It’s 10 AM on Wednesday morning, and I’m about to head into my weekly lesson with my trombone professor. I am a third-year music education major with a recital coming up in a month, yet for some reason that day, that was the only thing that I did not have on my mind. It was stuck in the past.
The previous semester had been rough, admittedly the worst semester I’ve had in my life. Not always because the classes, which were hard, but all the little extra things that occurred with them on the side. These things ranged from out of class mentorings, coming to terms about my uncertainty of the future (aka the should I or shouldn’t I decisions being made about me keeping an English minor), knee problems, excessive fatigue, and then a person that I let hurt me in ways I never would have imagined.
Now I know the last one may seem pretty specific and dramatic in the scope of things, but I learned just how much of an impact a person can have on you in such a short time. That 10 AM lesson marked months of that same impact and that impact seemed like it was permanently built into my brain. I was beginning to reflect, and I didn’t want to. I had to rehearse. I had other things to do. But my brain doesn’t work like that. It demands to be heard and at whatever time or cost, whether I want it to or not.
I also went to see a therapist last semester, after taking what I thought would be a very long hiatus from my visits from the previous spring. I was very wrong. So then with those appointments I learned that what I was dealing with with my mind and self was actually something common that many other people like me were also experiencing. Depression, while so common, occurring and millions and millions of people, is a real butt-kicker. Yet it made so much sense when I was talking with my therapist. It explained almost everything, yet it gave me a label. It’s ironic; I hate labels almost just as much as I hate feeling the way the label explains things to be. It did and still does so much to me; it makes me want to say everything and absolutely nothing all at once. But mostly, it took what should’ve just been a tough semester, and made it a personal inner hell. I found so much darkness within me that I never knew I had. I felt like a completely different person because of it; I still feel like different person because of it. So therefore, instead of withholding all of the contents of my brain’s “junk-drawer” within me, it’s time to dump it all out. So at 10 AM, when I twist the door handle into a roughly 10‘ x 12‘ office space to rehearse an Arthur Pryor piece, this, my story, begged to come out…
It had felt like forever since I can remember last time I did not feel like this; feeling normal isn’t a familiar concept to me. But I can pinpoint exactly where things began to escalate. In the spring of 2016, I had a person blindside me and make me feel as if they cared more about me than they actually did. Regardless of what you’re going through this kind of thing already sucks. I lost a friendship, but as a result I don’t think either one of us realized just how much the “conflict” messed with my own self worth. Then fast forward to that summer. I got over what that person did to me, but this lingering feeling of mediocrity swept over me. I would feel down and exhausted but I had no reason to. I logged long hours at my summer job to keep me busy, and while I hated it because of what it was, I loved it because it served as a distraction. Then at the end of July, I attended a conference that today impacts me heavily in my music education philosophies. But while I was there, I was so unhappy. I wanted to be alone all the time and I just felt broken down. I came home a week later having enjoyed the conference, but also feeling like I couldn’t experience it like I wanted to. My feelings of unhappiness and worthlessness prohibited me from participating fully.
Once I was back to school I had to assume my role as a section leader in my college’s marching band. It was a lot of responsibility at once (which I already knew to anticipate, but still) and then before I knew it I was going back into the familiar fall semester routine. I was making new friends luckily, and I got to know this one person very closely and it seemed like for just a few short days that things were looking up. Me and this person got into a relationship and I felt so lucky. I felt like I also would have somebody there for me to support me when these feelings were to come back again. And he did. He said he was there for me and he made me feel valued. Now that I look at it, I feel like he was only saying those things because he knew that was what I wanted to hear. Because let’s be honest, those kind of things are the things that we all want to hear deep down.
I wish that I could leave it right there. It had started off so well despite my mood and at the time that’s what I thought was the worst I could handle because I at least had a support system. But then he started to act different, and my anxiety got in the way. I questioned things, but then I would face this backlash for doing so. And then I would feel guilty, and this led to me making an apology that I shouldn’t have had to make. All of this was going on while my mood had been getting worse, probably aided by stressful semester and an unspoken relationship pressure. I wasn’t exactly satisfied with it anymore, but I thought it was something that could be pushed past; it would get better. But then I can distinctly remember a phone call when he told me “I can’t be around somebody who brings me down“ and it just took my breath away. It seemed as if I had a choice to be happy and that was a very unfair choice for me to make; it wasn’t even a choice, I was unhappy whether I liked it or not. I had never felt like such a burden like I did in that moment. And I made excuses for it. I blamed myself instead of questioning this response. It didn’t seem to be the response somebody who climbed have cared for me as much as they did. He had his own problems as well, but mine were treated like a prime issue.
This relationship ended a few weeks later. And it tore me up. Not because of the value I had in it, but in the way in but she was handled. I’ve never questioned an interpersonal connection like that before.
After that I had the rest of the semester to go, and I never knew how hard it was just to accomplish simple things when I felt as badly as I did. I started to shut down just a little. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to classes and sometimes even skipped them. I would just randomly break down throughout the day and kept a little log to jot down how I was feeling when I felt anything. I had nearly eighty entries. I kept up with my persistent perfectionism and it became an awful enemy. I was never good enough for myself and I felt like my feelings were unfortunately getting validated. My professors knew something was going on with me but they had no idea how bad it really got. I was tired. I felt like the way I was feeling was hurting other people. And then it would just cycle from there.
And then I got a concussion in November and I wasn’t feeling right physically. I had no energy, headaches, and couldn’t focus myself as well as I used to. I kind of lost momentum when I needed to pick it up. I had exams, a jury, and a huge capstone paper to write. Writing a capstone paper when you can’t focus by the way is super difficult and an experience I don’t want to have again. But do you know what the funny thing was? I didn’t want to exert and it was so difficult yet I made it out with the best academic rankings and grades of my life. The price was just far too steep.
I started seeing my therapist yet again weeks after Christmas. The holidays were also just awful for me. I spent Christmas Eve in bed. Everything I did left me feeling the label of “meh.” I never thought that I would get out of this rut. It would take a while but things slowly started to improve to a point. Not exactly a point I want to be at but a better one than the one I was at in November. So I see a therapist. I try to socialize or do something I want every once in a while. When I have a bad day, I come home and try to sleep it off. I try to take care of myself because I had neglected to.
All the way up until today, I am starting to take these experiences as a series of lessons. I deal with what I deal with, but I can try my hardest to not let it define me. I have learned that my greatest supporter has to be myself, and I am enough. It is so incredibly hard for me to act on that but at least I can recognize it. I have learned that I do not always have to apologize for everything, and that it is okay to stick up for yourself. I have also learned that I am not, and I will never be alone. The amount of support that I’ve gotten from those who have known my experiences has been amazing. For that I am very grateful. There are millions and millions of people who face similar struggles, and we all have to be there for one another. There is love and compassion in support.
Last of all, I would like to explain a little bit more as to why I am writing this and sharing this with you. I have learned that being open and vulnerable can be a good thing, and it’s okay to not be okay. I want people to know that is the case for me. And plus, if I’ve seemed a little weird lately this is probably why. I’ve been advised to be more open about how I’m feeling; this is me trying.
Or I’m just sleep deprived, because after all I am a college student with a recital coming up and many more 10 AM lessons to attend.
Never take crap from anyone. You deserve the best. Surround yourself with people who truly care for you and support you. It’s okay to care for yourself. And it’s okay to not always be okay. Love one another and be supportive. Don’t ever put anyone down. Your health comes first. And you will thank yourself in the long run.