I remember being at rock bottom.
My depression was my life. It tainted everything: my health, my self-worth, my relationships, my work and my education. I wasn’t taking care of myself: self-harm, no eating, no sleeping, no resting. Just constant, on-the-go business to distract myself from the emptiness in my soul, along with the occasional full days in bed from being too depressed to move. I had plenty of those.
After being kicked out of my apartment for my depression, and after a fitful struggle of being home with my family that was temporarily falling apart, I returned to my university for my junior year, homeless but relieved. I stayed with a friend, and thought that my relief was actual joy. I was happy to be back, so I was happy. Right?
As soon as classes started, I spiraled right back down to where I was before. I moved through the motions, barely making it where I needed to be, barely being present. At that point, that was all I could ask of myself. Assignments and homework were a distant thought. Sleep and food were optional. My friends were almost entirely cut off. I didn’t talk to my family.
And then I got an email.
A professor of mine had reached out asking why I hadn’t turned in the first few assignments. She told me that if I had doubts about taking the course, I needed to decide and drop soon so others could enroll.
Gosh, I could NOT drop this class. As I prepared an email response to her, I realized something: I couldn’t lie anymore. I couldn’t make up excuses to hide my depression anymore. I knew in that moment, in my heart, that I had to open up and tell her the truth. I asked for a meeting in person, and after a lot of anxiety and mental preparation, I met her face-to-face.
I don’t remember my exact words, but it was something along the lines of “I’m already struggling in your class because I have depression and I can’t do anything.” I expected her to tell me I needed to drop anyways, just refer me to the doctor and wave me off, or tell me I needed to get over it and pass her class.
Instead, she sat with me for almost an hour. She asked me about my struggles, and just how difficult it made school. (“Is it hard for you to get to class? To pay attention once you’re there? To get assignments done?”) She asked me what my recovery process was (“Do you see the doctors on campus? The counselors? I have a friend that works there, I can have her reach out to you. Do you have a support system?”). She believed me without a second’s hesitation. (“I know what it’s like to feel like you’re going along doing just fine, and then realize you’ve hit rock bottom and you’re not really sure how you got there.”) We developed a game plan, and I left her office feeling something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
It was there, I knew it. I hadn’t felt it in such a long time, it shocked me to realize it. But I was hopeful. I’d found something to hang on to.
My mistake was assuming hope would carry me the rest of the way to recovery. I thought it would do all the work for me, and I was going to be fine.
I was wrong again.
Recovery isn’t easy. It’s a long, windy, rocky road. It wasn’t an overnight change. It wasn’t an easy one-way path. It took effort, strength, and patience I didn’t even know I was capable of. I worked my butt off and still fell short. I made promises to myself and broke them. I made promises to others and didn’t follow through.
But gosh darn it, I was trying. I was trying to get better. I actually cared a little bit about myself for the first time in years.
Hope didn’t give me all the answers, or a short cut to “recovered”. But it gave me a starting point, a boost, a roadmap. I held on to that small glimmer of hope and let it lead me through semesters and summers of struggle. It didn’t do any of the work for me; it just picked me up when I fell.
Hope presented itself to me in the last place I thought it would. I never expected my professor to believe me, or work with me, or reach out to me when I didn’t show up to class. But she did, and she never hesitated to believe me. She stuck by me until I didn’t need her to anymore.
I’ve graduated college, married the love of my life, and would now consider myself “recovered”, though I still have bad days and still struggle with taking care of myself some days. I don’t really talk to that professor anymore, but I will never, ever forget her. I define that moment, that meeting as the beginning of my road to getting better. If I hadn’t met her, I don’t know where I’d be today. I might not even be here.
Every day, I thank her for the hope she gave me. She didn’t give me all the answers… she just gave me a place to start.
Story submitted by Allie.