This post is deeply personal because I’m exposing some of my wounds that took a long time to heal. In my early twenties I went through a serious depression. I felt like such a failure because I dropped out of college in my 2nd year. I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life. I was confused about religion. I was confused about family and love. I was confused about who I was and how I was going to express who I was in my own life. At the time, most of my friends were away at college and I saw them moving forward. They had their friends and college activities. They were experiencing college life, which I had wanted for myself so badly. They even encouraged me to get back to it. I felt even worse. I sunk deeper into my depression. It’s not that I wasn’t smart because I was exceptionally smart and was in an accelerated program in high school. That’s how I came to know my friends. I was smart enough to know that my life wasn’t working for me anymore. It was muddled by other people’s wants, aspirations, and expectations.
And it was more than a funk as some might have minimized it to be. I slept all the time, and when I wasn’t sleeping, I watched TV until I was numb. I didn’t want to be around people. I did manage to work, but I was miserable. I’m not exactly sure how long that period lasted. It felt like years. It was definitely a dark cloud. My life wasn’t working, so I decided to just stop. I was lost.
I prayed all the time for God to reveal my purpose because I didn’t know. I was also dabbling in self-help books. Then one day, I decided that I needed therapy. I found a therapist through my insurance plan and called to set up the appointment. Within a few days, I ventured off to downtown Chicago in the middle of winter. I specifically remember that the appointment scheduler asked if I preferred a woman or male therapist and my response was “no”. It became clear to me after my first and last session with a male, that I preferred a woman. No matter, after I made the mistake of telling my mom I was so screwed up (code for “you screwed me up”) that I needed therapy, she called as many people in my family as she could to tell them I was seeing a therapist. I started getting calls from my uncle and sisters telling me that I could talk to them and how could I do that. I was essentially shamed for seeing a therapist. I never went back. Despite what they thought, I felt at the time that no one really had my best interests at heart. They were all concerned about their own lives. No one understood me and I certainly would never tell them what I was going through.
I’m treading carefully now because I don’t want to bash my family, but I have to admit that they were the biggest part of my problem. As a social worker, I can say transparency can be beneficial to help others on their journey. After all, I am a recovering perfectionist. The disease is perfectionism, which I believe can be passed down. Its roots stem from poverty, trauma, abuse, shame and denial. Looking back, it was not that I was inately confused. The messages I received were conflicting and I didn’t know how to mitigate them at the time. I tried to please my mom who didn’t want me to go away to college and who wanted me to partake in a religion that I didn’t believe in. That wasn’t working anymore. It felt like my life was not my own. As the youngest with a significant age difference between my siblings, I often felt alone. I didn’t get along with my stepfather. He was part of the problem, so I could not find solace in him. My friends were off making memories with their college friends. My coworkers at the local grocery store seemed stuck in the mediocore rat race (ouch, but this is from my perspective), so I didn’t fit in with them because I knew I wanted more. I didn’t fit in with the acquaintances I had made at the Jehovah’s Witness meetings because they didn’t seem to have other cultural influences/expectations to contend with. I pulled myself away from my Catholic extended family because I was tired of feeling like a charity case. They were very much tied to our Haitian customs and culture, whereas, we were not despite my family being born in Haiti. I didn’t have anyone who could relate to what I was experiencing, and quite frankly, I was too embarrased to share it.
The girl from my twenties never expected to be living in Texas and to have earned a graduate degree. I knew one day that I would be married with kids, but to think that I would have peace of mind, was unimaginable. I’m living the life that I want. I’ve also helped some people along the way. My relationships with family and friends have evolved for the better over time.
So how did I get through that difficult time? What steps took me through that dark cloud? Stay tuned.