At this time last year I was coasting by bicycle across Kansas during the inaugural Bike Across America for Mental Health. Looking back on that trip brings about bittersweet feelings, as it was one of the most rewarding and difficult endeavors of my life. I knew that going into the epic journey from sea to shining sea was going to be grueling. What I failed to foresee was the road that followed.
In the fall of 2015 I had just completed the over 3,200 mile long trip and was heading off to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. I saw this opportunity as a rebirth, a time to start over, and with that came the all too common thought that my mental health was under control; that I no longer required the self-care or support to which I had grown accustomed.
Everything first began to fall apart in September when my grandpa passed away. My grief along with my mental health negligence and the loneliness of a new city drove me further and further into isolation and depression. To cope with the despair I began to drink heavily, each day running further from sobriety and inevitably the reality of my pain.
After weeks of struggling in silence I finally found the courage to reach out to a professor, a woman that preached self-care and always finished class offering a listening ear if anyone needed to talk and that’s exactly what she did. She sat listening, compassionately, as I vented with tears in my eyes. We finished that talk by making a safety and self care plan. That conversation was all I needed; by simply listening she gave me hope that everything was going to be okay.
When I look back on this past year there is one lesson that continually presented itself, which is that it is okay to not be okay. It is a saying that I struggle to accept but thankfully I have had amazing people in my life, like my professor, that have reminded me of those words by simply showing they care.
Caring words and a listening ear are all it takes to change someone’s life. I know my professor did that for me, and today life continues to offer its challenges but that’s okay, because I know it’s always going to be okay.