I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety since I moved to Oman in 2016. If I’m being truly honest, now that I recognize the signs, I have actually been struggling for most of my life. It’s attributed to many things: my rocky relationship with my mother, growing up without a father in my formative years, feeling alone and isolated amongst my peers because of physical, financial and emotional differences and a myriad of other factors.
I’ve always stayed just far enough under the radar for people not to notice these subtle signals of anxiety and depression. My friends would just say, “Oh, Alexis likes to read,” when I’d take myself off from some group activity to sit alone and dive head first into a book. They’d shrug it off as me being “busy” when they didn’t see me for weeks at a time. They’d call me pensive, a thinker, and though these qualities may be true, I was desperately, undeniably lonely.
Other characteristics were not so flattering. Alexis is a flirt, an attention seeker. She’s stubborn and mean; she does what she wants to do, so don’t try to convince her of anything contrary. And these qualities, though also true, were really a cry for help. A desperate attempt to ease the loneliness, if only just for a fleeting moment. I lived dichotomously: always craving and wanting attention and acceptance while simultaneously believing that I wasn’t worth it. Pushing people away and avoiding life were the best solutions to these fears, the belief that somehow and someway I would get hurt, and I didn’t want to hurt.
My first year in Oman really challenged me. It shone a light as bright and hot as the Muscat sun in summertime directly onto my deepest insecurities. Coupled with that, my coping mechanisms — avoiding, hiding, pretending — weren’t working as effectively for me as they had in the past. And so I acted out. And so I passed the blame. And so I believed the lie fully: I was truly, utterly worthless.
With these established truths concreted in my head and heart, however inaccurate, I swung on a pendulum: on one side fear and hopelessness; on the other, anger and resentment. Why couldn’t I just function? Why couldn’t I push out the bad thoughts in my head, telling me that I was failing at life? Why couldn’t I really hear (and more importantly, believe) the encouragement I received from others?
I hate to say that with my colleagues at work in my first year here, I either lashed out and passed blame or completely shut myself off from their support.
What I should have said to my them was, “Thank you.”
I had two really supportive, helpful people across the hall from me, one of whom worked with me for two years, and I couldn’t see this blessing beyond my inner doubts and insecurities. I should have thanked P for all the hugs she gave me, all the advice, all the affirmations that I would make it, that I was doing a good job. I should have thanked M for her strength, for her forgiveness at my anger, for her patience and empathy.
They may never know how much they shaped and formed the person I am today, and I am a bit remiss to tell them this now as I feel the message will not land with as much emphasis as I’d like, now that a few years have passed since we’ve worked together. But I do hope that if they ever came across this in the vast ether we call the internet, they would know that their characters are not lost on me. That I am sorry I didn’t see them for what they were, that I didn’t appreciate them when they were right across the hall from me and that I am thankful to have worked with them both, however briefly it was.
Thank you. You know who you are.