I used to be infatuated with the idea that you never know when the best day of your life will be. And it’s not because I heard that one New Girl quote once. Although my heart melted when I watched that episode because I was so happy someone shared my philosophy. I had also heard once that the day before your life changes forever is just like any other day. A couple years ago I was in love with that idea. I was drunk on the excitement and spontaneity of the prospect of tomorrow being the day that changes everything. I think it was because I was happy. I was a girl who was wide eyed, optimistic, and well, frankly, incredibly naive.
Naive. Isn’t that what they call someone who is blindly unaware? Happy to the point of foolishness?
See, the problem with my hopeful philosophy was that I had never considered that much like tomorrow could change my life for the better, it also held the potential to change my life for the worse.
And so once upon a time, I was waiting for some magical day to come. I had this idea that the best day of my life hadn’t happened yet and so I was hoping for it. On one particular day in 2016 I was on the bus, daydreaming of all the potential the day held and wondering what life had in store for me that day and well…even though I knew anything could happen, I guess it didn’t sink in that really, anything, good or terribly bad, could happen. But somehow I could feel it in my bones; it was like there was this electricity in the air that let me know it was today. The day that changes your whole life. And it did. That day changed my life, just like I thought it might. That was the day I began talking to someone I would almost immediately fall in love with. That day was followed by weeks and months of euphoria that I couldn’t explain. It was like I really believed I could be happy. I had thought that I had done my time. I had spent 19 years of my life anxious, wanting to kill myself, starving myself, self-harming, and self-isolating. Shit, I thought I deserved to be happy for once. It was almost like God owed me. He put me through years of hell, and most of it was His followers fault; the least He could do was give me this.
For a while, He did. Things were good. For months they were good. And they were really, really good until they were really, really bad.
The short explanation is that heartbreak can kill you. It can become a catalyst; the thing that finally kicks your depression back into gears after months of remission. And if you’ve ever had a depressive relapse, you know they’re even worse than falling into depression for the first time. It was a snowball that got pushed down a mountain and became an avalanche. Everything got worse and I couldn’t stop myself from spiraling. There isn’t a way to articulate how bad 2017 got for me. I started to become someone I didn’t like. I did my best to keep it under wraps, but I think people noticed how broken I was. But not a lot of people knew why.
Suddenly that wide-eyed girl with blind faith was gone. She was replaced with a bitter, pessimistic, cynic. What could I say? I was hurt and angry. My perfect fairy tale was destroyed. That day was supposed to be the best day of my life. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. And so the memory of this supposed “best day of my life” became tainted with the reality that it didn’t work out. I looked back on that day and now could only see the inevitable future ahead of myself. It was ruined. But hell, it wasn’t even about the day or the boy. I couldn’t bring myself to pretend to be okay in church and having to learn the hard lesson of lament. It was how all that opened my eyes to the suffering of other people that made my empathetic heart collapse. There was all this stuff about my mental health and my family and all these huge doubts about God that made the whole year just suck. Basically I threw out whoever it was I used to be and threw out God. I couldn’t deal.
After that, it took me two years to sort of, almost, piece myself back together. But I stopped believing in kairos; in perfect timing. And I basically stopped believing in God.
And things were fine. Not every day was euphoric, but I had stopped wanting to kill myself for the most part. I had finished therapy, which helped tremendously might I add. I finished junior year. I moved out of my old house and into a place with some friends. I was, as they say, “getting by.”
I don’t know when things changed back to how they were. It was slow, really. There was never one moment like it had been the time before. I’ll admit, the relapse I had this year came out of nowhere, because I couldn’t isolate it to a single thing. It was because I had taken on too many responsibilities for the summer, it was because I chose a research project way over my head, it was because I was having to be the rock of way too many of my relationships, it was because I now needed to learn to budget money so I could pay rent, it was because imposter syndrome at my program at school, it was because I was still in love with someone who didn’t want to commit to me, it was because I had all these doubts about my faith, it was about how I was uncomfortable with the answers I was finding when my therapist told me to explore my own sexuality, it was because I was stressed over the politics in my country, it was because my lupus starting acting up again, it was because my family was having a hard time; it was just everything. All at once.
So that’s my confession. I relapsed this year. Amidst all my encouraging blogs and social media posts. I relapsed. Towards the beginning and middle of summer I would sit behind my counter at work, trying to focus on my job but mostly thinking of if I could technically define this as “relapsing.” If only thinking “I want to die” but not having an articulated plan actually counted. And I started not eating because I was too busy and too stressed, but once I started losing weight I realized how good it made me feel to actually be able to control something. It sucks having to say that after 3 years clean, I decided to keep making choices to go to bed hungry. Because everything in my life was spiraling out of control, I kept myself busy by hyper-focusing on food.
After weeks of panic attacks, I landed myself in an emergency room.
It took everything in me to find the courage to go. It took all my courage to tell my mom and my friends and the nurses, “I’m at this hospital because I’m having a panic attack and I’m thinking that I want to die again.” It took more courage to tell my doctor, yes; I did want to go on antidepressants/anti-anxiety medication. It took even more courage to admit to myself that I had relapsed and I wasn’t okay.
After that, a funny thing happened.
I starting getting better again.
First of all, medication for depression is amazing. (However, the side effect of terrible insomnia is less than amazing.) Having a loving support system with your friends and family and actually being open with them about your struggles as they are happening is amazing. And so is deciding you are going to make yourself a priority. After the hospital, I dropped the research project that was stressing me out in order to pick up one that was more manageable. I quit my second job. I stopped responding to texts I didn’t need to. I started talking positively to myself. I began going on Pinterest more to look at those stupid, cheesy inspirational photos. I gave myself a break and took things one day at a time. And I had to learn to stop fucking apologizing to people for being who I was.
And just like that, it happened again.
A day that changed the trajectory of my life.
My life went from being this chaotic mess to being the life I had always dreamed I would have at 21. And I realized it didn’t happen because of a good day. It happened because of one of the shittiest days I’ve ever had. It was actually the accumulation of months of shitty days all piling up until they broke me. But they also made me. See, being in the hospital made me realize I couldn’t keep at that pace. I needed to cut things out. I remember sitting in that hospital bed, dazed out of my mind on sedatives and anti-anxiety medication and realizing how lucky I was that this was the worst it got. That was enough to make me realize if I didn’t change something, I was going to be at a hospital full time. And that night at the hospital, someone let me crash at their house so I wouldn’t have to be alone and so I could be taken care of. And they showed me such an immense amount of love and kindness and showed me I deserved better. That was the day I realized I needed to not be in a relationship that was hurting me. It was also the day I got to spend time alone getting to know my now-boyfriend. If I had never gone to the hospital, I never would have admitted to myself that I liked him. We wouldn’t be celebrating like, a month and a half together.
I don’t mean to sound like the person who says that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, because I’m a big believer in pain not always needing a profound lesson. Sometimes pain just hurts. But I think eventually it can set you on a specific path that you wouldn’t have taken otherwise. Sometimes it’s not a good path. I wasn’t on a good path for a while there, but somehow I ended up exactly where I needed to be.
It makes me think about all the job interviews I failed last year that hurt me, but am now glad fell through because I’m happy at the workplace I now have. There were all the bad lessons I was taught about God that ruined religion for me, that I’m now more grateful to have thrown out. There were so many days that hurt me and almost broke me, that I now look back on as being pivotal days that changed my life forever.
I’m not sure I’ve made sense. I’m sharing this because I want you to know that it gets better. I want you to know that every stupid cliche you’ve ever heard is true and it is golden. I fall more in love with cliches every day. I’m writing this because I need to be reminded that it gets better. That life is not all or nothing. You will get better only to get worse again, to get right back up. Recovery is never a one time deal. It’s something you need to choose every day. I want you to know that there is so much in this life that you cannot control but there is still so much you can do. We do not get a say in the cards we are dealt, but we do get a say in how we choose to play them. I’m saying that you never know when things could get better. I’m saying that the day after I wanted to kill myself, I was at a Dunkin Donutes and my favorite band broke their year long hiatus and it made me cry because if I had killed myself, I never would have heard Nico And The Niners. I had no idea what beautiful things were in store for me.
And I want you to know that I am hopelessly optimistic again. Because my philosophy has had to change. Now, I really do believe that each day could be the best day of my life. The bad days and good days alike are all leading up to something beautiful. Your heart ache could be the thing that changes you. Or it could be your chronic illness. Or the day you found out your family member passed away. Or it could be the day you locked yourself in your bedroom because of your depression. Those days have the power to change everything. I think it’s pretty cool that each day we grow and change and you are not obligated to stay the same. Each day is it’s own. And you know, this will be a reminder to myself the next time I fall apart. Nothing lasts forever. Not happiness but also not pain. I’m learning to be okay with that. Every day is new.
So stay alive. Tomorrow could be the best day of your life