I was 19 years old, a sophomore at William and Mary. I lived in a nice off campus apartment with a great roommate that continues to be one of my best friends. I was doing well in my classes and had even lost the infamous “freshman fifteen.” I had everything at my fingertips which is why I didn’t understand why I was so, very sad. It started slowly, kind of like a sun setting, but then that depression enveloped me whole. I didn’t understand it myself so I didn’t have the words to explain it to anyone else. I didn’t want my parents to know so I put on a smile when I was home. I didn’t want my roommate to hear me cry so I would go into the closet. At one point I even went to a professor with my heart in my hand and asked for an extension on a paper that I hadn’t had the energy to write.
Psychology had been my favorite subject in high school and I quickly decided to major in that as well as government. I am forever thankful because it meant that the idea of counseling was not a scary or foreign one. I made an appointment at our college counseling center. The first counselor was not a good fit but the second is the reason that my darkest thoughts didn’t end my life.
I’m now 26. A newlywed! I finally move in with Marc and put my townhouse up for rent. I quit my job and I’m now traveling to new places with the love of my life. I’m living the dream. My dream. Everything I could have wanted. Except I’m sad again. I think, “This is ridiculous, get over yourself.” But I can’t. Marc asks me what’s wrong and I don’t know how to tell him. You see, he was my very first serious relationship. I had dated, but never for more than a few months. I had been so independent. I moved out of my parents house after college when I purchased my own townhouse at 22 years old. I had never relied on a man financially but more than that, I had never relied on a man for friendship. I was lonely on the road. I quickly gained 10lbs because I wasn’t used to eating out for every meal. I didn’t believe I was pretty enough and most certainly not thin enough to be a PGA TOUR wife. One quick google search online will show you exactly how many people rate and judge us. It took me a long time to find my people. Sure, I got along with everyone. But for a longer time than I could have imagined there weren’t people to have real conversations with. I missed being home and I missed my family, dog and friends. First world problems for you right there. How dare I have this amazing life and be sad about it. So I decided to do something about it. Counseling again. And again my first counselor was a terrible fit. In fact I probably should have reported him. But the second? Well she helped me to be happy again.
I’m 31. I’ve survived! I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m learning more and more everyday just how lucky I really am. But three months later, I’m crying too often and I’m sick all of the time and I’m terrified all of the time it’s going to happen to me again. Counseling. This time my therapist was amazing. I attended once a week for a few months and then once every other week for several more. About a year later I thanked her for all of her help and then I moved on.
Just last week I was cooking dinner and my chest constricted. I found it hard to breathe. I had to step away from the stove and focused on my breath. In and out. Longer on the exhale. I struggle everyday with anxiety. Some days it’s not so bad. When anyone I love is sick, it is the worst. I can cope fairly well with it now. But I know how to because I sought help and I did the work.
Please do the same if you need to. I promise that you are worth it.