I regard the last six months as the rainy months.
There are countless metaphors and symbolic treasures found in the rain. Aside from always being my favorite form of weather, rain refreshes, quenches, and assists the process of growth. In Dallas, it rains often, and for a long time, I forgot how much I loved it.
In December of 2013, the best experience of my life came to a bittersweet end. I completed the TWLOHA internship program with four other girls who are, to this day, some of my most cherished friends. I left Florida with purpose, hope, and a new outlook on life that I was certain would propel me straight into success as I moved with my family to our new home in Texas. For the first time in my life, my excitement surpassed my anxiety, and I saw future challenges as opportunities.
After my birthday, on the 29th of December, I told myself I would begin hunting for a job to start my career. I began my search, but I spent more time worrying about finding a job than actually finding one. I felt lost as I scrolled through countless listings, but my searches never lasted long. I became so overwhelmed by the ideas of qualifications and applications and interviews and commitment that I often gave up after no more than half an hour. I applied to only a handful of jobs within the span of a month, and my anxiety grew exponentially as I completely failed my own expectations. I had done so much to push past my anxiety disorder in the past, so why couldn’t I manage to continue my job search? I felt lost and confused; my daily routines consisted of waking up, going downstairs, and sitting on the couch for the entirety of the day. When I went with my mom to shop for groceries, I panicked no matter how many people were there. When I was out, all I thought of was going back home. When I was home, I picked apart my sudden inability to succeed, blaming it on my own laziness.
At the end of my internship, I made a decision to go back to counseling, but it took weeks for me to make an appointment. We talked about the job search for the first couple of weeks, but it was about the third or fourth week that I was shocked by something that my counselor told me.
She and my psychiatrist diagnosed me with moderate to severe depression. As I met with my counselor on a weekly basis, she told me something that stuck in my mind, words that now frighten me in the middle of my recovery:
“I don’t think you know how close to the edge you really are.”
My first instinct was denial. Depression? What was this lady talking about? I knew depression. I spent three years as an executive member of my TWLOHA UChapter, took special trainings for my three years as an RA, and provided resources to those who were struggling during my time in Florida. I figured I couldn’t possibly be depressed because of the amount of anxiety I struggled through every day. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t want to end my life.
When I took the time to evaluate the life I had been living, I started to connect the dots. Anxiety, I learned, isn’t an actual emotion. I forgot what it was like to feel sad, to feel angry, and, most importantly, to feel happy. When I was left alone with my own thoughts, I thought of life as a cycle of dread. Where was the happiness I found in Florida? I couldn’t seem find it anywhere in Texas.
Having both anxiety and depression meant that I was constantly debating my own worth and value when I wasn’t working. All of my life, I have struggled with feeling good enough, and the idea of resting made me see myself as completely inadequate.
According to my counselor, we needed to shift my focus completely. Finding a job in the near future was out of the question. I needed to focus on getting better, on taking care of myself. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have such understanding and supportive parents that took this journey with me.
To be able to help others like I dreamed of, I needed to first help myself.
There are a number of people who stood with me at this time to provide me with the encouragement and love when I couldn’t see it, when I couldn’t believe it. My parents kept me company, my friends from fall term sent me love and encouragement often, and close friends from an online writing community emphasized my worth. At my worst, I called a friend at midnight and she picked up with no hesitation. With their help, I started to see change.
My anxiety lessened. I remember the day my mom pointed out that I had made a joke for the first time in weeks. I started laughing again. Car rides drew my gaze to the flourishing green of the trees and the grass, the same green I had forgotten was my favorite color. I started to feel again. I went on walks by myself when I had always avoided them.
The day my sister arrived home from college for the summer, the rain picked up. It was heavy and loud and rattled against the roof. She asked me if I remembered how when we were kids, we would run outside with no jacket and stand in the rain until we were completely drenched. With a mischievous look in her eye, she asked me if I wanted to. Months ago, I would have said no. This time, however, both of us ran out to the sidewalk of our neighborhood and ran around just like we did as children, laughing the entire way. As we stood out in the rain, I felt alive again.
To this day, I am still in recovery. I am making strides in counseling. Most importantly, I am treasuring the moments where I can look at the world and the people around me and honestly say that I enjoy being alive. I just began volunteering at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the changes in my life have been well worth the fight. I know that I am loved, supported, and wanted – and so are you.
Better yet, I have learned to love the rain again. In times of spiritual drought, the rain is just what I need to remind me that there is always beauty waiting beyond the storm. With every rough day, another new moment awaits to bring me back to life.