In 2013, I entered college as a vibrant, confident and outgoing girl, who came for two reasons, first, to party and second, to, in essence, fulfill the quote “she needed a hero, so that’s what she became.” Originally, I wanted to be a school social worker, so that I could be the one that I never had; the one that would listen and help people. However, one way or another, along my matriculation through college, I got lost without knowing it; I became a shell of the person that I used to be. I went from being a social butterfly to a wall flower, from vibrant to dull. I thought that I was maturing and evolving; but in honesty, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with myself. Therefore, I was slowly becoming anxious and depressed; especially my senior year which was a challenging yet awakening time for me.
Senior year was an invaluable experience because I knew that I had changed and that at some point my headspace was different, but I did not realize that it was visible or that my changes were drastic. I couldn’t understand that I was a shell of my old self; I thought that I was fine, but I wasn’t. Buried inside of me was the pain of a scared fifth grader. I couldn’t ask for help because I was afraid of the consequences; that others would think that I was unfit; since depression is typically stigmatized. I felt trapped.
Growing up, I was taught that depression is an unaffordable luxury. Therefore, I learned to first, mask all my feelings to make everyone else happy, second, NEVER externalize emotions and third, to never ask for help, because who can I trust? However, these notions are far from the truth. I spent so much time pretending to be okay that even though I had people who could help me, I couldn’t even fathom the thought of asking for it. But, luckily for me, I didn’t seek help, it sought me.
My senior year, I had to do an internship and after sinking further and further into depression, it started to engulf me. I used to be the girl always up for adventures and being wild, but during my senior year, I shied away. I put up, even more, walls than normal, I started distancing myself from my family and I started not telling my friends’ certain things. My anxiety was sky high, everything I did, I questioned and over analyzed. At my internship, my anxiety was so paralyzing that sometimes I felt like I couldn’t speak, it was like I was frozen. I was quickly losing my mind and I couldn’t stop it. I felt like I was failing and all that I had worked for throughout these last four years was going down the toilet. As the year progressed, I stopped sleeping and started making reckless decisions.
However, February was the climax of everything because this was when I had my first panic attack. My last semester of college had just begun and I had signed up for my classes. However, on the second day of class, I was taken out of one of the classes that I needed to graduate, meaning I wouldn’t graduate on time. I was horrified and I found out on a morning that I was supposed to go to my internship. When I found out, I couldn’t breath and my body started shaking. Everyone kept asking what was wrong but all I could do was cry. Anyone that knows me knows that I hate crying in front of people. However, it was like I couldn’t stop.
Eventually, I semi calmed down and decided to go to my internship. It was the worst idea ever, because I couldn’t concentrate and I was just over everything. I was terrible, honestly, I felt suicidal. Six months in, it didn’t matter the amount of tennis, therapy, sleeping pills or positive thinking; I was drowning in my sorrow. For a girl who was used to fixing my problems independently, I was confused, frustrated and angry.
About two weeks later, I was sitting in class and I weirdly got an email from my professor. So, that night, I met with her and her boss, I’m not going to lie I was on guard. But, surprisingly, they explained that they were there to support me and they pushed towards getting help, because as they stated, they saw changes in me in class and they had heard that I was really struggling with my internship. They weren’t trying to be mean or demeaning; but caring and helpful. This was, I guess, an intervention. I left the meeting feeling supported and understood. It felt weird though, because I gathered they talked to my internship supervisor. I’m not typically a person that draws attention to herself, so when people notice things about me they must be big.
So, back to the story, after the meeting’ I decided that I needed to take a break and figure my life out, at least somewhat. So, I talked to my therapist and we discussed medication for the millionth time. I was terrified, like what if this backfires and destroys my future. But, in honesty, what if I was so suicidal that I didn’t have a future?
With that in mind, I decided to take a leap of faith, and I did it. In the beginning, I felt really embarrassed that I even needed to take medication, like what is wrong with me. However, I went to my internship and talked to my supervisor and she told me she was proud of me. It made me feel like I did something right. Honestly, deciding to take medication was probably one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I stopped feeling over stressed, and I felt better overall. So, I started making positive decisions and finding my voice. I found out that I had people who understood me and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for help. It was going to be okay. My life is just that; mine. The three months of my medication were better than the six months without, by a long shot. My life in general got better, I began to feel more comfortable with myself and I started actually telling my friends things. I finally felt okay again.
In a nutshell, this whole experience taught me so much about myself. First, being that I matter. I was used to always fixing my problems myself. However, it took various people showing me that it’s okay to be vulnerable and that I could not fix this on my own. I felt supported, and others, valuing me led me to understand that I was worthy enough. It was okay to put myself first. I am still learning what self-care is, but I am happy to say that I am progressing, for example, I’ve started using coping strategies like sketching and attempting to write how I feel. However, this is a process; I have good days and bad ones.
But, I am happy, because I went from feeling irretrievably broken to feeling optimistic.
Mia is a 22 year old artsy, offbeat, recent HBCU college Grad from Washington, D.C. who is preparing to join the military. She currently shares her life, like every other young person, on Twitter and Instagram. Don’t let her social media fool you, she would describe herself as lit, yet shy (in other words she is on the come up). She recently moved halfway across the country because as it was said to Princess Mia (The Princess Diaries) “the brave do not live forever, But the cautions do not live at all.” She is on her way to fearlessly conquer the world, this is just the beginning for her.