When I began this blog, it was not my intention to make it extremely personal or entirely revealing about who I am and what I feel. I am generally confident in my daily routines, yet like every other person in the world, I have secrets that I try my best to hide behind an outward appearance of happiness. If you were to ask any classmate of mine from my K-12 schooling, I have a hunch that most would have labeled me a stereotypical “goody two-shoes.” Academically, I was always in the top ten percentile of my class. Athletically, I played sports almost year-round and was elected captain of multiple teams. I graduated high school with over 350 hours of community service. I held so many leadership roles in extra-curricular activities that in order to fit everything on a one page resume as I applied to colleges, I had to make the font size barely legible without the need of a magnifying glass. Aside from getting a few glares or jokes from my teachers brought on by my persistent chattiness in class, behavioral issues were never a concern for me.
Throughout the past twenty years of my existence, I have prided myself on compliments given to me about my “infectious smile” and “inspiring positivity.” I hold myself to an extremely high standard in order to maintain my favorable appearance, but the toll of aiming for perfection is exhausting. When I came to college, I was bright-eyed with awe at the incredible opportunities I was given and the accomplished people I met. I fought to be the best that I could be, which I then equated with earning perfect grades and participating in endless leadership roles on campus. By my sophomore year, the connections I had built and the knowledge I had attained far surpassed my expectations, but my satisfaction faded as I began to drown in my endless sea of “things to get done.”
Every moment of every day was filled with an assignment or a task that others relied on me to finish. I was swimming toward an island where Perfection, Attainment, and Accomplishment lived. I tried to swim in the open ocean, but the waves were so large that I lost sight of the finish line. Without noticing, I drifted far out of my channel.
In retrospect, I know that I began by simply wanting to go for a challenging swim, but because I pushed myself so far, I lost energy. Without energy, exhaustion took over my body and soul. Every time I tried to rise to the surface for a breath, I only gulped salt water. I kept pushing myself thinking that I could beat the exhaustion, but I swallowed so much salt water that my mental well-being lost all sense of reason. I began to create a fantastical, unattainable destination. The island was merely a mirage, and as I continued to swim, it grew further and further away. I distanced myself so far from the original shore that screaming for help seemed like a hopeless cause. Eventually, I was so tired and terrified that I could no longer swim.
My swim in the Anxiety Ocean has lasted many years. It was not until this past January that I realized I could not swim. In a state of utmost panic, fear, confusion, and self-doubt, I finally decided to call for help. The salt water I had swallowed in my impossible swim ruined my mental clarity and drove me blind, so I never realized that there had been a boat beside me all along. The passengers and captain had no way of telling that I was drowning because I never called for help. On the contrary, I hid every sign of exhaustion. I was so ashamed of how hard I tried to succeed and how tragically I was defeated, that I could barely admit the fault to myself. In the final moment before I nearly surrendered to the permanent depths of the ocean, I gasped for a last breath and cried for help as loudly as my feeble body allowed.
I was heard and I was rescued.