When I returned to college that summer, a dark cloud settled over my life. The insomnia of the summer hadn’t fully gone away, and I suffered a general sinking hopelessness. I was upset with myself that I couldn’t shake the darkness. After all, I had no real reason for feeling so depressed. I’d had a good summer where I’d seen God work in so many incredible ways. I had a boyfriend who loved me unconditionally and had proved it all summer long. I had no doubt that his family loved me. My family loved me. I had great friends. My life was full of so many blessings, and it frustrated me to no end that I still felt so miserable. I’d pray. I’d reason with myself. I’d rationalize. I’d lecture myself. And I’m sure that if I ever found any privacy in our dorm’s community bathroom, I stared myself down in the large mirror.
I did my best to assume an air of normalcy, but Ked knew me better than anyone else on campus, and he couldn’t be fooled. I finally opened up to him about the summer of insomnia and the depression I was suffering. Even in my confession I kept saying, “But I don’t know why I’m depressed. I don’t have a reason! There is no reason for this!” I was hung up on the fact that my life was so full therefore I shouldn’t be feeling so miserable, which in turn, only made me feel more miserable.
I’m sure he felt at a loss to know how to help me, and encouraged me to talk to his mom one weekend while we were visiting his family. I managed to swallow my pride and confess to her my misery. She was so kind and compassionate. She said she had the Bible on cd and would sometimes just let the words play for comfort in the background. I don’t recall if it was her or Ked, or the both of them that urged me to go see the counselor on campus.
I continued to insist that there was nothing wrong with me, therefore nothing a counselor could help me solve, but I eventually broke down my pride and made an appointment. Ked offered to go and sit with me while I waited which I appreciated. At the time, the counselor’s office was in the wing of one of the girl’s dorms. While you waited for the appointment, you sat in an open hallway in plain view of the traffic in and out of the dorm. It took a lot of courage for me to sit there in plain sight, waiting for my counseling appointment. I didn’t live in that dorm, so it was obvious why I was there. I was embarrassed – that people would see I needed help, that I couldn’t fix this myself, and that I couldn’t even name what was wrong with me or what had caused this.
I went to a few counseling appointments and didn’t make any progress. I remember telling the counselor repeatedly that I didn’t know why I was depressed, that there wasn’t anything wrong with my life, nothing that I could name that was broken other than being depressed. I felt like I just spun my wheels in the appointments accomplishing nothing other than flinging more dirt and pain all over myself. So I stopped going.
It’s easy through the lens of today to blame the counselor for failing to help me, when back in the mid-1990’s we knew so much less about depression and anxiety than we do today. I also tended to be a stubborn, independent person unwilling to accept help, especially in my youth. I most likely never let the counselor in far enough to the point where she could actually do her job. Instead, I struck out on my own, determined to just get through it, ignore it, and press on.
I inadvertently found a few things that helped me cope and slowly heal. I purchased a small oscillating fan that I turned on high and pointed away from my bed every night. The white noise finally helped me develop better sleeping patterns. I slept with that fan on high all year long, even through the winter. I made sure it wasn’t pointed towards either of my roommates’ beds and if it bothered them, they never once complained.
I had a job in the campus coffee shop that I loved. I’d get up an open the shop around 7:30 a.m, and it’s the only time in my life I’ve been happy before 8 a.m.. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the rhythm of setting out fresh bagels and muffins while greeting professors and staff members coming in for their morning fuel all had a soothing effect on me. That job and the healing salve it offered me is probably why coffee still gives me such calming comfort. Behind that counter I felt happy. I loved the work and my coworkers. And people always smile when you hand them a cup of coffee and a bagel. The low-stress job was a gift to me that year, and I relished it, even so early in the morning.
Through it all, Ked was unconditionally patient, kind, supportive, loving, and an ever-present shoulder to blubber on. He willingly entered into my pain and confusion never once judging me or telling me to just snap out of it or trying to fix me. He said that he still loved me for me, even when I was miserable to be around. He was a balm for my spirit, and one of the healthiest things in my life during that season. Even in my worse and in my sickness, when he had a legitimate reason to ditch me and my drama, he made sure I knew he wanted nothing short of marrying me.