January 28th, 2011 will forever be marked as a day my life changed forever. After a long and hard journey, I walked out of my college dorm room and never returned.
Choosing to leave school was the hardest decision I have ever made-still, to this day, it is. I had two parents who had a child by 20, yet managed to finish their degrees and there I was; “too sad” to finish the higher education I had worked so hard for.
Leaving college was also the best choice I’ve ever made.
I left after I had fallen into a rabbit hole of mental health struggles, ones I simply couldn’t overcome alone at school, three hours away from everything I knew and loved. To put it in the simplest terms, I wasn’t safe at school any longer. I came home, had a talk with my parents, and it was decided I wouldn’t be returning that semester. I was going to take it off as a medical leave.
I sometimes wish I could go back and tell myself five things I’ve learned in the five years since I left. I can’t now, but I can share them with y’all and hope someday if another person is struggling as I did, they have the ability to hear it from a person who had been in that valley.
1. Don’t rush to go back just because you are “supposed to.” I know when you hit rock bottom, you want to snap your fingers and be back to great in a few hours, days if necessary, but you may not. I didn’t jump back into normal the day I moved home. And I was not going to be able to go back to school in that next year; I still sometimes wonder when I’ll be able to go back!
2. Give yourself grace. Seriously. Do it. Allow yourself to fail, allow yourself to backslide. Ask for help when you need it. You deserve every chance and by withholding grace from yourself, you are denying those chances.
3. You are the one who hates yourself-you can try and try to say everyone else does, but they don’t. They love you-you’re the one who doesn’t love you. I know how alone you feel. I truly do. I know that no matter how many friends or family members who tell you they love you, you don’t believe it. They do. You are the only one who hates you. They are there to help you and they want you safe, secure, and happy.
4. God still loves you too. Stop trying to run from Him. When I was at my lowest, it was no surprise I had no relationship with Jesus and I had completely walked away from my faith. With all the things getting well again brought me, that’s what mattered the most. But I had to come to terms with the fact that no matter how deserted I felt, no matter how alone I thought I was, or how much distance I believed God had put between us; I was the one who made that canyon. He had never left me. And He never will leave you.
5. It gets better. That was my least favorite thing to hear when I was in that desperate place. I thought no one who dared say that had ever been where I was. But here I am, telling you yes. I have been there. And it truly does get better. Five years ago I had to leave school. Today, I sit here with my five kids, one more on the way, washing dishes while my husband plays with our youngest son. That may not happen for you, it may not be what you want. But you will not always be in that horrible valley. It truly does get better.
Now, today, I’m looking back on the past five years and I am proud of how far I’ve come. I’m proud of who I’ve become. I no hate myself for all those things I had been through; I no longer dread each day. I have been so blessed to overcome what took me away from what I believed was my dream five years ago. Everyday isn’t easy-no matter how far I come, I will always have a mental illness(or well a few!). But it’s been amazing to become who I was always meant to be.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please try to help them with finding a safe place or person to talk to. If you’re struggling, please reach out to someone. I will say again-it can get better. I promise.