This time of year, just a little over a week before Easter, 15 years ago, I was at the lowest point in my life. I had always been a little “down in the dumps” from time to time. I was sort of a pessimist. I complained a lot, didn't have many friends, and just kept to myself most of the time. I had someone I loved in my life, but we were in a long distance relationship. I was also away from my parents and I had started to push away the few friends that I had with my isolating behaviors.
It's been said that one of the first things to be affected in depression is one's perception. With me, this was absolutely true. I felt like my life was spiraling downward and out of control, but things were actually ok! I was doing well in college, getting good grades. I had a couple of great friends and I had a boyfriend and parents that loved me, even though they were miles away. So why did I feel so awful? I couldn't put my finger on it. I didn't know how to define it.
Until one day, my practicum supervisor (I was studying to be a teacher) pulled me aside after class. She wanted to speak to me privately. She asked me how my practicum was going. I lied and told her it was going fine when truly I felt that I couldn't handle it and I could barely drag myself to get out of bed every day. She asked me how I was feeling. I said fine even though I had been to the doctor recently trying to find out why I was so tired all the time. She looked, her eyes full of concern, and said, “It just seems to me that you are very very depressed.” That was the word. That was it. The truth hit. I began to cry, at first just a little, and then sobbing almost uncontrollably. She gave me some information about the student health center and help me set up an appointment to go see a counselor there.
I can't remember the name of that professor, but that first step; her ability to recognize the signs in me that I was denying in myself, set me on the path to recovery. If it weren't for that professor, I don't know if I would be here today. I hope that somewhere out there in internet land, this reaches her as a thank you. But even if it doesn't, I want her to know that I am thankful for what she did and said. You never know how your words may influence another. For me, her words set me on a path to recovery and eventually led me down the road to become a professional counselor. I encourage everyone to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of mental illness if you are concerned about a friend or a loved one. Let them know you are concerned. Sometimes it just takes a few words to change someone's life forever.