When we asked readers to tweet about the moment they knew they needed to de-stress, the responses were alarming. Breaking points were marked by health crises, family problems and other types of suffering. We decided to go deeper into some of these stories in the hope that others can recognize signs of extreme stress and start to figure out their own paths to de-stressing.
Every day felt like a struggle and I found myself loathing--no, dreading--school. My diploma was so close, but so far out of reach, and the only thing that kept me going was the unbearable thought of having to repeat schooling. Most days, after I came home from attending my ever-mundane classes, I would lie on my bed indefinitely, until one of my friends called to hang out. I declined.
I questioned the direction in which my life was headed and my own relevance in this world. What purpose did I serve? What reason was there for me to be here? Frustrated, I eventually convinced my mom to take me to the psychiatrist's office. After pouring out my sentiments to the stranger on the leather armchair, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.
But this was not the moment I knew. This was, rather, the moment that precipitated a series of events that would lead to the moment I knew.
I quietly sobbed during the car ride home, because that was just something else to add to the list of things that was wrong with me. I couldn't help but to feel as if I was also burdening my family and my friends, and even my peers and teachers, with my negative attitude and sullenness. Certainly, I wanted to change. I wanted a cure as easy as denoted by the saying, "happiness is a choice." I wanted to be like the girls whose biggest concern was which color nail polish to buy, or what time to go to the spa. I wanted to be carefree.
I began to actively pursue a new life marked by carelessness, trying to be laid-back, trying not to let my emotions get the best of me. I frequently spent time with my friends, sitting around, smoking and drinking slushies from the gas station across the street. I started to lead a seemingly more relaxed life, but with leisure came apathy, and with apathy came guilt. I did nothing, and consequently, I hated myself for being so unproductive, and I hated that I was rudely snarky by default. I couldn't help my ill-tempered speech and irritability. But despite acknowledging my selfishly unpleasant demeanor, I was not moved enough by the circumstances to change.
As the end of high school neared, plenty of my peers posted heartfelt messages on Facebook and Twitter about how bittersweet the days to come would be. To them, graduation would be the culmination of years of friendships, hard work and great memories. For me, it was not as fond. Although I could never attribute the root of my depression to high school, the workload and people certainly did not help. So when the last day of school finally arrived, I felt temporarily lifted.
That weekend, I went to my close friend Ted's house again to hang out again and do nothing in particular. We talked, watched "The Cleveland Show" and invited a few more people over. When it was just the two of us again, we decided to go to the 24-hour store to buy a snack. It had passed midnight by then; I remember glancing at the clock on my phone while we drove into the night. 12:17. It was already June.
The last thing I remember seeing is Ted at the wheel, turning his head sharply toward me and yelling something indecipherable, with a frantic urgency I've never encountered before. The dark, quick-approaching figure looming in the background, paired with my friend's frenzied shouting, was enough for me to infer what would shortly ensue. A split second later, my vision went completely white and my ears flinched and gave out at the searing sound of the bus's collision.
In that moment, I was convinced I had already died, and maybe an ever-merciful god granted me a few more moments in a lingering soul: one last opportunity to reminisce. The first desolate thought that consumed me: "I was a bitch to my sister today." The second: "I owe my mom so much." And the third: "I'm not ready to die."
The impact of the bus sent the car flying several feet off the road into the grass. When I finally opened my eyes, after such a painfully lengthy period of utter blindness, I looked over at a shocked but intact Ted. My eyes welled with ceaseless tears--tears of confusion, tears of joy, and tears of relief.
When we climbed out of the wrecked metal corpse and took a glimpse at its remains, my heart sank. Two doors nearly fell off and all of the glass lay shattered on the grass. Ted's car was completely totaled and there we stood, shaking, perplexed. A large transit bus hit the driver's side at a T-bone angle on a main road, sent the car and various parts and pieces flying, and we were okay. We were okay. We were okay.
I kept questioning reality that night, testing all of my senses to ensure that I was still here and that the world was still there. It was too good to be true. I can't find any better way to convey my distraught sentiments at the time; it was too good to be true. I was alive. Several times in my life, I have felt like I wanted to die, and never have I ever felt so much of the opposite. Never had I been able to recognize the value of a life, especially mine.
While Ted and I sat shook up in the wrecked 95 Buick LeSabre, waiting for the tow truck, we embraced and sobbed into each other's shoulders. Every single problem in my life seemed so insignificant, so trivial, and I was overwhelmed by an unfamiliar but sincere appreciation for life.
Ted asked me, "Sabrina... why do you think we both made it?" and I sobbed. I didn't know. And I still don't. But I know I can't ever see life again through the same fogged spectacles.
And that was the moment I knew. The emotionally-draining, overpowering, profoundly happy moment I knew that change was undoubtedly in order. The moment I knew that life was too short, too precious, to waste stressing.
I sent my family and friends texts explaining that I love them forever no matter what. I didn't want to burden them with the news of the accident just yet, but I needed them to know that despite my irrational behavior, I still love them enormously. I only regret that it took a near-death experience to realize it.
Suffering truly does have transformative power. That terrifying incident influenced me to change my mindset and reevaluate my entire attitude. And this I can say with paramount confidence: I'm so glad I'm still here. I'm so glad for everyone in my life. I'm so glad I've been given a second chance.
Is there a moment you hit a stress breaking point and knew you needed to change your life? If you'd like to share your story, please send personal essays under 1200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration in this series.