Early this year, the daunting weight of my rapidly approaching graduation atop the immense pressure of continuing to do well in school in an online format came tumbling down on me in the most destructive way possible. Granted, I was still doing well in all of my classes, maintaining a GPA close to 4.0, but I was also trying to maintain a healthy relationship with the new people around me. This feeling of loneliness, of not meeting new people and the weight of my family’s expectations, became unbearable all of a sudden. It felt impossible to meet people at university after moving to a new state right before the pandemic shut everything down.
I have gone to therapy in the past for familial issues, partly for my parents divorce around 5th grade. But I didn’t take therapy seriously after these ‘mental health professionals’ would pass me around to different therapists because my situation was too much for them to deal with. It made me feel like I was too damaged for anyone to hear me out and actually help me. Due to my past experiences, I didn’t feel like this was an issue that was appropriate for therapy either. I thought “hey, everyone has struggles in school, I’m sure a lot of people are feeling a little isolated from not meeting new people. Why should I seek treatment for this anyways? What makes me so special?” I thought this way until problems arose within my friend group I had somehow managed to find before the restrictions began for the pandemic. There was a girl in this group who never really gave me the time of day, and she would do things to/with my boyfriend that made me feel like she wanted or believed she belonged in my place, almost like I was no longer needed. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this, but my drinking and drug use was slipping out of my control before I could even realize it was becoming a problem. This led to one night when I went absolutely berserk on her at a party. She assured me there were no issues between us and I had no reason to be jealous or worry about the situation between her and my boyfriend. She promised she would be more conscious of her actions from then on. Let’s just say not much changed and I was furious. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
After that encounter with her at the party, all of our friends thought I was crazy for doing that – they didn’t want to see me for a while. After seeing no change from this person and being ostracized from this friend group, I decided to seek help through an online therapy platform after I heard my favorite podcast shout-out a promotional code for the site. I thought, “why not, I need to get a grip on these emotions and my substance use, why not get a deal too? I can’t keep bugging my hometown friends with these issues and I sure as hell can’t ask my mom for advice on this. Plus, I’m not that close with these people, and seeking help from them could make the situation worse”.
I signed up, did the little evaluation section, and a few days later I was matched with someone. The woman seemed like a great person, had lots of experience, and was super down to earth. We agreed that weekly sessions were needed for my situation and we would meet for one hour on a video call with chatting/texting through the site whenever I needed to talk between our sessions. I really did trust her and all of the advice she would give. I was vulnerable and losing my sense of self in this. I’m not sure if this woman was giving me strange advice because she was temporarily let-go from her regular place of work due to COVID – or maybe this was what she thought was appropriate for me. She mentioned how I was still young and it was okay to let loose from time-to-time when it came to my drug and alcohol use – even though I would explain to her how it was having such a negative effect on my life. After these meetings, it just made me think, “yeah maybe I should keep living like this and deal with the consequences at a later time. I’m still young and in my prime college years anyways.” She really was fueling the fire growing inside of me. She would also encourage me to speak out to people when I was feeling excluded or disrespected. Especially with this girl I was having problems with. Through the adrenaline rush the drugs and alcohol were giving me, I was also dealing with a short-fuse temper where I honestly just wanted to make someone my punching bag. This woman basically encouraged me to get it out of my system and try to squash this beef with our fists.
About a month later when the friend group was comfortable having me around again, the girl was there at another party and I wasn’t happy about it. I had a panic attack in the bathroom, which should have been my cue to leave. But I tried to stick it out and overcome or beat these intense feelings I had. Long story short, I tried to hangout with another friend at the party but that girl was with her. I felt a little betrayed by this, and the mutual friend suggested we squash the beef right then and there. I didn’t feel like doing that because I was feeling drained and tired from that panic attack earlier. Somehow within the mix of things, the mutual friend and I ended up fighting that night which made the situation a lot worse than it ever should have been. I couldn’t believe I let something so stupid like that get the best of me. And it didn’t help that I had a little birdie (my therapist) feeding me all of these inappropriate “solutions” for this problem I could have handled better if I were given proper advice and treatment for my situation at the time.
What I learned from this was sometimes you have to do some soul searching from within. I understand that it does help to hear nice things from other people, but building confidence and self-esteem has to come from the source. You are the only one who can build a strong mindset for yourself. What I did after all of this was meditate, read, and connect with nature (I would also mention journaling but it doesn’t really work for me). I had to do this for about two months before I felt anything different about myself. A routine helps with this too. When I lose sight of my needs and put all of my focus into school, work or other people, I can now sense that part of myself slipping again.
I guess what they say about upkeep really is true when it comes to building your character and finding self-love.