Somewhere around the end of December 2014/January 2015, my life started unraveling. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. A lapsed control freak, one might say. In other words, I knew how to chill. I had a strong group of loyal friends, I knew how and when to take time for myself, and a few Bs (or Cs) had never really hurt me. So, by the end of 2013, I was in a great place. 2014 was to be the year of me. And it was. Mostly. Had I really paid attention as I entered the fall of my senior year, I would’ve noticed the warning signs. But I wouldn’t be a control freak (even a lapsed one) if I was able to easily assess and say to myself, “woah, girly…slow the fuck down.” Guess what? I kept chugging along. My senior fall was supposed to be the semester I let shit go. I was going to ONLY be involved in the clubs I deeply cared about, I would focus on my publishing work, and I would write. I was going to write a ton. Well, none of that happened. I took on officer positions I shouldn’t have. I didn’t focus enough on my coursework. I was drowning, and I refused to admit it. Oh, and not to mention I developed this HUGE lesbian crush on one of my closest college friends. That friendship developed into a best/bro-friendship. We stayed up until 1-3 AM every morning, watching TV, talking, basically suppressing our feelings for each other while also denying the other responsibilities/personal care (ahem, sleep) we owed ourselves.
**As a small note, this weird friendship didn’t really develop until halfway through the semester…the first half of the semester was great, the rest was the beginning of the end… (I’m not dramatic at all, right?)
Well, I crashed. Over winter break I didn’t do much writing. If you go through this blog you’ll see I didn’t really post. I did, however, Skype with said best friend every night. And because I can’t hold onto things/this story needs a silver lining, I’ll “spoil” the ending and say we’re now dating. (Hallelujah, right? … Our friends were getting real tired of the teenage angst and longing and denial we were both displaying.) Anyway, back to the crash. For this to all make sense, I should mention that I’ve dealt on/off with depression and anxiety since I was a little girl. That being said, for the most part, I hadn’t had anything happen since the winter after my first year in college. Again, I still thought I was in a good place. I didn’t seek the help I needed, and, because I’d stopped writing/didn’t have the motivation to write, anymore, I no longer had an outlet for the emotions that sought to consume and drown me. I told myself I was fine and began my second, and final, semester in college. Zoe (my now girlfriend) and I started dating. And let me just say that she’s the real MVP. We were in bliss for about 1-2 weeks, maybe, before shit got real rough. And it means to world to me that she stayed by my side the entire time. I used to hate that I put her through all that, but now I realize it just means that I’ve found someone who won’t desert me when the going gets tough and who not only understands my mental health struggles but knows the danger signs. As she often said, I kept talking to her during her toughest moments and we weren’t even dating. And, as I often say, she’s not the person I imagined myself with for the long haul but she’s the perfect person for me. And, I assure you, she’s one of the main reasons I walked across our commencement stage in May.
Back to my shitty spring semester: Not only was I the officer in orgs, but I was also the president of one. I quit a few things but my pride wouldn’t let me step down from the others. Looking back, that was a half good/half bad decision as while my responsibilities tipped me over the edge they also kept me in contact with, well, people. I also didn’t tell many of my friends what was going on and because of that alienated myself from many of them. I finally broke down one morning in April and told one friend and she said, “I knew something was wrong, but because you didn’t say anything, I didn’t know what to say.” I get that, I really do. And to my friends, thank you for silently supporting me and for being there for me when I was ready to talk. But to those wishing to help a friend they know, or think, is suffering…I know how painful/awkward it can be but say something. Often we’re too afraid to tell the truth. My worst mistake, was not telling my parents until I was at risk of failing one of my classes (FYI, I didn’t!). I told myself I didn’t want to burden them. I told myself it was nothing. I said, “Patrice, you’re an adult, you need to handle this yourself. Most of all, as the oldest, I didn’t want my siblings to find out. So, because I didn’t have a therapist in Boston, I went to my school’s “Stone Center.” Literally, the worst experience. The therapist basically associated everything with senior stress and sadness over leaving behind my friends. *eyeroll* The sad thing is, I’m not the only one with a horrible experience there. The good thing is, they’re revamping the counseling and wellness center.
Telling my parents, telling my friends, was the best of decisions. The hardest thing is feeling alone in your struggle even though, in reality, you’re not.
It’s taken me a long time to pick up the pieces or rather, discard the pieces of my life that were burdensome, unnecessary. After I did, I realized I need writing back in my life. But not just writing, the writing community that has, in part, helped me over these past three years to become the writer, the informed citizen, woman I am today. I kinda had to desert everything, to lose nearly everyone in order for me to figure out what I really needed, what I really valued, and ultimately who I really am.
Sometimes I still feel trapped, sometimes I get down, and every once in a while I have panic attacks…I feel like I’m losing control all over again. But, I guess, the important thing to note is that I don’t have to be in control of every situation. I don’t need that anymore. My girlfriend has this look she gives me that basically says, “Patrice, you’re micromanaging me again.” And then I’ll step back, laugh a little, a go on a walk or something. Walking…that really helps.
And as for my worries, because worrying had a big hand in my breakdown, I can’t really say I worry less. But I can say that I’m getting better at distracting myself from all the things I’m worried about. Also, bit by bit, my major worries are going away. Zoe and I have found an amazing apartment in the city to sublet while we figure out where exactly we want to live, etc. I have an amazing job I start in late August (definitely more on it/the nonprofit I’m working for in the future), and I’m learning how to balance time for my family, my girlfriend, my friends, and ultimately myself.
So, why do I write? Or rather, why do I still write?
I write to feel less trapped, to be free. I write to explore vulnerability (which is a new, scary thing for me thanks to my relationship). I write to tell my stories. I’ve always had a “larger than average” imagination, and I’ve always loved to share my stories with others. I hope one day to be able to share my stories with the world, with people, with children and teens who desperately need them just as I desperately needed and clung to the stories I grew up reading and read. But, most of all, and something I keep reminding myself of, I write for myself. Because I need writing… To make me happy. To make me whole. To entertain myself and as a reminder that though the past never leaves, it doesn’t have to control what I do today.
*View my first ‘Why I Write’ post*