The Problem with Success Stories

Screen shot 2013-09-03 at 8.24.51 PMI wasn’t sure if I was going to write today.

I don’t have a painful, but ultimately uplifting story to tell about how I overcame the difficulty of getting up and going to class. A story where I embarked on the final step in my college career and came home, tired but proud. My story isn’t like that.

We tend to hear one type of story when it comes to experiences with depression and anxiety, at least I do. People will go through horrendous things, like not being able to take a shower without help, or having to be hospitalized for suicide attempts. These people go through the depths of hell, but there’s always a bright light at the end. Elizabeth Wurtzel (author of Prozac Nation) becomes a best-selling author in her early twenties. JK Rowling struggles with being a single mother and writes Harry Potter. Countless others describe how they “beat depression” and live happy lives with careers and family.

I’m sick of these stories.

These stories trained me to believe there’s only one way to be successful. I don’t hear stories about people who just make it through, who don’t finish the goals they set out to finish, who don’t fulfill the dreams of their youth. I want to hear a story about a person whose personal pain is not widely publicized or celebrated, who is satisfied with living a quiet life keeping a clean house, a clean body, and a clean mind. Who has a cat and cooks simple dinners with family or friends. Who never finished college, or who got fired from their dream job, or was unable to travel. Who never “beat depression,” but who just learned to live with it.

Right now, that’s all I want.

Last night, I started crying at 2 in the morning and couldn’t stop because I knew I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t gotten the help I needed, I hadn’t started seeing a therapist, or changed any of the patterns that led me to collapse last year. I was naive to think that I could just sit back and wait to get better. This morning, I withdrew from college and didn’t move while Chris called therapists who practice CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy).

I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope one day all these would lead me to write a best-selling book. I want this pain to bring me something tangibly good instead of something bad. However, that might not happen. And I want to be ok with that.

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6 thoughts on “The Problem with Success Stories

  1. I am one of those stories. I have been hospitalised so many times that I cannot remember the actual number. I wish so much that I could be a success story but the older I get, the worse things seem to get.
    I can share a success story of someone I know who battled a lot of demons and got her life back on track. She’s married now and has a couple of kids. More importantly, she is happy and stabilised.

    1. Things have gotten worse as I age, too, but neither of our stories are over. I’m learning how to define “success” in a new way, it’s really rough right now is all.

  2. This is a really good post. It’s good to hear stories of “real” people who struggle daily with depression and anxiety. Like you, for many years I’ve dreamed of writing a book based on my years of depression. I think I’ve (wrongly) been waiting to “beat” it first…

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