“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” -Booker T. Washington
When I was a junior in high school, I suffered a severe depressive episode (my diagnosed one) Entering my junior year of high school I was gearing up to be the student body president. I was in mostly advanced placement classes. I had set up an internship with USA Today. I was on the fast track to a good college. I was on the fast track to a good job. I was SET. Then my world crashed down around me. I stopped seeing the meaning in life. I felt an emptiness that I still can’t fully articulate.
I went from the honor roll to rolled up in the fetal position on my couch begging my parents not to make me go to school. I went from living life to the fullest to threatening to end it all. That was the first time I ever articulated my suicidal ideation. It wasn’t a cry for attention, but I was thankful for the attention that I did get. My parents and their friends basically watched over me. They ensured that I did not take any drastic action. I laid there crying, miserable, unable to move. Eventually with the help of caring teachers, my principal, family, friends and medical professionals, I got back on my feet. But my goals went from a 4.0 to making it through class without leaving in tears. I had a free pass to the guidance office…THANK GOODNESS. And my teachers knew just to excuse me, but I went from being a prized student to feeling like I should get a medal just for showing up.
I assumed the severe depressive episode would be the biggest mental health ordeal I would have to endure. That was until my severe psychotic break in college and the recovery. Once again my goals shifted from “successful” college student to showing up. I worked myself back to a productive state, but I never set any long-range goals for myself. I cast about without meaning. I floundered. I threw myself into the “here and now” with a reckless abandon that betrayed any sense of long-term vision or plan. There is nothing wrong with passion due the moment, but it was misdirected. I lied to myself. I said that I had written off five-year plans because my psychotic break had shaken me to my core. Really I was really just terrified to admit that I had lost any sense of a higher purpose. I had no calling. I had no cause greater than myself. I passed up opportunity after opportunity out of fear.
Eventually I got better. Eventually I healed. But it took time. My point is: It’s hard to see the summit when you are standing at the base of another mountain, but by setting manageable goals and getting used to achieving things again, you can at least start the climb. Bit by little bit, we get there. Bit by little bit we make progress, until that day when we look back down on where we were, amazed at all we’ve accomplished. It’s not about how long the journey is…it’s about starting it.
Thanks for reading,
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