Mike on Mike: Slipping, Falling, Freezing, Empty, Quiet, Dark

So, where was I? About to get into the intensely personal? Right. That’s where I was. And this is where I’ll begin. Plainly. Simply:

If you didn’t already guess from the title, (you are lacking intuition or are unable to comprehend foreshadowing) – er, something bad happened. Something that, for me, was devastating. It was depression. I know for most people depression is this sort of light hearted thing, and you might not understand it too well if you have never felt it, but if you’ve understood even a word of anything I’ve ever written to this point, then you must believe me when I say that it is as disastrous to the spirit as cancer, and equally dangerous if untreated.

And for me, it was a black hole- a pit of despair and disgust and the underneaths of terrible things and the terrible moment when you realize you’re being followed on a street corner without the relief of realizing you were wrong. It was a living hell. And I hadn’t known it when it first started. I just tried to deal with it. To pretend I was okay.

But monsters don’t just go away because you want to believe they’re not real. Their fangs may transmutate, and their approach may alter, but they will get you if you cannot confront them. And I was both unable and unwilling.

I was a ticking time-bomb. I didn’t know it as I was ticking, but in retrospect that much was clear. There were a variety of issues that had caused my tick – way too many to list. But I do know when the last tick occurred, and I want to continue my story at that point.

Well, I mentioned that I had enrolled in all those english courses. There were three in total that first semester. Two I didn’t really care for (even though one was the required course for all majors). The third course, however, was very important to me. I went in on day one and found my professor to be attractive. And for any student, an attraction to a professor helps.

Adding to that were several other factors:

– I really liked the subject matter (Renaissance Poetry)
– The reading was do-able (Reading sonnets? Sure!)
– My classmates were friendly
– Class discussion was incredible

Anyway….early on, I felt like a fish out of water. Many of my peers were upperclassmen, and familiar with many poetic elements I had never even heard of. I was very, very unsure of myself. That professor, however, encouraged me constantly. She said I was ahead of much of the class, and especially considering my lack of experience, I was doing very well.

And that helped. And it motivated.

When it came time for first papers, all three courses held court in unison. Being inexperienced, I did not say anything to any of the professors. I just assumed this was how it went.

So, to start, I ignored papers for the two classes I didn’t like (again- inexperience). Then, I went through seven or eight revisions for the class I did like. I worked like a maniac on that paper. When I was finished, I was proud. And I was exhausted. And I had managed my time very poorly.

I had neglected papers in two courses for the sake of a perfect grade in one. The end result was a forced withdrawal from the entire academic semester. I had received an ‘A’ on a paper that wouldn’t ever count, except in my own portfolio.

astra1The reality of this entire situation drove me to my depression, but it was not the cause. I went home from school well before finals took place, and tried to gain perspective. I adopted my dog, Astra. I sought help. I worked to achieve some semblance of balance. And, thanks to that professor mentioned earlier and my therapist, I received permission to return to the university (on conditional probation).

I came back a year older, a year wiser, and with the knowledge that I had conquered my greatest opponent for the first time in my life. I had won a battle against myself.