The difference a year can make

Posted by on March 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm.

One year ago today was the worst day of my life.

St. Patrick’s Day has always been a great day for me. The “P” in JPS stands for Patrick, and I’m named after the Holiday more than the Saint — though I’ve always been a pretty big fan of the Saint, too.

I’m wearing the same clothes today I wore last year, and it’s pretty much been the same since I was in high school. I wear my skinny green tie with shamrocks that I stole from my father along with jeans, a white shirt and my cowboy boots. To accessorize, I have a green baseball player’s belt and my green soccer socks, really driving home the color.

It’s such a happy outfit and an outfit that I wear year round. But it is only on St. Patrick’s Day that I never catch any flak for it. I appreciated that more than usual last St. Patrick’s Day because I had plenty else to catch flak for.

One year ago today was the most depressed and the most out of control I have ever been.

For weeks, I hadn’t been sleeping well. I would lie in bed, worrying about what I was supposed to be doing, worrying about being in a long-distance relationship, worrying about how messy my room was, worrying about looking for a job. Until finally, I would climb out of bed and — play a video game. Or watch a movie or play a game of Risk against myself.

The whole time I was doing that, trying to distract myself from whatever was keeping me up, I felt guilty about it. But every time I tried to put down my game and work on my homework, I thought I should be looking for a job instead. I felt so behind that trying to catch up seemed pointless and nothing I could do was right.

And when I finally did get to sleep, at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, my alarm would go off to get me to class at 9 or to work at 10. I always managed to get out of bed for work, even if I was a little late, but not always for class.

On March 17, 2010, I woke up at 11 a.m. feeling tired and under-rested. I looked at the alarm clock, which was off (something I’d probably done in a zombie-like motion a few hours before), and realized that I had slept through the second half of a group project presentation.

I screamed, I yelled, I freaked out, I checked my phone to verify that my alarm clock was right, and I cried.

Crying has never been something I’m afraid to do, but unless I am physically hurt, I usually only shed a few tears, feel very upset, but never really let go. That morning, I cried in a way I can’t remember having done since I was a kid.

After weeks — months, really — of struggling and ignoring problems that I kind of knew I was having, maybe, I reached out for help. I called my mother. I called Jean. I called my therapist.

I spent the next week trying to tell people what happened. I had to tell friends, colleagues and teachers. Some just because I needed to talk about it, and some because I needed to offer an explanation for how I’d been behaving and performing. It was hard.

Even though I’d known I had depression, that doesn’t make it easy to accept what it does to you. I thought that if I blamed my not showing up to my presentation on the depression, then it was me trying to shirk the responsibility. I didn’t think it was fair that just because my head didn’t work right that I could some kind of a pass.

It’s a fine, zig-zagging line that I was struggling a lot with, but my friends and family helped me decide what parts were my fault and which parts weren’t. That’s what it came down to — I had some fault in everything, but not full fault. Even writing it now, I feel like I’m trying to get out of trouble and blaming my errors on something else.

One conversation I had with a teacher  really helped me to frame exactly what was happening, and has helped me move forward and accept that I’m not JUST blaming something else. I had to drop a bunch of work I’d agreed to do for a student group, and I knew that it would set that group back a lot. I sent the supervising teacher a very vague and very form-like letter explaining what I needed to drop the work.

After the next time I had her class, she double-checked with me to make sure she knew how much I had finished and what still needed to happen. It was most of the project and I felt terrible about it. She told me that she understood people were busy and that it was a hectic time but that what I was doing was “very not cool.” I agreed and apologized. I felt awful.

I decided she deserved a better explanation. Not just because I wanted her to like me or because I couldn’t stand her thinking that I was just “too busy,” though that was part of it. I needed her to know that I knew exactly how much harder I made her life and how much I regretted it.

We met in her office and I told her the whole story, more than I had told any of my other teachers. She never backed down about how awful it was that I dropped the assignment. But she told me she understood. She appreciated the difficulty of my situation and she helped me accept that as much as it wasn’t cool, it was what I had to do.

I don’t remember if I cried much in her office, but I know I was close. I can’t pinpoint exactly the words either of us said, but I remember the emotions and relief I felt. We didn’t talk long, but she somehow helped me understand more about myself and about my struggles than any amount of talking to myself, my therapist or my parents ever managed to do.

When I walked out of her office, I knew I still had a lot of work to fix my problems and that I’d be working every day for the rest of my life to keep fixing those problems, but I also walked out of her office finally believing that I could.

One Comment

  • Andrew says:

    Ahhh… The power, the influence of an understanding educator. That’s really what #Education and #Life should be about… “To be understood, as to understand” -St. Francis of Assisi-

    I am glad that she was so generous enough to help you in ways that she probably will never know that she did.

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