Brave.

Being home from college is really hard. I left behind my boyfriend, my best friend, and countless other very close friends of mine. I left any semblance of my previous life behind in an instant.

The whole process was very quick. It felt like a whirlwind, a twister of emotions, and then *poof* I was back to the place I had been so itching to vacate just half a year earlier.

My symptoms originally worsened about a month or so before finals last semester, my first semester of college. I was taking 15 credit hours, and struggling to keep up work as it was, without the added stress of the inability to control my emotions and thoughts. I began to cry and listen to “All by Myself” multiple times in a row, for hours. It was sad, my roommate can attest to this.

I remember one night in particular: my thoughts were scattered, my brain was fried, I had a final the next day but was completely incapable of thinking straight, much less studying. So, as exhausted and numb as I was, I was, of course, incapable of sleeping, and therefore spent the next two hours meticulously coloring flowers in an “adult coloring book”. I colored and colored into 1 AM when my weary body could no longer move my right arm and gave up.

Finals were a stretch. I just made it through them without my body completely shutting down. I remember arriving home just so relieved that I now lacked the need to do schoolwork, or move.

December and January were months of constant medication changes. My SSRI and SNRI were initially just increased, however, after a few days of worsened symptoms, staring listlessly into space, and life hatred, I called the psychiatrist and my Lexipro, an SSRI, was removed as Abilify, an antipsychotic, was added. Dosages for Abilify were switched and switched, as Abilify made me feel the worst I’d ever felt. I could not focus on a single text message, much less my psychology textbook. My skin and body persistently felt like it was crawling out of itself, like it was bursting to its brims and I could not fidget so as to calm its ever-quenching thirst for movement. I paced my small dorm space, I wasn’t sleeping, I felt like crap, and my mood decreased and decreased.

In response to this I called up a local psychiatrist and was scheduled in within a day. This appointment ended with my diagnoses as follows: maybe Bipolar Disorder, I’m not sure, I’ll put you on Seroquel XR. To which I cried, and traipsed home as I confusedly wailed at my mother through the telephone as she suggested I tough it out.

It was only after having a counselor/psychologist tell me to “Go home.” that I began to seriously consider it. It had been no question. My degree, my Matthew, my everything was up there, I would do my best to tough it out. But alas, God had different plans for me, and within three days I was whisked from my tiny-cubicle-of-a-dorm-room to a house I’d grown accustomed to over my years in high school and before.

The day I left my boyfriend was having a particularly rough time, and I was doing my best to be strong: it was going to be okay. I remember sitting in the car on the way home with tears just streaming down my face. I remember arriving and the days of sobbing that followed.

But then I remember support. I remember the hundreds of old friends and acquaintances that reached out to offer a word of encouragement, or a shoulder to cry on should I need it. I remember one particular word of compliment that struck a chord: I was told how brave I was. Brave.

I don’t know about you, but as I sat, covered in tears, hopeless, and helpless, I did not feel brave. I didn’t even feel human, much less brave. But I was repeatedly told how brave it was to put my health first, how brave it was to go home, how brave it was to be so open. I told my dad to which he said: “Susannah, you’ve always been brave.”

That’s when I realized that every single one of us that pushes through the days, endlessly hoping for easier days to come, but pushing through nonetheless are brave. We are brave for the days we wake up and force ourselves to shower through tears, we are brave for the days we can’t escape the bed but live anyways, we are brave for the days we tell our friends we’re okay, and we’re brave for the days we tell them we aren’t. We are brave for the days we push past the pain, physical and emotional, to accomplish something, no matter how small. And finally, we are especially brave for sharing ourselves, all the broken pieces, and the shattered souls, with those around us who love and care, because that is the hardest and most brave of all: openly admitting that we are broken, and choosing to brave the world despite it.

For explanation of image, do continue: Here are me and some friends braving the world and watching the Super Bowl last night. About all I know is the team with Peyton Manning won and the Doritos commercial left the whole room in shocked silence. Otherwise I was too busy talking and stuffing my face!

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