A Journey of Struggles and Acceptance

I enter a room that is dark yet warm. Soft lamps light the corners of the room as if to make everything a shadow. I sit down on a small loveseat with a blanket draped over the top and bring my legs and hands together in discomfort. The person across from me sits into a desk chair with a tapestry-like blanket draped over it. They look at me and ask the question in dulcet tones. “So, what brought you to therapy?” A question somewhere in my mind I had expected, yet the first thing I say is “I don’t know.” They look at me expectantly, as if to say that this escape route would not work with them on patrol. I begin the process of conversationally tripping over myself to expound on the idea that I’ve generally been unhappy for a while now, and I’d like to change that. They look at me from their chair and tell me that my questionnaire results indicate that I struggle with some anxiety and depression. The words surprise me in an expected way. The way that you can see a knife coming and it cuts you all the same. The therapist and I begin to speak uncomfortably about my life. As we begin speaking, my mind becomes inundated with the thoughts of the many moments where my feelings have been more typical of someone struggling with anxiety and depression. I didn’t accept it at many points in my life, but anxiety and depression found their way into my life at many stages, including my middle school years, my first year of college and the first instance of realizing some of my discontent in life occurring in my senior year of high school.
In my formative years I stood alone and confused, not realizing the ways that I made myself ignore my reality. When classes broke for lunch, the isolation would begin. Without the structure of my middle school class schedule, interactions with people became far more difficult. I would get my lunch and scan the cafeteria for who I might sit with today. I had a way of bouncing about lunch tables, everyday sitting with a different group of kids I knew somehow. I rarely had the consistency of a friend I knew I could lean on in the lunchroom. My relationship struggles in middle school was exacerbated by the choice of the school to introduce a new recess period following lunch. Recess was like an extension of the lunchroom. I stretched myself across the outdoor playground trying to find whoever I would play with that day, never enjoying the period. I desired to return to the safety of the classroom. In a classroom, my participation was expected, encouraged and provided a space for me to express myself in capacities where I never felt as though I would be burdening others. I used the classroom as a long game to make friends. I tried to attract people by being expressive and fun in class. I had begun to lay the foundation that people would view me as fun and kind, but never picture me beyond the classroom. After school, I would go to football or track & field practice, and I was around people united at least by a desire to sweat in an extracurricular. When I went home, I completed my homework as needed, but otherwise I watched videos on the internet. Videos were my escape. I had begun my pattern of distracting myself with hours of internet videos to keep my mind from my reality of loneliness and discontent. This was the way it went on for years, extending from middle school into high school; a day of school where I only felt okay in the classroom, followed by whatever I could do at home to not think about the loneliness I felt around school.
Finding my first true friend in the world helped me to finally realize some of the feelings that I had swept under the rug for so long. I’d made it through middle school, into high school and eventually, my long game worked enough for me to have a few friends. Heading out of my junior year, I was beginning to know someone I’d only known peripherally for years. We bonded over listening to Billy Joel as I took her home once and I had mentioned that I entered a contest to try to win tickets to one of his upcoming concert dates. I ended up getting a pair of tickets (no thanks to the contest) and I invited her. We both felt we were taking a big risk on extending and accepting such an invitation, but the concert ended being full of hilarity for the both of us. The following school year, I sat next to her every day in Spanish class. We giggled our way through that class, both of us having enough Spanish to make it through when called upon, even though we were paying so little attention. It was the first and only time I ever had the pleasure of watching a friendship blossom. We would visit each other often outside of school to watch movies and talk. I didn’t know how it felt to have someone who wanted me around, and it made me feel golden. Through talking over many movies, I began to open myself up and in talking more about myself, I started to understand my own feelings and how alone I’d been all this time. I began to accept myself, the ways I felt and I was finally realizing who I was and my place in the world, which would seem a wonderful way to enter the college years.
I entered college and my whole life seemed to invert itself. Leaving home and the greatest friendship I’ve ever known; I entered a sea of tens of thousands of people my age. Despite this, I opened college into loneliness. I sat in lecture halls of hundreds where there was never the possibility that I might meet someone through the process of charming class participation as I had previously. I returned to my dorm every night to three roommates, two of whom I couldn’t care about. The third was the one person I ever talked to. Since we shared a space so much of the time, we managed to speak and have a rapport that managed to keep me afloat. But at that, our relationship was strained. He didn’t realize it, but there were points where I couldn’t stand his archaic world views. He also didn’t realize that his view of the world minimized me when I already felt small in the world. He was emotionally a brick wall when I needed someone who wouldn’t judge me for breaking down and crying. Crying was reduced to an action that occurred at the top of the stairs at my dorm, out of sight of everyone I didn’t know. I yearned to have my best friend back, desiring some kind of emotional authority for my life. On top of the disheartening personal struggles, I felt stranded and confused about what I wanted to study. Even more than that, I didn’t understand what I wanted my life to look like after the upcoming four years of agony. This was mostly the way I saw the prospect of my college future; agony. My second semester only made me feel worse as my classes became more difficult. My internal darkness only grew as personal struggles became heightened. I was alone again like middle school, but this time doing far less to distract myself from the pain. Full of a sense of confusion and loneliness, I finished my first year of college with little excitement to return.
I returned to school following a summer of not feeling terrible about myself and soon enough, the isolation and sadness returned. A few weeks into the semester, I decided that I wanted to feel a bit better. Maybe if I sought out the help of others, it could make me feel better. I booked an appointment with my therapist. I have gone to my therapist ever since and it’s helped me to finally accept my struggles with anxiety and depression. I can’t say that therapy isn’t frustrating much of the time, but it makes me think about the things I generally don’t want to properly process, which is healthy. And it helps me to see issues I couldn’t realize or understand on my own. In the past, I didn’t desire to accept my feelings as being anxiety or depression, or even accept my feelings at all, but I’ve since realized that its simply part of who I am and there is no shame in that. Writing and talking about my experiences, is part of the continuing journey for me to accept the lurking darkness of my life. I am probably not the person that many people imagine when they think of people struggling with anxiety or depression and that’s because I put up a façade so I can hide the true nature of my feelings. Once I began to believe more in the way that I felt than the way I wanted to feel, I was finally able to accept myself for who I am and that has had a profound impact on me as I have embraced the nature of my existence.

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