Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sometimes, Life Changes

Sometimes, life changes in very unexpected ways. It did that when I was going to transfer out of BYU after my mission and instead stayed to complete my degree. It did it again when I got an offer to teach middle school English in Kansas City with Teach For America, and instead decided to once again stay at BYU to work on my Master's in Social Work. And now, life has done it again.

This last semester has been a hellish adventure. I began the semester with the highest of hopes for my clinical education. No longer were classes being taught by professors who had no theoretical grounding and just rambled. This was to be the semester of solid, theory-based practice. I started going to therapy, thought I was getting my life under control, and feeling confident about the work I was doing.

And then life changed.

In the middle of February, I had an emotional breakdown. I ended up at the hospital, and spent a week in inpatient care working through issues of depression and suicidal thoughts and plans. My time at the hospital taught me the importance of mindfulness and support networks. Throughout it all, my family and friends were a great support. I told the social workers at the hospital there that I was just there for an immersive social work experience so that I could understand what the client experiences in those settings. They didn't buy it.

After the hospital, I reentered the world of academia. I tried to slow down a little, but still keep my rigorous schedule. I had presentations to work on, papers to write, and statistical models to create. Life seemed to normalize again.

And then life changed. Again.

This time, it was much slower. I began to isolate myself from those closest to me, stopped doing things that I enjoyed, lost interest in my school work and social life. I became despondent. One night, I decided that I was going to end it all. The appeal of nonexistence became greater than the desire for life. The next day, I was once again in an inpatient facility, this time for five days. I ended up going back to the hospital, the one thing I committed myself not to do after the first stint. But, I was safe. That was important.

While in the hospital, I had a sort of Come to Jesus moment, where I realized that if I left the hospital and didn't change the status quo, I would end up dead before I had a Master's degree. That was a pretty sobering moment. And so, life began to change again. After lots of really deep discussions with professors, mentors, and my therapist, I came to the conclusion that I needed to take a break from school. That's right. No Master's. No more social work. No more BYU. For someone whose whole life since 2007 has revolved around school, academia, and BYU, this was scary. My therapist said I dreaded the idea of not being in school because that's where I got my validation for life.

The lesson here is that life changes, often in ways we don't expect or welcome. And sometimes, it's frightening as hell. And sometimes, even though it's terrifying, it's what is necessary or right or good. Even when such change is not what you wanted. Even when you do everything in your power to resist that change. And so, we adapt, evolve, and develop. All in a response to change. It is change that allows us to change.

Life changed. I'm still here. That's a good thing.