"You really need to take care of yourself"
These were words I've always heard but always thought was just a saying. Besides, to me my life wasn't all that bad. I mean sure, school sucks, my job is menial and I'm broke as hell but what 23 year old isn't right now. But when September of 2016 came around, the saying definitely had weight. In a matter of weeks I went from a gainfully employed recent university graduate to a broke and homeless, unemployed young woman who didn't know where her next meal was coming from. Even with all this going on...I still shrugged it off. Feeling I would deal with it when I found the time. Besides, I have shelter, food and work to look for. So again...I pushed my stress to the side and decided to continue life as it came, which eventually lead me to drinking. Alcohol for me was just a quick supplement for happiness, and since that was needed in this situation it was what I turned to. Barely any money to my name but I still scraped up enough for a bottle.
This continued for a few weeks. At this point I was staying in Airbnb's to avoid going to a homeless shelter (which I eventually ended up) or back home to my parents a failure and at this point I felt I was doing okay emotionally. Life sucked but at least I wasn't stressing. Eventually my bottling of emotions and stress got the best of me late one Thursday, while talking to a friend.
There was this annoying pain in my chest...didn't know what is...the hell was that?
Maybe it was all the bubbles from that bottle of wine I downed hours before? Ehh...whatever I'll burp it up later...
...but that pain never went away, but turned into me rolling around the bed to get comfort, or trying to breathe it through...but nothing was working.
Thinking I was having a heart attack, I text the first person my mind could think of...my friend Nangie.
As soon as I told her what was going on, she of course told me to go to the hospital..."you gotta take care of yourself, Steph. Go now!"
You would think I listened to her....NOPE! Instead, I told her I'll be fine and continued to bear the pain to sleep until the pain shot up and woke me up. I reluctantly went.
Waiting for hours in the emergency room, with all the scans and blood drawings and observations done on me, I soon realized I wasn't having a heart attack, but was experiencing back to back panic attacks. As serious as this sounded, I still didn't mind it. Even looking in the doctor's demeanour and the concern on my line sister's face as she sat beside me, I still didn't think too much of it. Simply thought "whatever...I'll lay off the alcohol" parted ways with Nangie and headed back to where I was staying.
For weeks the attacks continued, but I still tried to play it off as nothing...until one night while staying at a friend's I was so crippled with pain and fear of dying I went back to the hospital. My heart and lungs were checked, everything came back okay, but instead of sending me on my way, this time the doctor sat with me.
"What's going on at home? Are you struggling in school?"
Being so scared of dying I let her know of everything. How scared I was for the future, how I haven't had a stable place to live in a month and cannot find a job to save my life. She (the doctor) didn't say or do much as I cried and poured my heart out. When I had managed to get everything I felt out, she simply said. "This might not be what you want to hear, but you really need to take care of yourself"
"Take care of myself? Didn't you hear anything? I'M POOR. I'M HOMELESS! I can't afford to take care..."
Catching myself in the circle of putting my emotions to the side, I started to realize how this was all affecting me. Only person that caused my health to get this bad was myself, because I simply wanted to store it away and deal with it later...eventually realizing how life threatening that could be.
That was the day I began making changes. The doctor referred me to a women's shelter that assisted young professionals with temporary accommodations and free counseling, and began speaking with a professional about my depression and stress through resources the hospital provided me.
This was over a year ago. I know I have a lot of work to do, and life hasn't been perfect since that point. I eventually made the inevitable decision to move back home with my parents, and managed to find a decent job and have made steps to improve my quality of life physically and gradually mentally.
The last year I've had has been a big learning experience for me. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of choices were made that shouldn't have, but learning that these things are all part of the human experience have helped me understand the importance of reflecting on my actions and how I deal with my emotions. I know eventually my future will bring forth mental clarity, until then I will continue to take the time and utilize the proper resources to continue to take care of myself.