The Sun Will Come Out
© Copyright 2018 by Caitlyn Martin
The best place to start any story is at the beginning, or as close to one as you can get. Mine began in kindergarten when I told my mother that I loved animals. She told me I should be a veterinarian, like she had been, and I said okay. Fast forward thirteen years and youíll find me a senior at my high school; making good grades, surrounded by good people who I called friends, and part of the Veterinary Science Academy offered there. In the classroom, youíd see my name up on a banner hanging on the wall after my team won first place at the state-level veterinary science competition, and on a plaque sitting on my teacherís desk youíd find my name engraved into a medal after being the only one of my team to win gold at the national-level competition. I was volunteering multiple days a week at a local animal clinic and was mere months away from receiving my Certified Vet Tech licensing as well. Since I had been five years old, I had devoted my whole life towards the one goal I had set for myself: to become the best veterinarian I could be. I forced every last drop of my energy into practicing and researching and learning. Never once did I entertain the idea that I would ever be anything other than a veterinarian, because why would I? I knew without a doubt that I would make an excellent vet and would excel in such a field. The problem came very suddenly and abrupt one day a few months before graduation Ė I realized I didnít want to be a veterinarian. I was shell-shocked at the revelation, forced onto me as I recognized the noose of time tightening around my neck. With graduation fast approaching, I would have to start applying to the only veterinary medicine accredited college in my area, which was the University of Florida. The realization of pursuing such a career snowballed all at once and caused an avalanche of pressures to fall on me. Did I really want to spend the next seven years in school? Did I want to be part of such a competitive field where I might not be good enough? Was my love of animals really able to translate into a love for veterinary medicine? If I was having all of these doubtsÖdid I really want to be a veterinarian after all? The immediate response was ďyes, of course I did.Ē After all, I had spent my whole life moving towards this one goal and now I was just feet from the finish line that suddenly seemed like the half-way mark. But, as the final days of my high school career fell away and I found myself in cap and gown walking across a stage to receive my diploma, the answer changed Ė no, I did not want to be a veterinarian.
Me recognizing it was only half of the existential crisis I went through; the other half was telling my parents. Looking back on it now, it was a silly thing to panic about. My parents have never been anything but wholly supportive throughout my entire life, and I would be shortchanging them if I said they were anything but amazing to me and my brothers. However, thatís the tricky thing about problems Ė they seem so much bigger when theyíre looming up in front of you. It isnít until youíre well down the road and look back that you realize how small they actually were. This problem clung to me for the next two years, trailing after me like a wolf after a sheep. I enrolled at the local community college and started working for my associateís degree, but that was it. I had withdrawn my volunteering from the animal clinic and sort of shut myself away from anything vet-related. This vexed my parents who still believed that I wanted to be a veterinarian. They thought I was just being lazy, not an unreasonable assumption since at this point I still hadnít told them the truth. Their annoyance with me mounted with each passing week that I refused to find another clinic to join and accrue hours, every time I refused to talk with them about my plans for the future, and whenever I showed no interest in applying to UF. This started a very dark time in my life. Not only was the misunderstood irritation of my parents weighing on me, but other factors had started to add to it. All of my friends from high school had gone straight to university rather than apply part-time at a cheaper community college and transferring. I found myself very alone in my hometown with no real friends. It was at this time that I also began to experience the ďbig fish and small pond, small fish and big pondĒ phenomenon. In the span of a year, I had gone from the top tier of my academic hierarchy in high school to just another one of the masses in the college setting. This threw me for a loop and left me feeling lost. Here I was, thought to be the scholar of my siblings by every one of my family, and suddenly I wasnít. My older brother, who was atrocious in school, was working at a steady job and going to college, had a long-term girlfriend, and was looking to move out at the time. As awful as it sounded, I felt severely unaccomplished at how my untalented brother was succeeding in life so much better than I was. This all occurred in the span of a few months, but it would end up affecting me for the next twenty-four. It was at this point in my life that I developed severe depression and anxiety issues.
I wonít go into too much depth about this topic as it was a very low point in my life where I struggled in every way imaginable. Again, looking back on it, I donít even remember why I was so negatively affected or how the onset happened. It felt like one day I was fine and then the next I was suddenly plunged into darkness and hopelessness. I isolated myself from my family, held the one friend Iíd kept from high school at armís length, and I loathed my being with everything I had. Anytime I wasnít at school I was hoarded away in my room, lying on my bed and seething my existence. At night, right after dinner, Iíd go straight over to my grandparentís who lived next door and go swimming. Iíd swim around that pool for hours by myself in the dark, listening to depressing music and think things that I am ashamed to have thought. Eventually, my dark thoughts got to be too much and I ended up writing them down in a journal to get them out of my mind. In the two years I suffered with this depression, I ended up filling the journal up entirely from cover to cover. It has since been burned, but I can still recall the things I scrawled down when I was at my most weak and vulnerable stateÖI shudder and feel sick at the memories. I would like to say that I had the strength and constitution to keep my depression to tears, somber notes, and sad songs butÖthat would be a lie and thatís not what I set out to do with this essay. I began to self-harm, something to this day that nobody has ever known or that I have spoken about until now. I began contemplating ending my life, the repercussions of such action, and I convinced myself that it wouldnít get better. That this pit I was in was all that was left in the world. All of this originating from the realization that I didnít want to be a veterinarianÖit seemed ridiculous then, and it seems even more ridiculous now. But, thatís the conundrum. Itís the trivial, insignificant, ridiculous things that can have the most profound impact on a personís life. It may not be the loss of a loved one or home or job or faith, but that doesnít discount its severity. People shouldnít feel like they have to compete their travesties for them to be real.
Iím going to spend the rest of the essay talking about the recovery period of my life, which I am still currently going through. Iíll start off by saying this: recovery starts by receiving help, and asking for it if you canít secure it yourself. Near the end of my two-year stint in Emotional Prison, I began seeing with some clarity how severe my situation was. I had scars on my body and soul that ached and resonated through my entire being and I made the decision that I didnít want to live like that anymore. This is a dangerous awareness to achieve because you can go either way with it, both having extreme impacts on your life and the lives of those around you with drastically different outcomes. I was lucky enough to try and reach for a lifeline rather than a noose, as crass as that sounds. I made the decision that I wanted help and that I was going to get it somehowÖnow, the problem was that I wasnít sure how to go about that. I was considered by my whole family to be a strong, independent, and persevering woman. The thought of telling them all otherwise was hard for me to process. I canít begin to count the number of times I found myself on the brink of dropping the bomb on my parents, my brothers, or my grandparents. The words were always on the tip of my tongue, pressing against my teeth only to be blocked by my closed lips. Theyíd be creeping up my throat, ready to spew forth, and then Iíd end up choking on them. Every time an opportunity presented itself and I let it slip by, I became angrier and angrier. My parents, who had noticed the change in me since high school and had been concerned, now started pressing more and more for me to talk to them. This angered me more, irrationally. In my head, it had to be me who went to them, not the other way around. The night of absolution came during one of my midnight swimming sessions when my mother made the trek across the dark yard to join me for the first time. Maybe I felt a sense of security and anonymity in the darkness, a certain peace in the floating of the water, and a strong rush of maternal love and worry. I told her everything Ė almost everything. I left out the bits about my self-harm and my suicidal thoughts, knowing that it would just hurt her in ways I couldnít ever fix. And suddenly, everything about the past two years made sense to her. I wasnít lazy or unmotivated Ė I was lost and confused. Most importantly, I was hurting. She cried, I cried, we hugged, and the next day she made me an appointment to see a therapist. The rest is history.
I know it sounds like a Hallmark movie, but Iím telling the truth when I say things have been unbelievably better since that day. Coming from somebody who didnít believe in therapists and talking about your feelings, itís hard for me to believe how impactful having somebody to go to with your internal pain is. I got the help I needed by talking through my problems and was eventually able to pull myself out of my hole of depression. I still see my therapist once every few weeks even though my depression has been significantly lifted, and Iíve recently started seeing a psychiatrist who prescribes me medicine to deal with the lingering depression I feel and my anxiety. Iíve given myself permission to let go of my need to be a veterinarian and have embraced my passion which Iíve always had but never recognized as a possible career Ė writing. Today, sitting at my desk typing up this essay, I have my cat lying beside me and the windows open. Itís cool today despite the fact Iím living in Florida, and the sun feels nice on my skin. I can hear my parents in the living room laughing as they watch some kind of comedy movie and my younger brother is lying on my bed watching television. Iím happy today, and I plan to be happy for many days to come. If I have to give some sort of advice as my parting words to whoever reads this, I suppose that it would be a choppy list of the following: donít let other people tell you what your dreams are. Donít discount your feelings because you think somebody might have it worse than you do because that is the same as saying you shouldnít be happy because somebody might have it better than you. It is never as dark as you think it is and there is always a way out. The hardest part of recovering is reaching out for help and you should never think less of yourself for getting the resources you need. I would also like to share a quote from Tyrion Lannister, a character of George R.R Martinís series Game of Thrones that has helped me quite a bit,
ďDeath is so final, yet life is full of possibilities.Ē