I sit here and I write this with tears stinging my cheeks. Not because I am ashamed of how weak I was, but because I am proud of how strong I have become over this past year. This one is not easy for me to write. There is something about being completely vulnerable that scares the hell out of me. Last year, I never would have been able to talk about this, none the less publicly write about it, but happiness and confidence grace me with the ability to do things I never imagined I could.
It's been exactly a year since I admitted to myself and my mom I was struggling with anxiety that let me into a depression after my freshman year. I kind of had an idea that I was depressed, but I shrugged it off for a long time before I decided to take action. Why the hell would I be depressed? My parents were still married, no one died in the past year, and I wasn't a complete failure. I had a 3.5 GPA, I had a great group of friends, etc., so I couldn't be depressed because there was nothing to be depressed about, right? If I tried to talk to someone about it, they wouldn't understand because everything looked like it was fine.
I smiled and went to class, ate at my sorority house, and did my homework. I did what I had to do in order to get by, but every night I was up until the sun rose outside of my all-girls dorm feeling a deep sadness and loneliness I can't even begin to describe with words. I honestly felt helpless and hopeless. Riddled with heartbreak and disappointment, I truly believed I was never going to feel like my normal self again.
Any one who knows me will tell you that my confident smile lights up the room, my immediate warmness can make any stranger feel comfortable, and my bubbly personality can make even the most serious people laugh at my ridiculous antics, but last April that girl was no where to be found.
Feeling lost in a college of over 20,000 undergraduates, I went home after that spring semester feeling like I had no sense of direction, no purpose, no place of belonging and for the first time in my life feeling like no one needed me. To give you an idea of how fragile I was feeling at this specific moment in time, my mom picked me up at the end of that second semester, and just recently told me she felt as though she, “was literally peeling me off of the floor." The littlest instances would send me into a dark and clouded fog that I no longer knew how to push through. Everything was intensified. Mean comments cut me that much deeper, missing papers stressed me that much more. I was sensitive to everything and anything. I felt the heavy pain of everyone and everything around me. It was too much to carry, and that is exactly when I decided it was time to stop carrying it. My mom hugged me as tears from my eyes glided down my cheek and onto her white t-shirt. She asked me if I was okay and I shook my head no as a lump formed in my throat and I tried not to cry. I couldn't pretend anymore. I wanted to be better. I wanted to be the old, happy, fearless Catherine again. The Catherine I actually liked. The Catherine that drew people to her like a magnet.
For some reason, I had this false perception that I was not good enough. I now know that I am more than enough, and so are you.
Looking back on those days, it's hard to believe that girl was me, because I don't feel that way anymore. As hard as it is for me to remember how sad and alone I felt because of how happy, confident, secure, and loved I feel now, it doesn't take away from the fact that I really did feel that way once upon a time.
The collar of my t-shirt is currently soaked with tears (no shame), but I just realized these aren't woeful tears, these are tears of joy. It didn't happen over night, and it took a lot of work and learning about myself to get here, but I truly am the happiest I have ever been. In order for friendships and relationships to work, you have to love yourself and I have finally learned how to do that.
This past year was one of the best years of my entire life. I found forever friends through my sorority, women who are beautiful self-less loyal and sensible I got involved, found my passions, and learned that I'm good at them. I am not numb and alone anymore, but I am deep feeling and loved.
Words are powerful, words are influential, words can make a difference. I can only hope that the words I write can give someone else who is struggling with anxiety or depression peace with themselves and hope. Hope for a brighter future and a happier tomorrow.
To those of you struggling-my heart aches for you. I know all too well the way you've been feeling, and I'm telling you, you don't have to feel like that anymore.
The pain and sadness you are experiencing may feel as though they will never go away, but I promise that is so far from the truth. Please know you are not alone in feeling this way and there is always someone to listen. Sometimes life gets overwhelming and we need a little extra help. Battling anxiety or depression isn't a weakness and I promise you that choosing to ask for help is one of the strongest things you will ever do. Lastly, it is okay not to be okay, and asking for help doesn't make you weak, it makes you strong.