silhouette of a head with crumpled papers floating above it
Mental Health

Coping With Lost Time

Country of Origin: United States of America

(Audio recording by Jordan Luz)

Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

When I first started college, I always believed I would make something of myself. I would get a degree, see the world, and become a successful journalist. I had it all planned out, and after the toll my harrowing years of high school took on me, I felt adulthood had something better to offer mentally. 

I soon had reality hit me like a freight train.

People always ask: “What would your younger self think of your current self?” It’s a question I can never answer easily. You might as well be asking me to find the circumference of the moon. Even then, I feel like I’d have an easier time finding an answer.

Thoughtful woman outside at night
(Photo courtesy of iStock)

Truthfully, I don’t think my younger self would be proud of who I am today. Mentally, we’re still on the same wavelength, and I don’t believe I’ve made much neurological progress since then. I still think about suicide just as much as I did when I was fifteen but without all the additional teenage angst. I thought going to college would’ve exorcized at least a few demons inhabiting my brain, but it only opened up rent for more.

The year I started my last semester of college was the same year the COVID-19 pandemic started. Instead of spending my spring venturing into the city and taking on new internships, I was at home with nothing to keep me busy besides a new 5SOS album and a few episodes of The Golden Girls.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since the pandemic started. I mean, seriously? You’re telling me it’s already been that long since I’ve had a couple of my adult years snatched from me and that long since I’ve felt my mental health reboot towards its downward spiral? It can’t be. It’s terrifying to think about now and how that time in isolation catapulted me to where I am today. Whatever progress I had made post-high school was ripped from me in the blink of an eye. I was back to square one, trying to navigate through the darkness while the sun was still shining on the outside.

I don’t think the world has truly grasped just how detrimental that isolating time was for everyone. Jokes are made about it now, but it’s clear that it’s only an attempt to put a bandage over what has already left a scar for many. Within the last two years, people have faced loss in more ways than one. I simply find it impossible to gloss over.

As a young adult, seeing how the pandemic affected others within my age group wasn’t difficult. Many took to social media as an outlet to share their private thoughts, devastated that they were losing some of their most formative years to a public health emergency all while expressing trepidation about the future. It crushed my heart to witness so many promising young voices feel that the road ahead was bleak. But I understood it. When you’re encompassed with nothing but loneliness and hollowness, everything becomes foggy. Life feels like it doesn’t have a purpose anymore, and neither do you.

Negative emotion image. Person head shaped paper on black torn paper background.
(Photo courtesy of iStock)

Fast forward to a year later, and I had finally graduated college with my bachelor’s.

I should’ve been happy, but why wasn’t I? I was about to start my career; shouldn’t I have been grateful? It was only then that I had to humble myself and remember that the ‘career’ in question didn’t even exist yet. The pandemic cut into a time when I was supposed to create a durable landing pad post-grad, anything to make sure I wouldn’t fall into an interminable vacuum of uncertainty. That was my biggest fear, and now, a year later and without a job, it looks like those demons residing in my head won after all.

I think the pandemic and everything that came after it took a piece of my soul that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get back. 

I spend each day scrambling for missing pieces of a puzzle that once came close to being completed. I’ve shed so many tears that I could’ve drowned myself in them. I’ve thought of death in so many ways because I don’t feel like I’m meant to be here anymore. It feels like my world has already come crashing down, and it’s too late to fix any of this. Feeling like I was destined for greater things and having nothing to show for it isn’t just a blow to the ego but to the heart as well.

Hand holding up a single red puzzle piece over a pile of puzzle pieces scattered on a table
(Photo courtesy of Ryoji Iwata via Unsplash)

I’ve come past the point of despair. The helplessness that I’ve felt for the last two years has mutated into a flat-out numbing sensation, the same kind you feel when dipping your hands into ice water for too long. 

But instead of attempting to fish my hands out of the cold, I’ve accepted it. I can’t turn back time nor tape over what’s already been shattered. 

All I can do is hope for a miracle and continue to pray to the moon each night that I’ll finally be able to put myself together again.

Thank you to Christina Lee for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Mental Health team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Serene is a writer based out of Atlanta. In 2021, she graduated with a BA in Journalism. Growing up in the “Hollywood of the South,”she found that she has always had an eye for the arts and media and has wanted to pursue a career in both fields ever since. When she’s not typing away, she enjoys reading corny romance novels and watching movies from the ‘80s.

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