Sleep Walking

These past couple months almost feel like they never even happened. It’s like a dream. A recurring one. I remember it well enough, but it’s still fuzzy around the edges. I feel like I’ve been asleep since last June. Nothing I’ve done was really real or mattered, even though it did and it does.

I suppose that’s what depression is. Sleep walking through life. Sometimes you have nightmares. Sometimes you have beautiful golden dreams—only to realize that they were clouds on the wind. But mostly it’s just dark and grey. And you can never quite pinpoint where you got there or just how long you’ve been there.

Waking up hurts so bad. It is a deep and painful ache that finds its way from your lungs to your fingertips. It is the worst part. But if you remember to stretch your atrophied limbs and walk off the numbness in your hips—you can find the vividity and veritude of waking life. It might not be the golden dream of a sleep walker, but it’s real and awake.

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An Open Letter to my Friends, Family, Colleagues and Peers

I am withdrawing from the semester.

For some of you this may come as a shock, others a disappointment, and a few may have seen this coming.

While I am very close to graduating this semester, (as many of you have been so obnoxiously reminding me) my grades have suffered because of my battle with depression and anxiety. It got to the point where not only did I not feel capable of salvaging my grades, but I no longer had the motivation to try.

That’s the thing with depression. Motivation and excitement and desire dry up. I lost 10 lbs in two weeks. The majority of my caloric intake was alcohol.  I got sicker and smaller, forgetting the people and things I used to love. This was my February.

I would like to say for the record, that even though this crisis was triggered by a break up, I was depressed long before I met that person. I do not blame him for my depression and anxiety. We crossed paths at a very fragile time. It could have been anyone and I would have shattered just as sharply. I wish him the best.

Making the choice to withdraw from the semester has been one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made. It was not one that was made lightly. This is not me giving up on school—this is me recognizing that I am important. My mental health is more important than graduating on time. Sure, I could try and finish out the semester—but at what cost?

Before I made this choice I hoped that I would get hit by a car every day so that I would have a “legitimate” excuse to withdraw. After deciding to withdraw, I’m able to get out of bed. My anxiety is gone. I am no longer paralyzed because I have control over my future again. I have a feeling that my depression will never leave me completely, but it’s like a buzzing sound—one that I’m able to tune out after hearing it for so long. Now that I’m sitting here writing, the buzz has begun to fade into the distance.

Now, since I’ve started telling people that I’m withdrawing I’ve gotten some of the same questions over and over again so here’s a quick FAQ section:

Q: Are you sure????

A: Yes. I have discussed this decision with multiple counselors through UHS, two advisors and an academic dean. This is not a severe case of Senoritis.

Q: Are you dropping out?

A: No. I will be returning in the fall to finish my degree.

Q: Are you going back to LA for the summer until next fall?

A: No. I will be staying in Madison for the remainder of the semester and through the summer.

Q: What will you be doing instead of class?

A: I’m looking for a job in Madison. I’ll let you know when I get one. Other than that, I’ve been writing a lot (submitting to ThoughtCatalog.com), learning ukulele with my main girl Alana, and even learning a bit of code through Codeacademy.com.

Q: How can I support you?

A: 1) Please don’t question my choice to withdraw, trust my ability to make  decisions for myself. 2) Talk to me, if you feel comfortable doing so. Even if it’s just a text, lunch or catching up over coffee. Spending time with people I care about makes me feel much, much better. 3) If you’re uncomfortable with my decision, or think that you’ve got too much on your own plate to have me involved in your life, please take care of yourself. I won’t be offended.

Last but not least, I would like to ask that everyone remember that mental illnesses are legitimate ailments and that we treat them as such.

For my sisters, brothers, and otherwise identified siblings who are experiencing mental illness, remember that you are important. And that I believe in you.

 UHS Mental Health Crisis Line: 608-265-5600

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

-Hailey