Last fall quarter was just a long, bumpy road with a disaster around every blind corner. When came back from a summer interning in India I was having a really hard time adjusting back to my life in America after living in rural areas and doing humanitarian work in places of immense poverty. The week I came back to the US I found out that several of my family members, including my sister, were evacuated from their homes in Florida due to Hurricane Irma. It was a very stressful time, but I knew I had a backbone of supportive friends at school I could rely on. But when I returned I found out that someone who I thought was one of my best friends had been lying to me all summer and went behind my back. Cal Poly is a small community- so I don’t want to get into too many details- but I had never been so hurt or betrayed by a friend before. We talked it out- but she really didn’t show much interest in repairing our friendship. I think that losing a friend is so much worse than losing a guy- you expect breakups, but you never think you're best friends will be the ones to hurt you.
A few weeks later, my brother, who suffers from mental health and addiction issues was hospitalized for detox for a week. It was a stressful and consuming time for my entire family. At the end of the hospitalization, he entered a residential rehab program. I was so happy he was getting the help he desperately needs. At the same time this was a reaffirmation of the extent of his problems and the irreversible impacts they had on my brother’s life and our family as a whole. It is truly impossible to put my experience with my brother and his mental issues into words- it has been an unparalleled struggle in my life. There have been so many outbursts, fights, verbal abuse, and a terrifying close call where I thought I would never see him again. My family has been living through almost five years of this chaos and the residual impacts will be everlasting. I live in a constant fear of losing him and I crave for him to find his way back to the person he once was and I know he can be. Watching someone I love so much suffering so deeply will forever be a scar on my life. The best way to describe this whole experience was I just felt heavy. A few weeks after my brother entered rehab, my parents suddenly had to put down our dog. I was devastated that I was states away and didn’t get to say goodbye. But, the pain of putting our dog down was so tied to the pain of watching my brother suffer. The loss of our dog really felt like is symbolized the final piece of our happy childhood that had been replaced with mental health issues and addiction crisis. I was so relieved to go home for Winter break and finally see my family after a few really hard months. But on Christmas day, my sweet grandmother passed away. She was one of my biggest role models with her iconic feminist mantras and fearlessness. The pain still lingers knowing I lost someone I loved so dearly, and I will never have the chance to speak to her again.
This set of experiences had an effect on everything in my life at that time- I mean everything. I poured myself into work and school to pretend like everything was fine. But I felt lonely, isolated and exhausted. The hardest part of it all was just the whole combination. It was one thing after another, and I didn’t have time to recover from one bad until before the next happened.
Honestly, I tried handling it by faking it at first. I kept a lot these struggles in. I pretended I was fine and didn’t talk about it. That can only last so long and your real friends see past it. I remember when I knew it was all too much was when I was sobbing after my parents called me about my dog and my roommate rushed in my room at ask what was wrong. She could barely understand me because my sobs were so deep, but I kept trying to say “I’m fine, I’m fine” - that was the first time I didn’t believe myself that I was actually fine. The sadness, stress, and loneliness was palpable and I felt like I was truly at my breaking point- a scary breaking point. That night I was driving my car home and I thought about how easy it would be to drive off the road and end this all. I knew I needed help- so I finally I said out loud to someone “I am not okay”.
I have never been so grateful for good friends in my life before. It actually really scares me to think of what thing could be like right now without them. I had friends to listen to my cry and vent and told me things were going to be okay. I had friends who brought me cookies and gave me lots of hugs. Someone who lived across the country sent me flowers and the kindest, most supportive note. When I was really at one of my lowest point I was at a party and I told my best friend I wanted to just go home and go to bed. She pulled me aside and literally yelled at me and said I would be miserable if I went home alone and wallowed in my sadness. She wouldn't let me leave even when I begged her- and that tough love, pushing me to be happy and do fun things is want got me feeling like myself again. I woke up everyday and told myself that life was full of hurdles and rather than trying to avoid feeling all those hard feelings I needed to lean into it, learn to live with it, and overcome it.
It kind of makes me laugh to look at my social media because my fall quarter looks great from all the pictures. I felt embarrassed about some things and didn’t want to share. I think I kind of had a ‘fake it until you make it’ attitude- if I told myself I was fine then everything would be fine. I think it would be a really powerful thing to see people on social media sharing about how they have overcome their individual struggles. There are people we see and think “Wow, their life is perfect!”- which is so not the case. I remember I had a friend who said to me that I had the perfect family and I laughed hysterically in my mind but didn’t correct her. These experiences have taught me a lot. I have learned how to cry, how to ask for help, and how to accept I was not okay. I have also learned how to laugh when everything seems miserable, I’ve gained confidence in my strength and discovered that I can chose to handle whatever life throws at me rather than being defeated by it. To someone going through a hard time,: You are strong, you are resilient, and it is okay not to be okay. Ask for help and know this will pass.