Last December, someone said I'm one of the most happy, peaceful and well-balanced people she knows. I laughed. These are traits I deeply and consistently strive for but used to feel I fell way short of. At the time, when I saw things as going well, I was elated. But when I perceived things as turbulent, I was a hot mess, anxious like a shaking Chihuahua!
Something fantastic in my life prompted this perspective to begin to shift, and that is finishing grad school in one month's time (yay!). Along with this, though, comes the need to look for my first job in the industry I've trained for (social work). This coming transition is an excellent one, but it did weird things to my brain. Starting in January, I became inconsolably anxious and eventually depressed. I spoke with some of my cohorts, and no one seemed to be experiencing what I was. My gut said, "This is normal. This is huge stuff. This will pass. Keep movin, mama." But I just couldn't. I refused to let myself feel the entirety of what I was really feeling without letting my mind interfere: "I shouldn't be feeling like this. Why am I feeling like this? Why can't I be like so and so, who's so f*cking together!?"
I tried to work it out. A huge proponent of positivity and self-help, on any given day in January or February, you could quite possibly have found me journaling while practicing yoga and talking with a friend while breathing deeply on a prayer-treadmill (a thing I just made up). Well, maybe not all these at once, but you get the picture. I used lots of tools. These quite possibly lessened the burden from what could have been, but didn't relieve it entirely. And what can you do? Life can get pretty intense. Unfortunately, as I'm realizing, sometimes things are just going to suck for a while, and it's our job to wait it out.
Thankfully, in the middle of March, I woke up one day and realized the depression had passed and I was actively looking for work with ease. Additionally, my anxiety level was what I perceive a healthy amount should be for a person who doesn't know how she'll pay her bills in a month. A few other funny things happened around this time too.
As I was starting to calm down, my cohorts were starting to ratchet up! Some school friends began to experience serious anxiety. Others noticed they were picking fights with loved ones for no good reason, some were gaining weight or having trouble sleeping and a few even began engaging in risky behavior. One friend admitted that she purposefully keeps all of the emotions compartmentalized in a nice, little package, otherwise she'd "surely lose her sh*t." No two people deal with stress the same -- and as I'm seeing now -- many people don't deal at all. And you know what? It's all good. I believe we all get where we need to go eventually.
Listen: If you are up to the task of really living life and feeling all that this implies, things aren't always going to be pretty. It's a bumpy ride. You're going to have enough people and odds against you; don't let yourself be one of them. Until very recently, I kept thinking that I was working toward some phase of life where I'd be this ever-happy, always-stable, super-capable person who instinctively knows how to handle anything. But I'm starting to realize... THIS IS IT! Life is never going to be all good or all bad. It's a big, beautiful mosh-posh! And no one knows what they're doing, at least not entirely.
To that point, earlier, I mentioned that during recent hard times, I would compare myself to people in my life who seemed incredibly together. I recently spoke with two of these people individually, a man and a woman. The man is devoted to a life of peace and service, is an active student of Eastern traditions, and constantly radiates "yummy." The woman is so incredibly authentic, consistently present and flexible that she's always a pleasure to be around. I relayed to them how I saw myself, especially in comparison to "people like them," and they both said the equivalent of, "Are you kidding me? I have no idea what's going on." Now, that's not entirely true, of course. But for some reason, hearing two of the most impressive people I know tell me they're just as clueless as the rest of us felt really good.
So, it turns out that a couple months of nonsense has been a great teacher for me, and I hope hearing this might bring a few of you some solace. Life's a wild ride, and none of us is getting out alive. I say, feel what you will, find people to lean on when it hurts, trust yourself, and be patient. Good or bad, it will always pass. But you'd better make up your mind as to how you want to face it, because this is it.
For more by Allison Berkowitz, click here.
For more on stress, click here.