman who was in denial about her issues. I see the blinding pride of thinking I could bear this burden on my own, the naive belief that if I exercised and ate right I could heal my problems. The shameful thoughts that my family and friends didn’t need to be burdened with my issues. The truth is I can’t outrun my depression and anxiety, that I need my family and they are one-hundred percent there to support me. I am an intensely private person and opening up about my struggles to my own parents was difficult, but they have been nothing short of amazing. This has brought us all closer and opened the door to very important and long overdue conversations.
I thought I would be ashamed of myself if I ever started medication, that it would signal I was weak. Instead, I feel stronger than ever. I feel proud of the fact I reached out and was able to seek help. It’s perfectly okay to not be able to do this on my own. My challenge to myself this year was to be more vulnerable and I am fully living up to that now. I know I still have a long way to go but I am now more prepared than ever.