It Really Does Take a Village
My fiance and I have been doing a premarital counseling course that was offered to us by my dear friend and undergraduate school chaplain. When we discussed getting married, I knew immediately that I wanted this woman to officiate our ceremony. So here we all are, meeting via Skype once a week until our January wedding. Despite my partner’s initial apprehension towards any type of counseling scenario, especially of the “marital” kind, we have happily shared the intimate details of our relationship during our meetings with increasing comfort and vulnerability. Interestingly enough, our greatest and most consistent dispute is not over who puts the dishes away or who doesn’t put his clothes in the laundry basket. Rather, it is about death.
My fiance has a voracious appetite for life. In exchange, his biggest fear? Is death. This fear is so profound that he has asked me, mostly in jest, to freeze his brain after he dies in the off chance that technology will increase so rapidly in the future that it will allow him to reanimate.
In contrast, I have, with increasing conviction, made the argument that one life is more than enough for me and that I am not afraid of death. I realize this is probably an unpopular take, and I don’t think that I always felt that way, certainly not as a child with a very limited understanding and conceptualization of death. But then, life happened, or perhaps it would be more enlightening for you if I said that death happened. In fact, death became my constant companion and most intimate friend.
As the daughter of a military officer, I moved around a lot, and not just to different states—we moved and traveled to several different countries, as well. If anything, my life was filled with so much abundance but such little stability. As a child, I was very social but also acutely aware of my surroundings. Later on, this acute awareness translated into a sort of melancholy that, in my teens, culminated in severe depression and anxiety.
By the time I was 21, I had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals and miraculously survived multiple suicide attempts. The thing is, my survival was not at all a miracle. In fact, my survival was the concerted effort of an extremely strong group of individuals who ranged from my doctors to my therapist to my friends and family. Even my college professors, administrators, and spiritual life advisors were in on the plan to keep me alive.
You see, they knew that if they could keep me going, even if it were just on a day-by-day or minute-to-minute basis, I would eventually learn how to cope with my diagnosis and even thrive in this life that we are given. And their hard work was not in vain.
Today, I am going to marry my best friend, I have wonderful relationships with my family because we weathered an unthinkable storm together, and I will be getting my master’s degree at the University of London so that I can give back to my community in my own way. That is not to say that my life is constantly filled with rainbows today. I still have really hard days, but I remind myself of how many people believed in me—and I take the appropriate actions to help myself just exist in the rain for a bit until the sun can comes out again.
My college years were my most difficult, which is pretty typical of major mental-illness diagnoses, as they show up around one’s twenties. I cannot imagine what my fate would have been had I been in any other environment, but at the end of the day, you are never alone. Your life is the amalgamation of your decisions and the actions of others. Let’s remember to be there for one another, because you never know just how much of an impact you will be making.