I’ve often been asked what the biggest lesson I’ve learned in life is. And for a really long time, I had no real answer. But looking back at 23, I’ve realized that biggest lesson I’ve learned is that life doesn’t stop for anything or anyone.
Unfortunately though, when I was at my worst…I wanted life to stop. I didn’t want to keep going.
I always heard that college was the time that you meet your best friends and make your best memories, but for me it turned into a nightmare I didn’t know how to wake up from.
As I watched everyone around me seemingly coast through college, it felt like I was the only one struggling. Things that had once seemed so promising and welcoming quickly dissolved into feelings of suffocation and terror.
To make things worse, I think for a long time I didn’t even realize my mental and physical health were deteriorating. And it wasn’t fully apparent to others, until one day at dance practice.
It was an out of body experience, in the moment it felt like my shadow had stepped out from behind me and was reaching its’ hand out to help me, but somehow I just couldn’t make contact with myself.
That night was like any other practice. I was tired and sore, but I knew we had to keep going. And I guess that mental pressure I put on myself to keep going is what destroyed me. I must have been suffering from extreme exhaustion and I know I had stopped eating well at that point…but what I thought was just the fear of messing up had turned into me hyperventilating in the middle of practice, and finally being dragged out by one of the girls watching.
I can still hear the desperation in my voice, and feel the terror in my bones as I literally felt myself fall apart. That night was one of many nights where I went back to my dorm, climbed into bed, and forced the covers over my head so my roommate couldn’t hear me cry.
I beat myself up about it. “Why was everyone able to do it?” “What was wrong with me?”
But I couldn’t find any answers, or anyone to tell my true feelings to. While others around me celebrated the end of freshman year, I simply prayed for the pain to stop.
When sophomore year came, I thought maybe keeping to myself would make things better. In the beginning, I would simply go between class and my dorm, immediately locking my door and getting into bed, pulling my covers over my head.
It’s actually strange, you know? As children, we’re often afraid of the “monsters” under our beds. But for me, it had turned into a situation where even putting the blanket over my head didn’t make the monsters disappear like they were supposed to.
These new monsters were different. They lived in my mind, and destroyed from the inside out. Mentally, I had withered away almost completely. But physically, it was only now that I realized how bad things had gotten after I stepped on a scale.
Ninety five stared back at me, until the numbers turned into a blur of black inky nothingness. I had always been tiny, but at 19 years old…I hadn’t ever been underweight.
That day, when I looked in the mirror I finally saw what everyone around me must have been seeing. My collar bones stuck out, and my face looked thinner than I could ever remember it being.
That night, I curled up on the floor and sobbed while my roommates had gone out for the night. At this point, not only did I feel ugly and weak…I was scared to death.
But that fear led to even worse. I thought the only way to end the pain was to end me, my existence. And so I did try. But I couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. I know now that it was because I never wanted to actually die. I just wanted the suffering to end. I wanted the monsters out from under my bed, so I could sleep in peace.
After two years of feeling defeated, lonely, and lost…one day after digging through my night stand at home, I found a journal my friend had given me years earlier. And sitting in a corner of my room, I began to pour my pain out and lock them up in that little fortress I had created.
It took ages for things to really get better, but eventually the words I had initially used to build walls became stepping stones to find myself again.
The days progressed, with ink stained hands that turned into sore fingers from typing in the notes section of my phone. I slowly began opening up to the world around me, sharing things I had written on my social media.
And then curiosity took the wheel. At this point, for many weeks I had been seeing ads from a website called the Odyssey Online popping up everywhere. So one day, I decided to fill out an application thinking nothing would happen.
About a month later, I heard back from their team. And that became my first position as a writer. From there, I continued writing on my social media and eventually ran into Brown Girl Magazine. I was intrigued again, and decided to take another risk. For four months, I heard nothing and at that point I assumed that nothing had come out of it. But then, another email…I was officially a staff writer at Brown Girl Magazine.
It’s been almost two years since then. And in those two years, I managed to build myself back up. I’m no longer terrified of being alive. In fact, I’m so happy to be alive. Because had I not, I wouldn’t have been who I am now. Not only am I still a writer at Brown Girl Magazine, but also lead editor of the Brown Girl/Brown Boy of the Month series. I’ve also been blessed with amazing opportunities such as being published on the Huffington Post, as well the Washington Post.
I also became a mental health advocate. I currently serve as Development Chair of Outreach at MannMukti, and recently joined I AM SHAKTI as part of Strategy, Creative Content, and Public Relations.
Had I decided to end my life, none of what I’ve accomplished till date would have ever happened. That’s not to say my life is perfect now. It’s not, and I struggle much of the time even still.
But I’ve found reasons to keep going, and now I w
ant to keep going.
If you’re struggling yourself and you’re reading this as a complete stranger, I want you to know that light is at the end of the tunnel. It may seem like you’re stuck there forever, but I promise that light is in the place you least expect it to be. Inside you. Hold it up, and let it be your flashlight.