This has been the happiest year of my life. I am more resilient and hopeful than I have been in ages. I have grown tremendously, and begun to really understand and like myself. This is not without fault. It is not without fear. But I am different, in ways I cannot mold perfectly into words. For the first time in my life, I think maybe I’m actually fingertip to fingertip with recovery. It’s not a race. These days we’re matching each other step for step.
With all that said, you might be surprised to learn that just a handful of months ago, I spent a night in the hospital on a psych hold.
As a college student, spring is often a time of year that sets my anxiety and depression into a downward spiral. Just as the warmth arrives to replace the winter, finals approach, friendships are interrupted, and living situations are in limbo.
I saw it coming, but the drastic change sent my brain careening off track. The result was overwhelming and unmanageable, and ultimately, I wound up in the emergency room.
That night, I woke up every few minutes to glance at the clock I could see through the open door of the hospital room. My mind spun rather unhelpfully. Thoughts of “everything I’ve worked for is ruined” and “I’m an embarrassment” swirled through my head as I tried to will the clock to speed up and reach morning. I just had to make it through the night.
After I was discharged, life went on as if nothing had happened, as if everything had happened. Things changed. Fast. It felt like they would never stop. I did a crisis stabilization session with a local mental health center. I left treatment with my counselor. I did trial sessions with a number of new therapists. I questioned my faith in the universe.
Through all of the turmoil, there were only a handful of people I confided in. The day I told my favorite professor, I sat on the floor of her office and cried. She reminded me of a poem I had written the year before. A poem that had stated very clearly that I wanted to live and fight and give myself as much time as it took to find peace. When she read it back to me, the words started to feel true again. From across time, my own voice was desperately reminding me to give tomorrow a chance to be beautiful.
From there, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps. I got honest with myself. I started using a mood tracking app. I made my goal to make it to tomorrow, every day—just 24-hour chunks of a life. I took a yoga class with my friends. I locked myself in a practice room and played piano until I could smile again. I went on a spontaneous trip. I wrote a blog post. I found a therapist I liked and I did not run out on her.
Although I was convinced that night in the ER would most certainly be my demise, my greatest screw up, it led me to a cliché you may very well have heard before: Recovery is not certain or guaranteed. It’s a rock climbing expedition, and sometimes I forget that even for someone who is a mental health advocate—relapse happens. And it’s not the end.
If and when I find myself at rock bottom, I will make my peace there. I will look for my initials in the granite. I will find the footholds I carved the last time I fought my way out.
Every day I wake up there’s a chance to start over or continue the climb. The first step is showing up. I show up for myself today with the hope of tomorrow. I make it through the night so I can see what the world looks like come morning. It may look a little different, maybe a little better even. If it’s not what I hoped for, I will work to change it.
Not much in this life is certain. Circumstances change without warning. There are things I cannot control. There always will be. Today is the only thing I am guaranteed. But tomorrow needs me to believe that it is, too.