It’s been a while, I know. But let me explain why…
College life is different. You’re taken out of the comfort of your home. You’re forced to start over. You’re taught to fend for yourself. It takes some getting used to, but once you’ve mastered it, life gets smoother. Boring, even. That’s how I was starting to feel in Clemson. I had graduated from school and college life. Moving away from home? Okay. Starting over? Sure, thing. Fending for myself? Piece of cake.
The past 4 years had been both challenging and rewarding, but Clemson was starting to suffocate me. It was increasingly becoming too small, and I was ready to move on to bigger and better things.
I landed a public health internship with Project IMHOTEP at Morehouse College and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA. When I got the email stating that I’d been accepted into 2019’s Summer Cohort, I was ecstatic. It was finally time to pack up and leave Clemson for good. When moving day came, I was sad to leave my friends, but excited for a new beginning. However, as I got closer to the city, my anxiety started to kick in.
You see, I’m a big advocate for staying on top of your medications. I’ve seen what withdrawal does to a person. I’ve felt it. But when you’re constantly fighting yourself, staying on top of anything becomes difficult.
Before moving, I stopped my medication. Cold turkey. I know I wasn’t supposed to. Especially during a big move to a new city. It wasn’t my smartest decision, but being in Clemson was comfortable, and I really thought I had everything under control…until I moved and was forced to start the process of reestablishing myself. Again.
I was pretty okay during the first two weeks. Classes were alright, I’d made a whole new group of friends, and I was eating 3 meals a day. But towards that third week, I felt myself take a VERY sharp turn.
For Project IMHOTEP, I was sent to Chapel Hill, NC for research at the UNC School of Medicine. The weekend before traveling to NC was emotionally taxing. I went home for the weekend to see a close loved one who had been diagnosed with cancer just a few months prior. She was improving. She was done with treatment. But on Sunday of that weekend, she fell ill, and I knew her time was drawing near.
The next morning, I had to leave my home and my dear loved one to go to Chapel Hill and start my research project. I was torn. I didn’t want to leave my loved one, nor did I want to give up my position in NC. But I did what I had to do. On the first day of my internship, I learned that my project would be based on cancer in minority populations. Of all subjects to possibly study, I was assigned this one.
As the weeks went by and I got deeper into my research, each day became more and more difficult to withstand. I’d started taking my medicine again, but my body hadn’t yet regulated it, so my mental health was in shambles. Back came the anxiety, depression, and doubt all at once. It seemed like everything in my world was crumbling, and every coping mechanism that I’d written about and used before wasn’t working anymore. I stopped eating. I isolated myself in my room and slept for hours after work. I cried everyday.
During the third weekend of my research project, I went back home to visit my loved one. That was a great day. She was in such high spirits, and my entire family was there. However, on the next morning as I was venturing back to NC, I got a phone call informing me my that loved one passed away. I was heartbroken. I cried loudly and desperately for the news to not be true. I wanted it to be a nightmare that I’d soon wake up from. Unfortunately, I was already awake. As I’ve gone through the days, I’ve learned to alter my mindset, and I’m so thankful that I got to tell her how much I loved her the afternoon before she left. I’m also thankful that God called her home before she was in any kind of pain. But what I’m most thankful for are the things she told me in the weeks before her departure…
Everyday, I’d call her after work to see how she was doing and to tell her that I love her. No matter how far away the conversation steered from the subject, the one thing she told me every time was to “keep going and find a cure.”
Currently, I have 3 weeks left in my internship. 3 weeks to push through and really make my loved one proud. 3 weeks to make my first impact in the world of public health. But I have a lifetime left to fight for a cure, and I’ll use every chance I get to do so.
What I’ve learned throughout this experience is to never give up.
There were plenty of times when I could have thrown in the towel and left it all behind, but my loved one wouldn’t have wanted that. Everyday was a battle. Waking up and plastering a smile on my face to greet my coworkers and socialize with my friends was tiring. Researching cancer while my loved one was sick proved to be one of the most arduous tasks that I’ve been assigned thus far. It honestly almost took me out.
At the time, I thought I was weak. But now I see how strong I’ve been. Yes, my loved one is gone, but I’m relieved. I’m relieved because I know she’s not suffering anymore, nor is she in any danger. She’s in heaven smiling down on me, rooting for me to continue to push forward.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the universe would put me in such a position at such a time. I was in a new place, and my mental health was everything BUT spectacular. I couldn’t even find the strength to write in my own journal. Now, I realize that God gave me this task because He knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to quit. He knew I was going to look it straight in the eye and dare it to beat me. I gotta admit, it almost did.
I had to take a hiatus to get my mind right. I needed to step away from nurturing everyone else to nurture myself because I was running on empty.
So, yes, it’s been a while. But I’m back.