Since I was very young I can remember feeling out of place, like I didn’t belong. That feeling of maybe I shouldn’t be here started long before I could even ride a bike. I thought I was weird, I thought something was wrong with me, always anxious, always worrying about every little thing in life.
As I grew so did my anxiety and those thoughts of not belonging. The nights turned into restless pain filled hours of crying into my pillow, but what I really didn’t understand was why I was crying. I couldn’t explain it, I just hurt. Everyday felt like I was drowning in front of a room full of people and no one noticed I was choking and gasping for air. Every day felt like I was barely keeping my head above water and every else was enjoying the sunshine. Every night I wished for something as I cried into my pillow, I wished I wouldn’t wake up. I wished that maybe this would be the night I could close my eyes and never open them again. Why? Why did I feel this way, why couldn’t I explain how I felt? I couldn’t I ask for help because I didn’t know what to ask for. I didn’t know that what I was going through was indeed very normal and many people suffer from this exact pain.
I remember my mom knew something was off with me, and she would ask “are you ok?” “What’s the matter ?” All I could reply was “I’m just tired Mom” but inside I was screaming help me mom, my mind begged and pleaded with itself to just tell someone, anyone. I wanted to tell my best friend, but I felt like I couldnt talk about my thoughts of wanting death and wanting to commit suicide because she had lost an uncle to suicide and it was incredibly painful for her and her family. How could I bring up the fact that I wanted to put a bullet in my head and leave this world all together when I saw the pain she had gone through with her uncle? Silence. I never spoke of it, I kept all those thoughts to myself and let them churn into something very very dark. I leaned on music, sad songs, things that reflected the pain I felt inside, I thrives in those sad songs and moments.
Years went by the pain grew from not just a mental hurt but a physical one. My chest ached with the pain I felt in my head, I didn’t understand it, I couldn’t explain it and I continued to wonder what was wrong with me. It was numbing, the pain started to feel all the same and the normalcy set it. After hurting for all those years it started to feel like home.
I just wanted it all to end, I wanted to call it quits on life and never look back. But I didn’t.
I graduated high school, packed my bags and pain up for college. Off I went. My first semester I decided to take a class in mental illness, I thought maybe I could figure out what wrong wrong with me. I did. For the first time in my life I heard the word depression, crazy right? It fit like a long lost puzzle piece put together with its missing counterparts.
The words the professor spoke, dug right down the deepest darkest part of my soul, pointed at it and said “You are depressed not broken” and for the first time in my life I felt a piece of happiness inside, A piece of hope, a glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel. I cried that night as I always did, but I cried knowing things were going to be ok, my professor acknowledged the hurt, dubbed my pain “depression” and for the first time I felt something besides the numbing pain.
My professor walked through all the realms of depression and anxiety and expressed she herself suffers from both. I felt every bit of what she said, she gave me reason to live from that point forward. I had purpose, I had the will, I had hopes of getting better. For the first time ever the darkness of nights didn’t seem so bad, there was comfort in the pain knowing what it was and I wasn’t suffering alone.
The very last day of class our professor wanted to play a song, she stated that when she hears it, it gives her a glimmer of hope even during her darkest days.
She played Lee Ann Womacks “I hope you dance”
There were snickers and eye rolls in the class, someone mutter “you’ve got to be kidding me” right then and there I realized the stigma of mental illness and that I very well could be the only one taking the class for the sole reason of finding an answer for my pain. In that moment I felt alone again, and then the professor shouted “please Don’t joke about this, please listen to the lyrics!”
“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance. Livin’ might mean takin' chances but they're worth takin'
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth makin'. Don't let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter. When you come close to sellin' out reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance, I hope you dance”
I sat in the middle of the class and held back tears, I understood why she played the song even though others couldn’t connect. I felt every bit of my pain in the moment escape.
Class ended. I wanted to walk up to her and tell her what I had been going through and that she saved my life. I stood packing my books for much longer than required. My heart pounded, I walked up and said thank you, great class. She smiled, and I walked away holding onto my pain as I always did.
It’s been 10 years since that moment. And I still regret not telling my professor everything. I still hold onto my pain but have since been able to speak to my husband, mom, and numerous friends for support. The pain still creeps in from time to time, but I’m coping far better now than as a child/young adult.
Now every time I hear that song, I smile. I smile knowing everything is going to be ok. The impact that song had on myself was unforgettable. I think back on my class and the professor who spoke volumes and literally saved my life & She doesn’t even know it, I wished she did. And I still wished I could have told her how much that class meant to me, because of her I now have 4 beautiful daughters, a great job, I write and publish children’s book for fun and wonderful husband who supports me to no end and most of all I have found my purpose in life all because of her.
To anyone suffering from mental illness, there is no one more badass than someone who has to battle their own mind every damn day, be brave even on your darkest days, you got this.
Mental Health survivor/warrior