Today marks a new chapter in my life. I have just moved to Rickmansworth in London and I feel so happy and comfortable here. After a year of restlessness and struggling, I sat on my bed this evening and felt so much peace. It was a couple of weeks into being ill with a viral infection, unable to do much else than potter around the house and eat nice yogurts and orange juice boxes, that I decided to pursue this journey- and I am so grateful that I did.
This year, on the whole, from September to July, has honestly been one of the worst periods in my life that I have had to live through. I’m not blaming anyone else, nor saying it was completely my fault either – but sometimes, difficult situations come up, and we will never quite understand the complexity of reasons why they did. It started when I decided to drop my masters. Although I feel that even before this, there was a stirring restlessness in my heart that feared moving on from student life, which encouraged a certain degree of hedonism.
This decision, although one that I am immensely glad that I made, plunged me into a deep restless uncertainty about my future. Not only this, but it brought with it many challenges, feelings of failure and self-doubt, even greater fear of the 9-5 (an idea which I had come to dread), and perhaps worst of all was the overwhelming feeling of isolation and loneliness. It disappeared in happy moments, and when I distracted myself with sports and going out. But at the end of the day when I went home and sat in my room, my heart would sink with the heaviness of it all.
I refused to move back home, much to my mother’s despair. In hindsight, I’m not sure whether this was the right decision, but I was determined to try my best to ‘not fail’ and to pick myself up in my own strength. In hindsight, I’m sad to say that I definitely was not as strong as I would have liked (or thought I was), but I did learn a lot in the process. I’m sure a lot of people would argue that you don’t need to put yourself in such situations of vulnerability to know your weaknesses.
But it proved to me that you never truly know how strong or weak you are until you are put in hot water. It taught me to never judge another person for their lifestyle of ways of coping with life, unless you have lived life in their shoes. Most importantly, I (as I have come to do a lot unfortunately) learnt the hard way of the pain and destructiveness of unhealthy ways of coping. I am happy that the season, if nothing else, has strengthened me to see these unhealthy ways of coping for what they really are, and to know to resist when hard times come knocking again.
It all came to a head when I told God ‘Lord if you want to change the situation I’m in, you need to do it because I can’t’. Following this, I became ill a number of times (I’d already been ill many times throughout the year with flu but this was something else). I got tonsillitis, followed by a terrible flu that had me in bed for a week. Then when I went to go home for a friend’s wedding just a short while later, I fell ill with a serious viral infection that the doctors thought was glandular fever. To cut a long story short, I lost my job at university, my relationship with my boyfriend fell through, my training hit a complete halt, and I was now being surrounded by loving family friends from church who were speaking truth and love to me (sometimes even when I didn’t see it that way- but I came around gradually).
When all these things happened, I went for about a month feeling very depressed. I felt like I had lost everything. I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore, and it was a very confusing and upsetting time. I was trying to filter through the ways different people viewed me to find the truth again about who I was, and often felt like I was always ending up nowhere that made sense. Oftentimes I’d sit in a dark room on my own, or just go to bed and curl up and stay there all day, or go on long walks. There were about three occasions when I had strong images of ending my life. I know that I would never have gone through with it, but somehow my mind wanted to entertain the idea. Really I think I wanted to escape the crazy emotions and pain I was feeling.
I’m not sure when things began to change. But I do know a few things that helped me. One thing that helped was having a headstrong mother. Although I resent it sometimes, she pushed me to cut out people in my life that were speaking words over my identity that wasn’t helpful or healthy for me. Hearing from friends who cared and still valued and loved me for me, was also very healing for me. And also talking to another friend who had been through very similar set of circumstances and destructive ways of coping was like a lifeline! I learnt from this that you are not what your actions define you to be, but you are who you choose to be. You can always choose, even if it threatens your self-esteem and forces you to see parts of your behaviour or past negatively. It may seem like giving in, but actually it’s one of the most courageous things you can do.