The day after my graduation party in May 2016, I lay crying on my kitchen floor, Googling the fastest way to kill myself.
More than two years later and a week after my 21st birthday, I walked into the Counseling and Psychological Services office at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, knowing something in my life had to change. During my first session, I cried so much I couldn’t actually speak. Everything came to a head — I’d been struggling with fear, self-doubt, self-hate and depressive thoughts for years, and anxiety was thrown into the mix once I started university.
There are a lot of things I regret in my 21 years of existence. Not getting help from therapy after years of suffering is one of those regrets. Looking back at how miserable I was for so many years in high school and into college, my heart breaks for the unhappy person I was. It frankly sucks to know I wasn’t helping myself in the way I should have been.
However, I have to stop looking down on myself for waiting this long.
Despite the mental turmoil, my depressive episodes and anxiety ultimately had value because they led me to finally go to therapy. In other words, I had to get through every horrible period to finally understand I needed help. It’s not that I was embarrassed by dealing with anxiety or depression. Rather, I was too proud to accept that I couldn’t handle it by myself anymore.
Even now, I hate admitting I can’t fix myself; I hate being stuck at this point in my life when everything feels like it’s hanging in an intricate web where everything is inextricably linked together. It feels like if one thing falls in my life, the whole structure collapses.
I could be angry about feeling stuck or beat myself up for not being able to be okay, but the more helpful thing to do is accept my inability to fix myself and move on. I can use my sadness, frustration, fear and any other “negative” emotions to learn and grow, instead of wishing for time to speed up so I can escape the rough period.
I now encourage everyone I know who’s struggling with any mental illnesses to seek help, but I think it’s important to realize they need to make the decision themselves; it’s not mine to make for them. I want to fix people and make their unhappy minds experience peace, but I can’t pick if or when they ask for help.
I can’t go back to May 2016, pick myself off the kitchen floor and Google the closest available therapist. No matter how much I want to, I can’t for obvious reasons. Instead, what I can do is accept that although what I felt and still feel is terrible, it’s brought me to where I am in 2019.
What I do now, taking care of Mia in the present, will hopefully set up a future for someone who’s more at peace with herself. At least, that’s the goal. All I have to do is trust the timing and roll with the punches.
And so, I tell myself and anyone willing to listen: take a breath. It’s going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay because it has to be.
Assistant news editor