Photo by bymariandrew.com
My eyes were looking down at my bowl of soup, but I wasn’t fully looking at it. I was so deep into my head, it didn’t seem like I was fully present. Jordan will always ask, “Are you doing okay?” when he can sense I am stressed, sad, upset, or struggling with a bad mood. But this time, when he asked it was different. He seemed alarmed and genuinely concerned.
This was last September. When I was going on my sixth month of job searching with a lot of rejection, silence, and no light in sight. I was waitressing, working retail, and freelancing to barely scrape by.
One of my favorite human beings in the whole world passed away the month before.
Earlier that day, I got mad at Jordan (which never happens) over the littlest thing right before I left for job #1 of the day. It was the thing that broke open the big glass jar of negativity I had filled so high I was struggling to keep the lid shut. So much that I was tired and gave in. I tossed the lid and turned the faucet on and let the negativity spill over the top of the jar. I let it go at a constant flow all afternoon.
My mind took my heart out back and brutally beat it up.
So there I was, trying to eat soup before job #2 that night as I was having a mental beatdown that had been lasting for hours. I don’t like calling into work, but I couldn’t imagine working for another few hours with this mental beating continuing while I try to force smiles and small talk with customers.
I needed to stop what was happening and talk. After I called in, I grabbed a notebook and started organizing the thoughts and feelings that had been flowing from the faucet and overflowing from the jar. I had no idea where to start and how to say it all so I needed to get it down on paper first.
I made four boxes and wrote the categories I knew my mind had been focusing on: Job, Finances, Body, Relationships. I wrote down all the mean and terrible things my mind was telling myself that afternoon. Then the hardest part…I read all the awful things I was telling myself out loud to the man that loves me. I cried and even harder when I got to some statements I could barely utter from my mouth.
Everything I was thinking and saying to myself connected back to one glaring feeling: I AM NOT ENOUGH.
I had been job searching for six months and going nowhere fast. It felt like despite all the hard work I had done prior and all that I had achieved just wasn’t enough. That my degree and great experiences I was fortunate to have under my belt just weren’t enough. That maybe all I was enough for was the waitress job. You may read that last statement and think it’s a bit dramatic, but when you have been consumed, drained, exhausted and in this cycle of rejection and getting nowhere, you start to think these things.
I was so broken down, I questioned just about everything.
As for my finances, I was barely getting by. Worrying weather or not I would make enough money to cover my student loan bill or car payment in the next two waitressing shifts became a norm. It wasn’t just living paycheck to paycheck. This was living waitress shift to waitress shift and waiting for other pay days and checks to come in. I was completely filled with shame and embarrassment.
My busy and inconsistent schedule made it hard to maintain a healthy diet and enough exercise. It was even harder to see family and friends. Jordan would go to my family’s weekly Tuesday family dinner while I worked. I missed everyone a lot.
I was trying to sustain myself and in turn just wasn’t there.
As I slipped into this season of sadness and figured out I was experiencing depression, I had no idea how to talk to my friends about what I was going through. I didn’t know how to start a conversation with “So I think I am depressed.” The longer I didn’t bring it up, the worse it felt. It felt like I was hiding. It felt like a secret. I had been so open about hard times I had gone through before, but this time I couldn’t figure out a way to communicate it.
It wasn’t long after that night staring at my soup that I called my mom and told her what I was experiencing and that night I texted two of my best friends to fill them in. And after that, pressure started going away and I started working toward being more open.
So why am I telling this story?
I’ve been fascinated with the idea that social media is people’s highlight reels. I think we can agree they pretty much are. You are most likely going to see an “I am excited to announce…” post, an engagement photo, bought a new car!, baby announcement, gender reveal, new home owner post just about every day. And they continue to get more creative and elaborate as we go along.
I love them. I do them too from time to time. When I bought my Jeep, paid off credit cards, started a new job, got published in my first magazine. These are all things we can be proud of.
The problem: When it starts to become the only thing we see, only the great stuff, we start to think everyone else must have their shit together and we don’t. They are better, their life must be great, must be nice to do that, I bet they are happy all the time.
I think this too. I sometimes trap myself in the game of comparison. But as I experienced this really really tough season of life and learned more about this whole highlight reel concept, I wanted to go against it. Instead of just a highlight reel, I want to start showing people how I am real.
That I don’t have it all together even if my Instagram account looks like I do. That if I post about paying off a credit card and losing weight, that there was a lot of hard work, sacrifice, tears, and fight that went into it before that photo was taken.
I don’t want to feel weird posting a happy dandy picture and feel like I am hiding the struggles that I am going through.
I want people to know that none of us have our shit together. I want people to be more mindful that others are probably dealing with their own struggles too. You aren’t alone. Just this last year in my circle of friends…
One lost a dear friend that is younger than us to a car accident last November
Another had a miscarriage and has felt like she is carrying the burden alone
And one of my friends was laid off from her job unexpectedly and then experienced losing her second baby just this year.
This is tough real life stuff. A lot of that is not shown on social media. We are all real. And we feel. And sometimes we get sad and sometimes it’s hard to do life. Last year was the deepest I’ve swam in sadness. But I have been learning how to cope and handle the tough times in healthy ways. And I am trying really hard to be more open about it.
The night I read the terrible things I thought about myself to Jordan, he took me to Liberty Memorial afterward and I took this picture and posted it on social media. I referenced the rainy day inside myself. I was not ready to talk or write about it, but I knew I would eventually when I was ready. Even months later, I am still a little scared to write this and put it out there, but I feel like it is so needed. I can’t keep this to myself. I should share it with you.
Photo by Rachel Marshall
You aren’t alone. You will be sad, but it’s okay. It will get better. Storms don’t last forever.
Sending good vibes and prayers your way.
With extra sprinkles on top,