I'm not sure how many of you were aware of the hectic semester I've had (my mother and her phone call history are certainly aware). Normally, I'd stay quiet about it and continue to use my mother as free therapy. But because of a sweet and heart-felt testimony from a young woman in my ward, I want to share it with anyone who wants to read and share in the solidarity of college-student stress. My woes and tragedies are not uncommon. Mostly, I want to share what I've learned from this experience in the hopes that it might help one of you, should you be in the same situations.
For starters, my ADHD came back with a vengeance. We all joke about how, on a scale of 1 to 10 I'm a--LOOK A SQUIRREL! But do any of you actually know how frustrating it is to not be able to control your mind? You're on a horse that you can't bridle and more often than not, that horse thinks today's a great day to try base jumping. Guess it's time to get over that fear of heights, eh?
What's more, I got to experience the crashing waves of apathy that accompany a special strand of depression. This special strand usually hits Return Missionaries as they notice and struggle with the bumpy ride that is transitioning. If you're as good a missionary as you ought to be and you give it all you got, you know that when you come home… you don't have much left to you anymore. You have to rebuild yourself. It's especially difficult because receiving revelation is much different when your stewardship is just yourself and not an entire city anymore. Decisions to life questions don't exactly come every hour on the hour. Being away from the spirit is hard.
If you combine the inability to focus and incredible apathy that turns your brain into sludgy molasses, do you know what you get? ANXIETY. I'd been stressed before in the past. I've had my fair share of panic attacks. But persistent anxiety was a new ball-game for me. Every day, I felt 5 minutes away from a break down. I had to "conceal, don't feel, don't let them know" because life had to go on and I had to take care of people or do some schoolwork or go to sleep. You know, human stuff. Anxiety evolves into panic, panic turned into terror and pretty soon, I faced a lot of sleepless nights and a belief that any moment, my heart would rip out of my ribcage and my eyeballs would explode like a balloon that'd been filled up with too much helium.
That's a less than pretty sight for anyone.
In summation, I felt like this:
This time, I'm not exaggerating for the funzies. I've never seen a more perfect allegory of this semester. Each week felt like the shock of an axe in my door as I was backed up to the wall with no way out, too weak to brandish a knife for protection. Literally, just living on a prayer.
Throw in a dash of drama from late night rehearsals, boys, schoolwork, wanting to be a better friend than I had been and I'm really serious about the eyeball-exploding, heart-bursting scenario described before.
And yet, remarkably, my eyeballs are in tact and my heart has made no violent, sudden movements towards the surface of my skin.
So how does one do it? Without medication for any of the three ailments, no counselor and the constant feeling of isolation, I can confidently say: #divineintervention.
For anybody who feels me on this level, I want to share how I got out. Am getting out. It's an on-going process.
I started by making a list of everything I wanted to do-- this year, next year, next next year-- and then eliminated everything that was not being helpful. I made goals and set some plans. My list included things like:
-don't drop out of college
-eat more protein
-go to bed before 1am
-go running for at least a half hour
This is not the definitive list…
As I eliminated stressors, things began to change. School was still very stressful and I still marvel at the 8th wonder of the modern universe that is my GPA and how the heck did I achieve one so high with so beat up a brain. BUT. I laughed a lot more. I was making it whole days being happy instead of singular hours of the day. And then, something wonderful happened.
Like I said before, as a Returned Missionary, you don't need the Lord following quite as closely as behind you as you did before. But if I learned anything on my mission, it's that when the crap hits the fan, the WORST thing you could do is sacrifice your spirituality. I knew that it's worth it to read your scriptures instead of sleep in. I know that you can't afford to NOT pray every night. I testify that were it not for weekly temple attendance, I would not have been able to do this. You guys, I need those covenants because if I didn't have them, then I really would have done this whole semester alone. But I tried my very best to be a good girl and I was not forgotten for my meager efforts.
I see the beauty of the Lord's plan. I'm sure He enjoyed this roller coaster as much as I did, if not a little less. I can say with resounding surety that the Lord has not left me alone. Not even for an instance. I put into force the idea that my God was greater than my trials. I trusted Him enough to get up and try every day. I made my way through my daily To Do lists and said prayers every second of it. I prayed for anger and bitterness to be washed away. I prayed for the mental capacity to not fail my assignments. I prayed for the physical strength to get out of bed. There were so many times when I thought that, maybe because I wasn't a missionary anymore, I wasn't of use or importance to God and maybe I was on my own for realsies. And then stuff would happen like I'd get a second wind or a friend would call me up to get me to the temple. I've seen a lot of signs and miracles that God is there and has been there, the first and foremost being that I wasn't hit with lightning. The Lord listened to every prayer-- petty and pathetic or emotional and heart-broken. 5 minutes or a half an hour.
In the wake of the destruction of this semester, I found out that I'm unbreakable. Wounded, of course. Hurting, always. There are days when I can't keep my eyes open and I want to bash in the hood of a car with Mjolnir. Even now, I'm up with insomnia and I feel clawed open by a large and undomesticated cat. But there's literally no force on earth that could keep me down, out, and quiet.
Parting thought: a lot of us are afraid of something. I was afraid of everything. I found a way to stop being afraid; I stopped giving a good gosh crap. I didn't have to care, God was taking care of it, all I had to do was put my head down and just keep MOVING. Moving FORWARD. My attitude was that of "TO HELL WITH FEELING SUCKY, I WILL NOT."(pardon my French.) I've kicked and fought my way here, I'll surely make it there. I'm pretty sure I can do anything. In fact, I know I can handle anything. I don't give in to the sadness, I don't give in to the negative thinking. I want to because wouldn't it just be easier to float down the river? But it'll be a delightful day in Hell when I give in to the enemy of my soul.
Of course, none of the empowering things I've said can take away the pain. We will all still be hurting. Often on the floor, bent over in pain. In this Easter season, I'm grateful for the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ for a different reason. Usually, I'm grateful because it means I can drop the load of sins I've been carrying. This Easter, I'm grateful because I'm starting to get what it means to take His yoke upon us. It's still a weight, but I have the Son of God to pull that with me. There is no one who understands me better and there is no one as loyal as He. He has stood by and will continue to stand with me. I know that I could not survive were it not for Him.
So! How do I feel, at the coming of the close of a brutal semester? Hit it, Henley.