Friday, March 24, 2017

Turning Point Depression

The year 2003 turned out to be a big one for me.  I never could have imagined the amount of change that one year could produce, from agony to joy.  Towards the end of my junior year I knew I had a big decision to make.  My parents were pushing me to get a degree in engineering by signing up for Augustana's 3-2 program with U of I or another school.  In this program, I would leave Augustana to attend the other school, ending up with degrees from both schools - one in physics, the other in engineering.  But I had always felt a pull towards teaching.  I applied for an internship for the summer at the University of Minnesota to see what technical engineering would be like.  Despite having only a background in physics, I was accepted and my parents drove me up at the beginning of June.  The internship was meant to be 8 weeks and I would get paid $4000, plus live on campus for free.  It seemed like an awesome opportunity.  I would be home just in time for my sister's wedding even.

Everything seemed to be okay for the first week or so.  I was making some new friends, following the summer workout plan, had joined a summer soccer league, and was mostly enjoying the new work.  But then the anxiety mounted.  I had trouble sleeping as the nightmares returned.  I hadn't shared with anyone there what had happened to me and I didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone.  Family came out to visit, and spending time with them helped a little.  Jon and I had met the previous summer and were in a strong relationship at that point.  So he came and visited over the 4th of July weekend.  I agreed to give it one more week, but he saw that I was emotionally crumbling.

I spoke with those in charge of the program about my options.  I shared with them the reason behind my difficulties and they tried to work with me.  They offered to move me into a bedroom at someone's house to see if that would help.  But I knew that what I needed was to be surrounded by my loved ones and I needed to talk to a therapist.  Quitting that internship was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made.  And part of me honestly still questions if I did the right thing.

The weekend after July 4th, my parents came out and brought me home.  That next week I made an appointment to see a therapist that was recommended by a family member.  She was a social worker and clearly trained differently than the psychiatrist I had seen previously.  Jon drove me and sat in the car so that I would have him afterwards.  Over the course of several sessions we mapped out the relationships in my family and I became comfortable.  I was then able to share with her the sadness, shame, and frustration that originated from the date rape.  Deciding to see that therapist and the way she helped me re-frame everything was a major turning point for me and allowed me to take back my life.

The biggest difference from the psychiatrist I had previously seen was that I was ready to work through everything.  I decided I was ready to put in the work and let go of the emotions I was hiding.  And I am so glad that I made that decision.  Through the help of the therapist, my family, and Jon I was able to turn the corner in my life and see that I was not responsible for what had happened.  I know I will forever carry this scar and in a few years will have to share the experience with both kids in discussing the dangers that lie ahead.  But because I took the time to sort through everything, it will be okay.  I wouldn't wish the experience on anyone, but I do believe I am stronger for working through the aftermath.  I wish I would have done so right away instead of waiting 3 years.

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