The last year and a half has been a personal picnic in hell for me. I’ve often described it as both the worst and the best time of my life. The worst because I’ve suffered from a lot of gut-punches thrown at me by life and the best because I’ve had to learn how to roll with them, and I’ve come out a better person because of it. I kept a lot of this concealed during this time because I was ashamed of who I was and what had happened to me and how “off track” my life had become, but I’m trying to be more open about it now that I’ve had time to process everything.
If there’s any time to have an identity crisis, it’s during your early twenties. I’m sure an individual goes through multiple identity crises throughout the span of their life, but it just so happens that my first major one hit me only a few months before my twenty-first birthday. To be clear, the actual “identity” part of the crisis didn’t happen then; rather, it was that first bowling pin that catapulted the rest down.
I went on a downward spiral but, like anything with me, it wasn’t necessarily a “traditional” downward spiral. I didn’t fall into a deep, catatonic depression that rendered me totally helpless and unable to function; instead, I continued to try and go about my new-normal of living back at home and attempting to work forty hours a week. I was tormented, though, by my own mind. Looking back, I can confidently say that I was in the deepest depression of my life. I considered suicide almost daily and was in a constant state of fatigue and fogginess. I began to slip away from myself, experiencing multiple bouts of disassociation and near-anxiety attacks when trying to fall asleep at night. I had absolutely no grip on my own sense of self.
I believe that a lot of this was triggered by the fact that I’d veered off of my meticulously pre-planned path. I’m a very Type A person and I don’t generally like change, so when I abruptly left school, was essentially forced to take over my own finances, and had to re-locate, it was easier for me to forget who I was, and who I wanted to become, than to actually face reality head-on and accept what was happening to me. Once an arduous student, I adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards school. Previously an advocate for self-care and firm believer in putting yourself first, I channeled all of my energy into other people, forgetting myself. And, if you know me, the most disturbing of them all: once an honorary “sexpert” among my peers and friend group, I completely lost my sex drive.
Everything about me that I’d previously known seemed to have disappeared entirely and, at the time, I figured that this was just my own metamorphosis into a new person, but I always had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that this life I was living wasn’t enough — at least not for me. The act I was playing as someone’s girlfriend. The acceptance of being a full-time service employee who hates her job. The symbolic image of the girl who dropped out of college because “fuck the system.” As much as I wanted to believe these things could be a part of the so-called “new me,” they weren’t.
I first realized I was unhappy about these things around the start of the New Year. I rang in the New Year depressed as hell. I blankly stared back at Times Square on a shared television, champagne in hand, feeling nothing. The ever-familiar feeling of total emptiness swept over me as the daunting 2019 came into fruition. Twenty-nineteen has been a year of significance for me for a long time now. I’d been looking forward to it since I started high school, graduated high school, and began college.
This was supposed to be the year that I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from my dream school. Everything that I had worked so hard for in high school wasn’t going to happen and, as the smiling face of Ryan Seacrest graced the TV while “New York, New York” played joyfully out of the speakers, I sat in bed, attempting to put on a happy face as I kissed my then-boyfriend to ring in the New Year.
Those first few minutes of 2019 are a pretty good illustration of what the last year-and-a-half has been like for me. I managed to make myself completely numb to outside forces, put on a happy face, and pretend like everything was perfect for me.
Waking up that morning of the first, something had changed in me. I wish I could offer some philosophical insight as to how this happened, but I’m still questioning it. I woke up feeling… different. I had recalled going to bed that night thinking to myself, “2019 was supposed to be my year. Who says it still can’t be?” Maybe it was a change in mentality — optimism versus pessimism — but it was like something in my brain just kinda clicked and the drive and ambition that had been so familiar to me began to slowly seep its way back into my brain (or maybe it was just the serotonin).
The last six months for me have been nothing but change and, for the first time ever, I’ve loved the change. In somehow numbing myself to accept change, I learned to embrace it along the way, and I’ve learned to roll with life’s punches in a way that I’ve never been able to manage before — in a healthy way. I feel older, more mature, and as silly as it sounds, I’m starting to feel more like an adult.
As this new adult, I’m returning to school tomorrow and, with my grand reentrance into the academic world, I feel more like myself than I have in nearly two years. Yes, I was an enrolled student two years ago but, looking back, I had already begun to break down then. I began my junior year at Chapel Hill (and what would be my last year there) already as a broken shell of myself, I just didn’t know it yet.
This time feels different. I’m returning with a higher confidence in myself and my abilities, though I’m more accepting of my flaws and doubts. I’m more nervous about a return to school than I’ve ever been, but I’m also the most excited. I’m ready to be back in a classroom because, as silly as it sounds, I feel as if that’s where I belong, at least for now.
For the first time in a few years, I’m finally myself again, and there’s no coincidence that I’m the happiest now than I can remember being in a long, long time.