A year ago I decided to leave my masters and it nearly devastated me. My whole life I told myself that higher education would be my path and everything I did worked towards that moment. Late nights at university, overloading courses every semester, countless extracurricular activities for my CV and losing my sanity on more than one occasion. I studied everything and anything I could in pursuit of greater education and “brain expansion”. And there I was working towards a master’s degree and somehow I then found myself leaving, turning down and walking away from something I dreamed of and worked towards my entire life.
I returned home to find almost everyone else’s life in disarray at the same time. My best friend lost a parent and it rightly so turned her life and everyone close to her’s life upside down. My brother was in a perpetual spiral of sickness and depression about having no current life focus. My mom was dealing with her own demons and struggles as she continued to try to launch an amazing movement and create a life of happiness. Rye was finishing his masters, struggling to find a job and broke. My friends left and right were having breakdowns as they struggled to find jobs, purpose or deal with some life event.
And there I was in the middle of all of it, not only was my life shattered when I left my masters but everyone I love was crumbling around me and coming to me with it all looking for some solace. I have always been the fixer, in all my relationships, the stable one who has put others before me and the rock to stay strong when they can no longer support the weight of the world on their own shoulders.
So I made the decisions (whether it was the right one or not) to put everything in my life aside, to not focus on my own problems but instead help and try to fix everyone else around me. This was not some selfless act that I had decided to do, no it was the only way I could cope with no longer having a purpose in this world and being absolutely broken by my own life. But also and more so, looking at the problems of the ones I love, mine seemed so insignificant. I walked away from a Masters by choice, my own choice, no one around me thought this was something significant and I would bounce back because I always bounce back. I’m the strong one and maybe they were true.
Yet here I am, a year later and nothing is fixed. Maybe I am hypocritical for being the strong one for everyone else when my life is in ruins, but sometimes it seems to me that the strongest people are those that struggle the most. I keep looking for a way to tell those I have helped and been strong for that the weight of this world is too much for me to hold and I need a rock, but I can never find the words or the right time. And I keep looking at those I love and their struggles and mine seem nothing in comparison. If my identity is not built by higher education then it is being the strong one, the fixer and I am not sure what I have left when that is gone.
I am writing this because depression is not pretty or glamorous, it does not always make a great story or a feature film. It is constant exhaustion, fed by 4 hours of sleep a night and trying to explain why you can’t close your eyes and face your demons anymore. It is functional, getting up every day for work and forcing a smile so that those around you aren’t worried or upset. It is the obligation to be happy and strong for others while being ripped apart inside. It is guilt for your problems, while they are minuscule to those around you and hating yourself for your own self-indulgence. It is lying, to everyone and unexplainable anger towards those you love. It is hate for those not understanding your life and blame for never telling them. Depression for me is normal on the outside with the world thinking I am a bit more callous lately while being completely shattered and destroyed on this inside.
I am not entirely sure why I have written this post beyond needing to put the words out there, maybe this will lend help for someone else to know that they are not alone and that even the strong ones struggle sometimes. I know I will continue to help everyone and anyone I can, but I also know that this time I will help myself; this next year I will be stronger because of all of this.