I took this selfie on April 1, 2016. The caption on Facebook with it, along with the nature photos accompanying it, says “Went on a little nature walk this afternoon…” and “trying to clear my head.” I was about six weeks off from graduating from college and it felt like my world was collapsing.
To my friends, family, roommates, and anyone else, this was a picture of a happy senior who was about to take the next big step in her life. When I saw this picture in my Facebook memories today, I saw myself trying to hold it all together, just as I had been all year long. Sometimes, things aren’t always what they seem.
I decided that I wanted to write about this picture today because I’m starting to work through the knots and pain that this time in my life caused me. My senior year of college was not the perfect ending that I made it seem in my online presence. In fact, it was one of the worst years of my life.
In the months leading up to this photo being taken, everything that could have gone wrong pretty much did. I started this school year with my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer. I was going to be taking five classes both semesters so that I could fit in some graduate level course work while I was still an undergrad. I was going to be working and writing two thesis papers. I had a fragile relationship I was balancing. And I was turning 21 and wanted to have the best year ever.
It was a lot for me.
When this picture was taken, I wasn’t even swimming any more, I was full on drowning. I was barely keeping my head up and I had isolated myself so much that I was more alone than ever. Through every emotional breakdown and feeling that I should just drop out now, I was alone. By April, I just had one friend on campus (by choice) and kept most of what I was struggling with to myself.
It was hard to feel connected and let myself be vulnerable enough to move forward. To get help. To apologize. Even the simplest things seemed impossible. To this version of myself, they were.
It’s hard to course correct when your ship is underwater. When you can’t face your roommate after she said that god must have thought you mom deserved to get cancer. When you can’t face your roommate because you can’t stand that her boyfriend was over all of the time and you just needed space. When you can’t face your boyfriend because he’s sick all of the time and has killed all of your friendships. When you can’t face yourself.
What I wanted to get at, to share with you, is a reminder. Check in on your friends who seem perfectly okay. Those who smile the brightest tend to be struggling the most. I’m just getting to a point where I am comfortable asking for help. Your friends may be exactly where I was. So check in, even if they don’t seem like that want it at the time. It means so much.