I sat in the hospital parking lot for 20 minutes convincing myself to go in. I had a bottle of sleeping pills and a bottle of vodka I had bought the night before in my passenger seat and I knew that if they came home with me there would be a large chance I would get drunk and take every last pill. I couldn’t live this life anymore and I felt that my only way out without shaming myself and those around me was to get out of this life permanently. After 10 more minutes, I decided I didn’t have the strength to go in and admit something I had never had to do before – I was suicidal, and I had a plan to kill myself. No matter how much I was struggling, the perfectionist in me decided that was unacceptable to admit and I saw a trashcan 10 feet away from my car, so I got out, threw the pills away, and went home to pretend like none of this had ever happened.
In the moment between deciding not to walk into the hospital and seeing the trashcan, I knew something had to change. I couldn’t keep living like this: crying every day after school, praying that I would get into a car accident on the way to work so that I wouldn’t have to go, eating half of what I knew I should have been but because my anxiety and depression had caused every ounce of appetite I had to disappear. It was quickly becoming an unsustainable lifestyle and it had only been a couple of weeks.
“But my students need me,” I thought. “I can’t quit on them.” I had of heard the repercussions of quitting at Institute: long-term subs and even less learning than if there was a crappy teacher in the room. And then I realized: I can’t teach if I’m not taking care of myself. I can’t be there for my students in the ways that they need me if my health is going downhill quick.
Teaching has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, seriously. Harder than rehab, harder than 4 years in a major that I hated, harder than recovery, and it’s proven that by testing every ounce of mental and emotional strength I have.
Listen, when I applied for TFA my junior year of college, I knew it would be hard. I spent the entirety of my senior year tackling things in therapy I had avoided because I knew they had to be talked about before I left. I knew that to be the teacher I imagined myself being: one that supports and challenges her students the way that my teachers did for me, I had to be in solid recovery.
I had to make recovery a priority, my top priority.
I’ve always made the claims that recovery has come first (well, technically second after my main man Jesus), but I always found a reason to put something (school, work, my life goals, etc.) above it. Recovery wasn’t my reason for pursing things in life, it had merely turned into a process that ensured I could pursue those things. If recovery had truly been my main priority, I would have left Kelley and pursued a major that made me happy and probably made my recovery process a lot easier. If recovery had truly come first, I would’ve realized that my timeline can wait. If I needed to take an extra semester to graduate, so be it. If I needed to postpone my TFA commitment a year, so be it. Whatever needed to happen to make sure that I stay healthy and happy and on the road to recovery, so be it.
But those things didn’t happen so here I am.
You see, I’ve always been the person with a plan, with an end goal in mind. In high school my goal was to get to college, in college it was to get to graduation. Nothing could interrupt my timeline: I was going to graduate in 4 years, teach for at least 2, and then go to grad school and be happy. That was my motivator for everything. It was why I worked so hard in treatment, restarted classes just a few weeks after I got back, took grueling summer classes 2 summers in a row (shout-out to you, summer ICORE), and refused to let myself relapse senior year despite going through the worst depression I’ve ever experienced (and continue to experience).
I had to graduate in May and move to Mississippi.
That was my plan and I wouldn’t even let myself imagine a world in which it didn’t come true.
Until now…when my plan, my perfectly developed plan, didn’t turn out how I thought it would. How it was supposed to. You see, ED doesn’t care about a stupid plan. I may have been able to trick it for a while; convincing it and myself that if I just kept it at bay long enough, ate mostly what I was supposed to, took my meds, and attended all my appointments, recovery would still come. Turns out, pretending to pursue full recovery doesn’t actually result in full recovery. When the going got tough, guess who showed right back up and started convincing me that all my problems could be solved by eating less or shutting people out or whatever. And in that moment, sitting in the hospital parking lot, more scared for myself than I ever have been in my life, I realized that my recovery had to come first. For the first time in my life, my health had to come before my plan.
I wish I could tell you that since moving home everything has been great and I got right back on track with recovery and whatever else people are probably assuming happened, but that would be a lie.
I’m still struggling, y’all. Like, a lot. I don’t feel like going into details, just know that things aren’t great. But I’m working to get back on track. I’m crawling back towards recovery and one day, I’ll get to where I want to be. I’m using this period as a time to grow in my faith and really address some doubts I’ve had about God and His will for my life. I’m using this period as a time to really learn what it means to trust God with everything, not just the easy stuff.
This is all completely uncharted territory for me, but good thing I have a God that goes before and behind me and has never failed to walk me through a valley. He’s been with me through everything, and it’s in these times, where I’m lost and frustrated and ready to give up, that He shows up in the biggest ways possible. I just have to get out of my head long enough to see it.