drowning

People often assume when they meet me that I am an extrovert, because I am talkative, and I hesitate to correct them because the truth is much more complex. I would say that I am at heart an introvert, but one who loves to talk. And I would also say I am a person who struggles with anxiety, and who challenges myself each day to step out of comfort zone and move beyond the confines of my anxiety.

When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with a condition that causes me to recover from injuries much slower than most people, and makes me more susceptible to injuries in general. This validated something I had struggled with for years as I suffered injury after injury, often taking inexplicably long amounts of time to recover, and grew increasingly unable to do the things I loved. I felt alienated from my family and friends, alienated by a disability and by absences and by an inability to participate in many of my former favorite activities.

Things got worse. Struggling already, I slipped into what, at first, seemed like a deep funk. Something you would expect with a serious injury and the loss of friends, sports and much of my freedom. After a lot of days of crying, emptiness and hopelessness, I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. I was stuck there for a long time. To me, depression felt like drowning. They say that when someone is drowning, they often forget which way is up, trapped by dark, surrounded by darkness and unable to find the light. For more than two years that was me. I was stuck in the darkness and I couldn’t find a light to swim toward.

I kept getting up in the morning, going to school and doing my homework, but with an aimless lack of drive, and a continued feeling of hopelessness. I was sad, and scared that I was unable to find happiness in any of the ways that I used to, and I settled into a pattern where I just kept sliding deeper and deeper into my depression.

After a lot of therapy, and medications in differing combinations, for my neurological condition, my depression and my anxiety, I started to be able to happy about the happy things in my life. I still struggled significantly with anxiety, which I now recognize I have experienced since childhood. Nearly every morning before school, I would throw up out of anxiety at the mere thought of facing the day.

The turning point in my life came after one of the darkest periods. I had started self harming, and slowly withdrawn from my life over the course of a few months. I stopped talking to and seeing friends, I kept forgetting things, or falling asleep in the middle of writing a paper and walking up six hours later. Finally, I started seeing a therapist more regularly, and she issued me a challenge. She told me to find one thing that scared me each day, and do it. I would write about them in my journal, and report back at the end of the week. This step helped give me motivation to reset my view on life, and overcome the anxiety and depression that were holding me under. Some of these were small things, texting a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while, or going to ask a teacher for help on assignment and some of them were bigger, including challenging myself by applying to competitive colleges such as Midd. Some of these challenges to myself felt insurmountable, and some of them were a continual struggle to overcome, but even the feeling of succeeding at something small, instead of letting my anxiety win, was empowering. When I feel my anxiety weighing me down, I still play this game with myself. It reminds me that while I can’t always surpass my anxiety, at least I can fight against it. Writing this essay was an example of that, because each time I’ve tried to put words on a page about my struggle, I’ve been unable to face the weight of my experiences, and this time, I did the thing that scared me, and I wrote it down.

With my new game, and a better combination of medications, I was on my way to having hope again. I thought a lot about college, and that got me through many of my days. I wanted to escape, to go create a new life where I could redefine myself and separate myself from these last few years. That desire would help me a lot as I navigated the end of my high school career.

I dreamed of college endlessly as a way out. I talked about it to friends and therapists like it was a mecca. Unlike many of the stories on this page, Midd was my escape. Its promise saved me. With the right combination of medications in the spring of my senior year, I was able to fall in love with this green lawned- ivy building- passionate- welcoming campus. Coming here gave me a new start. And that is not to say that I am not still scared when I have a bad day that I’m going to slip back under the waters of my depression, or that I don’t think all the time about what it would be like if I slipped back under. I still get anxious. I will always get anxious. But I have found a new life at Midd. I have found a community that is there to welcome and help me, and I have found wonderful people that I can share it with. I’ve joined clubs, I’ve met people, and I have come so far from my lowest points. I am so so grateful to be here and I’m thankful that all of you are here with me.

 

-Middlebury College