The Ugly Truth: Depression, Anxiety, and Being a Young Twenty-Something

Hello again, blog buddies! Long time no see.

You may have noticed my sudden leave of absence from the blogosphere over the past few months. In fact, many of you have asked what happened! No, no — I didn’t fall of the face of the Earth, nor did I become a full-time Disney princess (I’m sorry to report). I’ve had a lot going on in my life, and today I’m going to tell you about it in what is perhaps the most vulnerable post I’ve ever written. It’s a little wordy and not exactly the happiest of topics. In fact, it’s probably not for all readers. But like a lot of difficult and scary things, it’s also worthwhile.

Alright, here we go. It all began in May of 2014.

Graduation

Such simpler times!

As many of you know, I graduated from college and started working full-time the summer of 2014. Things seemed pretty good at the time! I had a fun job and a swanky, non-roach-infested apartment. To me, it was the perfect first step into the “adult” world. It seems so silly, but at the time I just knew that nothing would ever change. For a while, nothing did. At first, the transition from student to staff had seemed seamless. But over the next few months, I slowly realized that — much to my surprise — everything about my life had changed.

All of my friends had moved away to pursue new jobs, many in exciting cities across the country. My boyfriend and best friend in the world had moved nearly forty-five minutes away. My relationship with my college roommate struggled under the pressure of new responsibilities. But worst of all, I had lost my sense of self — I was no longer a student. In just one day, I had lost the single largest piece of my identity. I knew how to be a student. I was good at being a student! But for the first time in 22 years, my life wasn’t scripted anymore. I was terrified and pretty much alone.

I tried to use my budding career as a crutch, but even the excitement of my first full-time job couldn’t hold my world together. In time, the best job turns into work because careers are a source of income, not a source of purpose. Of course, six months ago that seemed so backwards to me. In college, your future career is everything — what you study for, work for, train for. It is a picture of all that you were and hope to be, in a way. Unsatisfied at work, lonely, and confused about my purpose, I became depressed and anxious. I resigned from the museum and moved home in December to be closer to my caring family and wonderfully patient boyfriend.

In short, I lost it. Yes, I had a mental breakdown.

If you know me, you know that I’m a strong type-A personality. As Boromir would say, one does not simply lose control. So when my parents suggested counseling, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. “How did I get here?” I asked myself. “I’m not crazy. Why can’t I just be stronger?” The anxiety compounded day after day as I tried to “fix myself”. Defeated and utterly at a loss, I conceded. I saw a counselor. For weeks I told no one but my parents and boyfriend. The stigma of counseling isn’t something you can easily shake off, and I reluctantly opened up to my friends one by one. Much to my surprise, many of them had seen or considered seeing someone as well. It was a huge eye-opener, for sure!

Looking back, I realize that counseling is a good, good thing. It’s not for the insane or the weak. Counseling is actually for the brave. In America, acknowledging a need for help is often considered a sign of weakness. In reality, this is one of the bravest types of courage there is. Even to this day, I still get embarrassed when I talk about counseling. What will people say about me? Will they think I’m a total nut job?

Even though I am still embarrassed, I am trying to be braver.

Counseling was one of the best decisions I ever could have made, but it could not provide me with purpose. Now during these dark months, I used to break down in tears almost daily. I was completely overwhelmed with my life, which was nothing like I expected it to be. I began praying more. Read the Bible more. Opened up to friends more. I have always called myself a Christian, though I would not describe myself as an outspoken evangelical. But today I will proudly tell you that God single-handedly met all of my needs and took care of me from start to finish. Not my counselor, not my parents, and not my boyfriend — God.

He gave me an identity. Soothed my anxiety. Led me to the right job at the right time. Gave me the support I needed during some horrible and somber times. I am not a religious blogger, and you likely will not see more spiritual soliloquies on my blog after today. But to deny God his role in this story is an injustice, my friends. He kept his promises and used every ounce of pain to bring beautiful changes in my life, but it wasn’t easy.

Trying to sort out the pieces of my life consumed all of my time. I stopped working on my sequel, quit writing blog posts, jumped ship on social media. The idea of simply existing was so foreign to me. Until a few months ago, I never realized that just living is a full-time gig — even without all of the senseless clutter we use to fill our time. I had to learn to enjoy (not tolerate) time alone. Actually, I’m still learning! I put everything on hold because I needed that time for myself. I still do.

But things did get better.

Gov

Doing cool things at my cool job — like meeting the governor!

Thank God my life has made a 180! I have a new job that provides plenty of work and exciting opportunities (like meeting the governor!). I have rekindled old friendships and started new ones. Traveled to new cities. Spent time with family. Ultimately proved to myself that life goes on post-degree. Looking back, it is so easy to blame my circumstances. I could tell you that my job wasn’t exciting enough, that my apartment wasn’t big enough. That if I’d only had a master’s degree or more friends or a husband or a higher salary or a puppy things would have been alright.

But that just isn’t true, friends.

Everyone is struggling in some way — yes, everyone. In a world of non-stop Tweets and retouched Instagram pics, struggle isn’t something we’re used to seeing. After moving home I’ve bumped into a lot of old friends, and over the past month, where I’ve heard “You seem like you’re so successful on Facebook!” far too many times. Social media is so deceiving, and that’s one reason why I had to write this post. Everyone can see my accomplishments, yet so few see beyond that. It breaks my heart to think that someone who is battling loneliness or is unhappy at work might be intimidated by the way my life appears online.

This brings up a good question: why am I telling you all of this? It isn’t because I like attention or airing out my dirty laundry. It isn’t for the page views or Facebook likes. It isn’t even for myself, really. Inspired by the honesty of fellow blogger Sara Rowe, I wanted to open up with you today because I wish someone had been honest with me six months ago. By talking with my friends and family, I see now that countless others have struggled with and before me when entering the “real world.” The worst part is, no one talks about it. If we’re truly honest, being a young twenty-something isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be on TV — gobs of friends, a flourishing social life, true love, and a swanky apartment in the city. With social media, our lives are on display. It is so easy to get swept away in the comparison game.

But your life isn’t supposed to match someone else’s highlights reel.

This profile pic was taken just after a lovely cry-fest, but online you'd only see a perfect couple pic.

This profile pic was taken just after a lovely cry-fest, but online you’d only see a happy couple.

Shakespeare once wrote that “The root of all heartache is expectation.” Life is a game of expectations, and I was utterly unprepared for the unpredictability of being a young adult. I decided to be honest about what’s been going on in my life because I think we could all use a little more transparency. Six months ago, I thought I was completely alone — that I was the only one clueless and unsatisfied. This post isn’t a doom-and-gloom rant about the unsolvable human condition. In the end, it’s a story of hope and strength, to tell you that things will get better. I am so much happier today than I could have imagined six months ago, but I don’t ever want to forget the pain that brought me here. Author Joan Didion sums it up well:

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

If you’re a struggling young twenty-something, have faith. Pray to God. Seek counsel in good friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get rid of social media if you need to, and learn to find happiness outside of others. Build a version of yourself that you are happy with, and never compare yourself to others. This post has been difficult to share, but if it offers even a shred of peace to one person, then it was worth the embarrassment and worry over what others will think. There is a raw vulnerability in every story worth telling. Like a fire-breathing dragon, you cannot be your own hero without conquering darkness.

I will close with one of my favorite quotes.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Neil Gaiman, Coraline

P.S. This post is dedicated to my unbelievably supportive parents, my patient and ever-loving (plus devilishly handsome) boyfriend, and a whole slew of friends who had and have my back.

My Adventure Book

Hans Christian Anderson once said that life itself is the most wonderful fairytale. This is one of my favorite quotes, which is no surprise if you know me. As you might remember from a former post, I am a firm believer in bucket lists. For me, it’s less of a to-do list and rather a representation of someone I hope to be—brave, adventurous, spontaneous, uninhibited. My bucket list is a lot like Ellie’s Adventure Book from Disney’s Up!. “More Disney?” you whine. Yes, but bear with me!

I recently graduated from college and began my adult life working full-time. Like any newbie, there are days when I wonder what exactly I am working towards. What I want out of life. Where I will go.  The big “what next”. For the first time, my life isn’t scripted, and that terrifies me. Like plenty of people, I challenge myself to move one step closer to Paradise Falls every day. Even though I don’t really know what my dream is yet—maybe it’s becoming the next J.K. Rowling or marketing a Disney blockbuster—I am sometimes overwhelmed by the burden of making it come true. It’s a blessing and a curse, I guess. Maybe you’ve felt that way, too.

It feels sort of like this…

If you’re not moving forwards you’re moving backwards, right? That’s how I looked at college. Most days were part of an uphill climb to the next milestone on the road to successful alumna. I had this need to make something of myself simply to prove I could. The idea of mindlessly drifting along like a balloon-tethered house in the sky seemed like a total waste, and I used milestones to measure my progress in the Adventure Book of life.

Don’t get me wrong, those achievements were great! They provided so many opportunities. But those milestones seemed to me the very point of college, and now? I think I was wrong. When I look back over the past four years, those accomplishments sort of melt away in my mind. I tend to overlook the typical “highlights”—my first time making honor roll, studying abroad in England, landing an internship, my first time inside the Sooner stadium. Instead, it’s the little, seemingly insignificant things that stand out.

 Hitting the 24/7 donut shop at midnight with my friends, schooling my folks at Bananagrams, meeting up every week for the new American Horror Story episode, celebrating Valentine’s Day with my roommate, playing Mario Kart with my boyfriend until 4 a.m., waking up in my old bed at Christmas, skipping class to rewatch old episodes of Friends. Those are the things I remember most.

183196_1748199318836_3146913_n

Note: My roommate and I have celebrated V-Day together for ten years.

And to you, that may seem uneventful because, well, it is! But there’s a moment in Up! that sums up what I’m trying to say. Near the end of the movie, Russell is talking to Carl about his workaholic dad. He talks about the way they used to get ice cream together and count the cars as they passed by. Then, in one sentence, our young wilderness explorer perfectly captures the point of the entire movie and, incidentally, life.

As Ellie points out in her sob-worthy note to Carl, life isn’t about the destination. It’s about the adventures along the way, adventures shared with others. Perhaps I will write a bestseller or work for Walt Disney Studios, but more and more I am realizing that the most exciting parts of life are happening right now. As we speak, I’m filling the pages of my own adventure book with “the boring stuff”. Yes, adventure really is out there. You just have to open your eyes and see it.

Up-6

The Stages of Job Hunting, As Told by Game of Thrones

1.  Stupid Ambition

Job hunting? Please – I’ve got this one, guys. My strategy? I’m going to apply ONLY for insanely prestigious positions that are totally out of my league – like the White House. Yes, I’m applying to the entire White House. Go big or go home, right? I’ll just throw together a quick resume tonight. ‘Aint no thang.

 2. Denial

 

So what I didn’t get that resume written? There’s still ten weeks until graduation anyways. That’s basically forever in college years. Busy, I’m too busy enjoying my last days of freedom – a.k.a. being a worthless tub of lard. I’ll start working on that cover letter right after this season -I mean, episode – of Game of Thrones.

3.  Mild Anxiety

Boy, the weeks are really flying by, huh? It’s fine. No really, it’s fine. I wrote my resume, sent it out to a few places. It’s only a matter of time now until I get a call back. Everything will be fine! Really…

4. Waiting

It’s been four weeks. WHY HASN’T WENDY’S CALLED ME BACK?!

5. Despair

 My mother was right. I should have joined the debate team. Do you think I could add professional reviewer to my resume? I did give New Girl five stars on Netflix, after all. No? That doesn’t count? Then leave me to drown in my Ramen noodles – oh, parting is such sweet sorrow.

6. Redemption

You have done it, my friend. Oh, how victorious a day! For you, corporate warrior, have conquered the dreaded phone interview. YOU ARE NOW EMPLOYED! Go. Take your rightful place upon the throne. For you, dear friend, are now a ruler. A ruler of interns.

7 Questions College Seniors are Tired of Hearing

1. What do you plan to do after graduation?

I’m sorry, could you repeat the question?

2. Now, what are you majoring in again?

No, Grandma, I’m majoring in public relations. No, that’s not like DHS. No, it’s also not wedding planning. Or politics. Yes, of course it’s a real major! You know what, just tell everybody I Tweet for a living. I can live with that.

3. What big city are you heading to?

What a minute. What’s wrong with right here? Why am I moving? Do I have to move? Is it mandatory? Whose going to help me pack? How am I going to afford this move? What are this? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

4. Are you and so-and-so getting married?

If so-and-so and I do decide to get married, can’t you just find out from Facebook like all of our other marginal acquaintances? Come on, bud. Know your place.

5. What exactly do you want to do with that degree?

Smoke it. Seriously, what do you think I’m going to do with it? Try my hardest to find a job, like all the other bajillion recent graduates living at home with Mom and Dad.

6. Do you have a back-up plan?

Wait. Should I be offended by that?

7. Are you ready to be done?

 Okay. This one never actually gets old because YES I AM SO READY TO BE DONE.

S*#! Students Say Part II

As you may recall, I wrote a post in May called S*#! Students Say, chronicling the unbelievably stupid and completely true things I’ve heard students say around campus. Shocking stuff, right? Well, now that the fall semester is upon us, it seems like the perfect time for the long-awaited sequel, don’t you think? I agree.

In the first post, I asked for your craziest quotes, and you delivered! Three of today’s fabulous quips came from readers, so props to those of you willing to share your s*#! with the world. Keep it up, and thanks for reading! As a final reminder, all of the quotes are real and free of fabrication.

So, without further ado, I give you “S*#! Students Say Part II.” Enjoy.

***

Sorority Girl: Hey, Jessica! Psssst! What’s the plural of moose? It’s meese, right?

 ***

Stereotypical freshmen girl (to boy beside her): My goal is to learn everyone’s name by the end of the semester!

Boy : This is a 200-student lecture.

Freshman:

 

 ***

From SaraAnneThinks:

Girl: If I were a beard, I would be that guy’s beard.

Guy: If you were a beard, I would shave you.

Girl: Well, I wouldn’t live on your face!

 ***

Girl: Were you on royal baby watch?!

Me: No.

Girl: Ugh, I was. I absolutely lost it when the prince was born. I mean, I cried for like a good ten minutes.

Me:

Stupidity

***

Embarrassment to Womankind: That assignment was SO hard.

Friend: Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Why was it so hard? Did he not explain it or anything?

Embarrassment: He did. It’s just that we had to find the slope.

Friend:

 ***

From Jim:

Guy: So your an English major. Right?

Girl: Yea, that’s right.

Guy: So are you going to be a teacher when your graduate?


Girl: Oh no, I want to be a neurosurgeon.

Guy: Wow, that’s really cool. So your taking pre-med stuff in addition to your English major?


Girl: No.

Guy: No? How will you become a neurosurgeon?

Girl: Probably never will, I just like to set my goals really high…..

FacePalm

 ***

Typical White Girl at Starbucks #1: Guys, I’m gonna’ treat myself today! Hmmmm. What should I get? I know it’s like SO bad for you, but I’m gonna’ get a cheese Danish.

Typical White Girl at Starbucks #2: That’s disgusting!

Typical White Girl at Starbucks #1: Gross? It’s a pastry with cream cheese in it. How could that possibly be gross?

Typical White Girl at Starbucks #2: Oh! I thought it was like real cheese.

Typical White Girl at Starbucks #1: Emily. Cream cheese is real cheese.

Typical White Girl at Starbucks #2:

Karen

 ***

From Robyn:

Girl #1: “I didn’t like that movie so much. The abortion scene grossed me out.”

Girl #2: “Abortion? You mean where she had a C-Section?”

Girl #1: “Whatever. I mean, like, what’s the difference?”

 ***

Have you heard some s*#! around campus? Then share your most craziest quotes in the comment! Who knows? There may just be a part III in the future. And of course, as always, for more laughs at the expense of others, be sure to follow my blog!

How to Make College Suck Less

Let’s be honest, here. The newness of school has worn away, and now it just sucks. Like, it really sucks. Homework, annoying professors, the class Hermione Granger, you get the picture. Luckily for you and me, there’s ways to make school just a little more bearable. I know, it’s almost too good to be true. Almost. Made-up statistics show that with the tips below, you’re forty-four times less likely to kill yourself at the end of the school day. That’s pretty substantial. So check out my suggestions, put down the Adderall and get in touch with your inner child along the way.

1. Pack your lunch.

Lunch Box

Photo courtesy of: http://www.sogoodblog.com

I don’t mean a Campbell’s soup-at-hand. I mean the kind of lunch Mom used to make. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grapes, and Disney princess/Batman gummy snacks. Aw, yeah. You know what I’m taking about. For bonus points, go out and score one of those sweet metal lunch boxes.

2. Invest in some gel pens.

DreamsTime Gel Pens

Photo courtesy of: http://www.dreamstime.com

Gels pens are the doodler’s palette. Nothing makes that crude drawing of your least favorite professor pop like a little splash of milky color. Gel pens are perfect for: writing notes, drawing on your arm, drawing on your neighbor’s arm and altogether ignoring lectures. To get yours, just click the picture.

3. Laugh at inappropriate things.

Teacher Disapproves

Photo courtesy of: https://lifestyle.uk.msn.com

It’s okay to laugh when the answer is 69. It’s also okay to laugh every time your women and gender studies professor says, “sex.” Yes, it’s immature. Yes, your professor will probably hate you. But if you can’t laugh at “gluteus maximus” during anatomy, is life really worth the living?

 4. Ride your bike to class.

Bike

Photo courtesy of: http://www.walmart.com

When was the last time you rode you bike? I mean, really rode your bike. Feet flying, hair whipping, hands stretching to the sky. Sure, you might look like an idiot, but you’ll still look better than that size 0 girl “rocking” her extra-large T-shirt over some possibly-non-existent Nike shorts. We all know one.

P.S. WalMart, please don’t sue me for using your picture.

5. Bring your Gameboy to school.

Zelda Wikia

Photo courtesy of: http://zelda.wikia.com

No PS3 or NintenDS. I’m talking old-school Super Mario Bros., Warioland, Tetris, Kirby and Pokemon. Whether it’s in between classes, over lunch or on your daily bus ride, you whip out that Gameboy Advance with pride. It’s not like you were going to use that time to study anyways. Please. Bonus points for game-play during lecture.

– – – – –

If you have your own tried-and-true tricks for getting through the school day, feel free to drop a line or two in the comments below. Remember, forty-four percent. Don’t let someone die because you were too cool to share.

The Kite Angel

In college, everything revolves around a budget. The question is never “What would you like to do?” and always “What can we afford to do?” So last Sunday, when hanging with my best friend, I came up with a most brilliant, Mary Poppins-esque idea.

FlyaKite

“Let’s go fly a kite!”

And we did. We ran up to Dollar Tree, bought ourselves two very rad, very cheaps kites, and headed for the lake. The glorious thing about Kites is that you’re guaranteed a solid hour of fun: 30 minutes trying to figure out how the heck a kite works and 30 minutes attempting not to nose dive. After nearly fifteen minutes of unsuccessfully tossing our battered kites to the wind, a most miraculous thing happened. The Kite Angel appeared.

Yes, friends, the Kite Angel. He was in his seventies, dressed in a yellow button-up shirt with a black baseball cap. He glided up to us, appearing from thin air, and in a very Field of Dreams fashion, whispered the three most helpful words I’d heard all week.

fieldofdreams

“Make a tail.”

Seems stupid, right? Wrong. After our kite angel had majestically limped off into the horizon, we decided to attach the tails we had left in the package. Being college kids, you see, we were afraid the tails would seem too childish, and we were only interested in flying adult kites. Sure enough, the moment we attached the tails, the kites went soaring.

Kite

It was smooth kiting from then on out. The Kite Angel had saved the day, and we entertained ourselves for 90 minutes on a meager $1.08 (with tax). So the next time you’re wondering how to spend the coins you found along with that Cheeto underneath your couch cushion, consider flying a kite. It’s cheap, it’s fun, and if you’re lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of the Kite Angel.

S*#! Students Say

Fat Amy

Eavesdropping is easily a writer’s greatest tool, and while walking around campus I find it physically impossible to turn off my ears. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how ridiculous college kids can be, so as a constant reminder I decided to jot down some of my favorite quotes that I’ve stumbled upon over the year. Today, I’d like to share them with you in As Told by Laura’s newest segment, S*#! Students Say.

Note: no quotes have been fabricated for the benefit of this post.

Enjoy.

****

Guy: “So, are you and Tyler official now?”

Girl: “Oh, definitely. It’s official.”

Guy: “Yay! How did he ask you out?”

Girl: “Well, he held my hand at a movie two weeks ago.”

Guy: “Oh…uh…congrats.”

***

Girl: “So, for my science and technology class, I have to write a report on compact discs. I had to go home and look that up. Do you know they’re just CDs?”

***

Girl #1: “Ugh, I had to go home this weekend to help my sister shop for a wedding dress.”

Girl #2: “I thought you hated your sister? Aren’t you, like, not talking?”

Girl #1: “I do, but it’s okay. She looked fat in her dress.”

***

Guy: “I spent last week volunteering at an elementary school, and I learned something about myself.”

Girl: “Yeah?”

Guy: “I try to love all kids equally, I really do, but it is so hard to love the fat ones.”

***

Guy (to entire bus full of people): “These b*#!&$ be talking like cray back here! Why they gotta’ talk so much?”

Girls on bus proceed to stare angrily.

***

Girl #1: “So, what’s your major again?”

Girl #2: “Oh, I’m double majoring in Biochemistry and English. I know they’re not really related, but I just excel at both.”

Girl #1: “Oh…”

***

Tutor: “So you’ll just want to place the adjective right next to the noun, just like in English.”

Student: “Right.”

Tutor: “So, for this sentence, where would you put the adjective?”

Student: “What’s an adjective again?”

***

So, what’s the best thing you’ve ever heard someone say at school? Drop your best quote in the comments below!