Early this year, I sobbed alone in my apartment as if someone had died.
I had just dropped my boyfriend off at the airport, so he could go back to California and visit his family for a month while studying for the Guam bar exam.
This was the first time I truly felt alone in months, since we’d moved in together last September.
It was embarrassing, crying so hard over something so small — I mean, we’d been apart for a whole year before we moved in together, so this was cake. It wasn’t like anything bad was going to happen to me, or to our relationship, and it wasn’t like I couldn’t take care of myself on my own.
It was scary, because I knew that him going away wasn’t the real reason I was crying — but I wouldn’t find out why until I started therapy months later.
My breakdown was my wake-up call to realize something was definitely wrong with my emotional and mental well-being. It was one of the moments that pushed me into finally getting professional help.
I can’t remember the last time I truly wasn’t depressed.
I think back, and it may have started in high school. I remember I was for sure depressed when I moved to California with my family at the beginning of my senior year of high school, when I had to start all over at a new school with zero friends.
I get scared when I think back even farther, because I remember crying hard to my mom at night in elementary school, stressed out about whatever little Chloe found troubling at the time. It’s scary thinking I might not remember a time when I wasn’t depressed.
This year has been a rough one for me.
In January, Nate and I had to spend about a month apart while he was in California (though I did see him for a couple days when I also was in California to see my family). I realized how much I started relying on him for emotional stability since we’d moved in together, and how much anxiety I got about being apart since we’d just gotten over a three-year long distance period.
I relied a lot on our relationship to make me happy, and when I wasn’t happy, I thought things weren’t good with us either.
After working through my own issues and seeing a therapist, I realized it wasn’t about him or us — my depression was something separate from my relationship. But I started taking out my frustrations at home without thinking, which definitely wasn’t fair to him.
Transitioning into living with a romantic partner can be tricky, and I guess it doesn’t help much either when you’re depressed (go figure) and don’t have your families around.
In February, my uncle and I had to take my 92-year-old grandpa to the hospital, where he stayed for days (more than a week, even? It felt like this period went on forever). My mom flew here that same day from the states, and we made arrangements to care for him while he was in worse shape than ever.
I had already booked my flight to visit my parents and siblings in California, so reluctantly I went on my trip, worried it might be the last time I’d see my grandpa.
We buried him on a Saturday in early March, then celebrated my birthday the following day.
Of course, I know I still have many things to be grateful for — I write them down in a “daily gratitudes” journal my mom gave to me. I used it to remind myself of all the wonderful parts of my life (big and small) when I felt empty inside.
August 12, 2017: I’m grateful for the beauty of Litekyan, a fun day at the beach with my cousins, my beautiful island, healthy food, my sweet Grandma, cats and dogs, funny coworkers, the healing power of the ocean, my Grandpa still around in his old age, freedom to travel, beautiful shells, freedom to rest, friends who love me.
So if I have so much to be grateful for, why do I feel so empty?
After aching inside too much, crying nearly every day and not knowing why, and talking with Nate and my family, I decided I needed to finally see a therapist.
When you’re depressed and don’t have motivation to even feed yourself or take a shower, it’s hard to take the steps to get help when you don’t know where to go.
I started small, giving myself the task of just looking in my insurance provider directory for therapists in my area (I knew if I had to drive farther, I’d probably come up with excuses not to go). I narrowed the list down to just female therapists, knowing I’d feel more comfortable talking to a woman.
Weeks passed, and eventually I called the different numbers until I could find someone who would see me. Even just talking to my therapist over the phone for a few minutes, I knew I could trust her. I felt better already, after taking small actions to make this big step for myself.
I thought a lot about what we would talk about, during the days leading up to my first session. I’d seen counselors at my university years ago, and found it useful. I didn’t even know what issues I might have to talk about, or what was making me feel so sad and empty.
Everything in my life was great on paper: I have a lot of reasons to love my job (and I do it well), I have a life partner who loves me, I have a network of supportive family and friends, I have a comfortable life, I live in paradise.
I just couldn’t understand what made me so unhappy when I had so much to live for.
Since I started seeing a therapist this year, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable — which is the scariest part of all.
During the first few sessions, I told her my life story: from childhood, to my parents’ divorce, to my high school relationships, to the toxic ones, to my move back home, to now. She asked more questions about my parents and my childhood, and I tried to smooth over them, not wanting to dig deeper and unearth unresolved feelings I’d worked hard to move past.
I really can’t complain, because on most accounts I’d say I had an enjoyable childhood (and still have the friends I made in elementary school). My parents worked hard to give me a better life than theirs, and pushed me to do better.
I won’t get too far into it right now, but being the eldest child (and the product of what was nearly a teen pregnancy) put a lot of pressure on me to succeed. My parents pushed me in ways they didn’t with my younger brothers and sisters, which was rough on me sometimes.
If I could change my upbringing though, or trade for another spot in the birth order, I wouldn’t. And I’ve also learned through talking to my therapist and parents that working through issues festering from my past doesn’t mean I don’t love my parents or that I blame them for anything.
I’m happy with the life I have now for the most part, and I am the person I am because I’ve always been pushed to do my best. At some point, it went from them pushing me to do my best, to me pushing myself.
But always pushing to be the best means I often feel like a failure, or like I could at least do better. It means my college essays aren’t good enough to me, my news stories aren’t good enough, my social media presence isn’t good enough, my effort to make a positive change on the world isn’t good enough, my body is definitely not good enough.
It means I eat less to look the way I think I should, it means I lie awake in bed at night thinking of all the things I could have done better, it means if I don’t get enough likes on my picture I’m ugly and unpopular, it means I am a terrible person not worthy of love.
I say these hateful things to myself daily, and I’ve written about how it manifests in my life in different ways, like my eating disorder.
Over the past months, I’ve been trying to stop this negative cycle more actively (though it’s just second nature to me at this point).
I’m working on developing a healthier relationship with myself, which is turning out to be more a lot more difficult than three years of a long distance relationship with someone outside of myself.
I’m not writing all this so people can send me concerned messages or to get attention. I’m not writing this because I have any answers. I’m writing this because sometimes it’s okay to be sad, to not have a solution yet, or to not even know what the problem is.
The point is, I’m working every day to get better. Even if I don’t feel completely better yet (and though I worry most days that I never will), I have to hope. I have to trust myself to work through the issues that hold me down, and try different methods to see what works.
This isn’t my whole story (I promise I’m okay for the most part, and I’m not always this serious), but I wanted to at least scratch the surface of writing through this complicated path of self healing.
In future blog posts, I want to write about other mental health issues I’m learning to deal with, like overcoming the fear of starting medication, how to talk to loved ones about my mental health issues (and knowing not everyone is going to completely understand), and my journey with getting diagnosed. This whole issue is so heavy, and I’m glad I’m finally writing things down and opening up to more people. I’m not sure how useful this will be, but I hope if anyone reads this and is going through something similar, they’ll feel less alone and know that there’s still hope.