The past few weeks have been really difficult for me and I am just beginning to understand (at least I think I am) why.
In high school I was outwardly a very social and happy person. Inside I dealt with crippling anxiety and depression. I wanted to go and interact with friends and develop relationships, but every time I did I would come home feeling even more depressed and upset with myself. Invariably I would say or do something that I would perceive was not well accepted by the group as a whole or at least by individuals that I wanted to think highly of me. I would often leave social gatherings suddenly and without explanation just so I could escape the seeming awkwardness and negativity that I assumed I had created.
With time I learned that 99% of that was in my head. No, not everything I did was well received, but I learned that for the most part I was well liked and that people enjoyed my company. I slowly learned to trust people when they said that they liked me and wanted to spend time with me. I learned that sometimes they might be having a bad day and reacted the way they did towards me not because they found my actions unsavory, but rather because they were not feeling mentally balanced and just didn’t know how to act in general. I began to feel more and more comfortable with people. I also learned to just wade through those feelings of self-doubt and wait until I knew people better. The better I knew them, the more convinced I became that they really and truly did like me.
The beginning of my undergraduate career set me back a little. I was in new social situations and I began to feel some of the same things I had felt in high school; I was convinced that I was disliked and that people just put up with me because they thought it was the right thing to do. Luckily, I had close friends who I could lean on and trust that at least they loved me, and I was able to cope. Again, with time, I learned to push through the feelings of worthlessness to realize that it was all in my head. The people that I called my friends truly were my friends and I didn’t need to doubt their love or their intentions.
Well here I am, 24 years old and in graduate school, and I feel like I am sixteen all over again. Once again I find myself doubting my self worth. Even though I know better, I feel convinced that my new friends can’t possibly be friends. How could they like me when I do and say the things that I do? It doesn’t help that in reality there are one or two people with whom I have had very few positive interactions. When I have moments like that with people I find myself thinking “Well if they don’t like me, how can the rest of them like me?”
What foolishness! I know better than that! I’ve been down into this dark ravine before and come through on the other side remarkably happy! And I think that is what makes this so difficult for me now. I feel like I have taken several large leaps backward. I hate having to redo things. I hate it with a passion. It seems, though, that repetition is one of the best ways to learn things, and I think the Lord knows this and is simply trying to help me realize that I do indeed know how to cope.
In my undergrad, when I last regressed, I leaned on close friends. I used them to help stabilize myself as I learned how to accept people and let them accept me in their own time. The thing that has been so difficult is that while I may still have those friends, they are not here with me. Those whom I love and hold dear to my heart aren’t here for me to spend time with and cry with and talk with me face to face. Without that safety net I have felt myself fall back into a far too familiar depression and cycle of self doubt and mistrust.
However, as I have thought about that former support web and how I can function without it here, I realized that I have developed a new method of support that can function without my close friends being in my immediate vicinity. That is my love for and dependance on Jesus Christ, as well as his returned love and mercy. In recent years I have been developing my relationship with the Savior and I have, without knowing, created a new support system for myself. It has lifted me up in my trials and helped me keep going when all seemed lost.
What I have found is that I am currently suffering from an old vice and that the old methods are not available to help me. Now is my chance to put my new support method into action. The more I think about it, the more exciting it is! I have found a way to rely on my Savior for love and support, thus making it possible for me to function when other means of help are not available to me.
The Lord has promised help to those who come unto Him. I am so grateful to have a new opportunity to test that out. I know it will take time. I will still feel lonely and depressed. I will still feel unwanted and unwelcome. I will still doubt that people truly care for me and I will feel obnoxious and annoying and like I am doing all of the wrong things. But only for a while.
I’ll have to learn to deal with this anew. It will take a while, but I will be gathered in and my Lord and Redeemer will have mercy upon me and I’ll learn how to deal with this all over again. Basically, yeah, life sucks sometimes, but I’ll be ok.