A couple of months ago, I ran into someone I knew from college during one of my toughest weeks. I had worked five 12 hour shifts in the past 8 days with a wedding in between and a service trip I had to fly into late because I couldn’t get the day off… She saw me and said, “Jerri! How are you? You look like you are thriving!” I was caught off guard, at first thinking what exactly is her definition of ‘thriving’? I thought maybe if we were closer or in the same group of friends, she would know how very confused I felt in this season of life. But instead, she went onto say, “Your social media stories seem like you’re having so much fun! You’re a nurse living it up and looks like you love your job, you’re traveling to all these cool places, and your family videos! You just look like you are living your best life.”
A wedding reception wasn’t the best place for a talk about depression, so I just smiled and said thanks, and agreed that my vacation was a really, fun time.
And it was! But that doesn’t make my life perfect. There are people who actually look at my life and call it “goals”, which I hate. I’m really blessed to have the means to travel and to have people to do that with, but what people may not know is sometimes I would plan trips just to have something to look forward to. I was struggling so hard with work, my depleting social life, and ministry that I felt like I needed something to get me through the month. By the end of every trip, I would fall back into the same feelings of sadness. The escape and novelty of being in a new place and almost having a different life for a bit would soon fade once I came back to reality.
Being a night shift nurse has taken a toll on my body. There are days where I don’t feel like myself and can’t hold conversations without wanting to close my eyes. Sometimes my legs feel like they will give out if I try to leave my bed and I’m so exhausted I skip meals. Having to sleep when the sun is out is bizarre. Using earplugs, room darkening curtains, and eye masks during the day feels just like it sounds – sad. Getting to see friends feels like waiting for the next solar eclipse! Most people are free after 5 PM and on weekends, which is exactly when I work. And when I’m free, it’s in the middle of the day, when everyone else is at work; so a lot of time is spent at home or by myself. And my home life has its ups and its downs. Some days are filled with dancing and laughter, but other days consumed by heated arguments and hurtful words.
Every 1-2 months, I get into a bad headspace where my thoughts race and I feel so lost, asking God “what do you want from me?” At one point, I became so sad and contemplated whether or not my life was really worth it. It didn’t feel like it was and I felt so desperate. Having issues at home, running on 4 hours or less of sleep, and not getting to be with people was wearing on my soul. The things that kept my head above water most were thinking about the people who loved me, and remaining hopeful about the plan God has for my life.
What I want to say is that I’ve conquered this and have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. But that’s not true, it’s quite the work in progress. So right now, I’m really working on being thankful. Because I don’t have a bad life, I just have bad days. There are a lot of good things about my life, but the enemy knows that and will do whatever it takes to seep in and make you think otherwise.
What I will say is be honest. It is so much easier for people to be genuine and honest with themselves when you are too. If you’re not doing well, if you need a friend or some community, seek that out and ask for help. My Young Life community has been the biggest blessing. I’m not sure what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing life with people that encourage me, pray with me, and cry with me, while simultaneously making me laugh and making their houses my homes. And getting to serve, love, and give to the most fun high school kids alongside them is so rewarding.
If you have a friend who looks like they’re enjoying life on social media, don’t assume they are. Ask them. I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago and a woman spoke about how hurt she was when in the midst of her tumultuous divorce, a friend of hers said she had no idea and didn’t ask because she seemed okay on Instagram. Don’t let that become your only connection with people you care about. Check on your humans. We often only share the good stuff, but there’s always something more real under all of that.