Monday, October 12, 2015

Are You Ready To Jump?

A year ago on October 12, 2014, I jumped out of a plane and it changed my life. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but the jump was more than a thrill-seeking activity, it was the culmination of the hardest two years of my life. From the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2014, I was silently battling with severe depression and anxiety. The stresses of completing my dissertation and phd program, feeling unsatisfied with a career in academia, and feeling like I was lagging behind my non-graduate school friends, mixed with feelings of insecurity and fears of failure, caused me to fall down a dark hole of hopelessness and inadequacy that I saw no way out of. It was dark times. I felt that I couldn't achieve any of my goals. I was afraid to ask for help or to admit that I needed help. I didn't want people, especially my family and friends, to see me as a failure. And honestly I almost gave up on my degree, on my future, and on my life.

My road to mental health was long one. It started with first admitting to my graduate advisor/mentor that I was depressed and had stopped writing my dissertation because I was depressed and anxious. She was extremely understanding and forthright about her struggles as a woman in academia and told me something that I will never forget--"there is nothing wrong with needing help." She recommended I talk to my doctor about my depression so that I could work on a plan to restore my mental health and to move forward with my life and goals. Although it was hard, I followed her advice and spoke to my doctor, who was also very helpful and understanding. With my doctor's guidance, I started my climb out of that dark hole of depression and anxiety.

The next (and hardest) step was talking to my mother about what I was dealing with. My fear of failure has been strongly connected to my desire to make my mother proud. She sacrificed so much for me to make sure that I got a good education. She is an immigrant. She is focused and hard working woman. She is my role model. I have never ever felt comfortable admitting to her when I couldn't do something. I felt ashamed that I was having so much trouble getting my dissertation done or that I was seeking help. After I was honest with her about my issues, she surprised me with her response. She told me that she cared about me being happy and healthy and not whether or not I got my phd, and she supported whatever I wanted to do, as long as I was happy doing it. From that moment, she did a series of things that helped me further climb out of my dark hole. She threw down a rope and encouraged me as I pulled myself up.

By the time I got to the airfield on October 12, 2014 for my skydiving jump, I had overcome many obstacles physically and mentally. I had completed a final draft of my dissertation and was preparing to defend it in front of my committee and my family and friends later that month. I had climbed out of the dark hole and found a new happiness, new career focus, and new strength. I was ready to start the next chapter of my life. To move forward. To face my fears and doubts head on. When I jumped out of the plane, I let go. I gave myself over to God and the elements and laughed (literally) at fear and doubt. After I successfully planted my feet on the ground, I felt that I could conquer anything. I jumped out of a F#$%ing plane. I can do anything. I have no reason to be afraid of what people think of me or my work, to be afraid of failing, or to be afraid of following my gut and doing the things I need to be happy and healthy spiritually, mentally, and physically.


Check out my JUMP in the video below.