On life, unmet expectations, and the impact of depression

It’s amazing to look at where my life has been and what has changed in the last year.

A year ago, I was studying to be a teacher, dating a great girl, planning on getting married sometime in the summer, running a profitable volleyball club, and expecting great things following those lines.

In March I was hired to be a full-time teacher and head volleyball coach in Salt Lake City. It was exactly what I wanted: education courses are a joke and nothing but common sense and I now had a way to support the family that was starting in the summer.

Then things started changing. Drastically. In May, we broke up and I spent the summer making friends near where I was living. In July, I moved closer to work and left all the social support I developed to that point.

Preparations for school started in August, and I began to mourn the things I didn’t have. I was starting this job that I wanted, but I didn’t have the person I wanted alongside me for this new experience. I didn’t have anyone.

As high school volleyball started, I was overcome with the amount of bureaucracy required by high school beyond what club requires. I was spending more time trying to manage stuff I considered ridiculously superfluous to the sport than I was spending coaching.

And to top it all off I was unable to spend as much time preparing the team as I believed I should.

Life became very, very lonely. I would spend each weekend nearly catatonic, trying to recover from the emotional stress of the week. Nearly every day I threw up my hands, looking heavenward, wondering “why me? Why did this set of things happen to me?”

“Why do I hate going to practice everyday? I love this sport, and I love coaching my players. Why can I not better prepare for my classes? Why do my assistant coach and I always misunderstand one another?”

It was the most unhappy time I’ve ever experienced.

My mind often thought everything would be better if I were only married. If only that one thing had been different, my life would be better.

Going back to school each week was a trial. I loved my students and my players, and I knew I brought things to my interactions with them that no one else could. And that kept me going. I kept getting out of bed each morning for them.

More than one commute each week was spent in tears wondering what was going on and why I was so deeply unhappy.

Every week, the cycle continued: go to school Monday morning, believing there was nothing that could get me through the week; teach a few periods, realize I could make it; go to practice, hate it; on Wednesdays, things would seem doable in the mornings; spend Saturday vegetating; spend Sundays catatonic, not wanting to face the upcoming week; wake up Monday and repeat.

There was no end in sight. There was nothing I could do except continue to endure and hope my life got better.

Two people made a major difference in my life, and I am incredibly indebted to them for their love and suggestions. One was in my new ward and one had been around through everything is experienced that year.

At various times and independently, each heard me, listened to my struggles–as I was willing to be opened and asked for them to be there, noticed when I was struggling, and showed the most incredible support I could have asked for. Additionally, both suggested I seek professional help and go see a counselor.

That was completely out of the question. There was no way I needed to talk to a counselor. Those were for people with real problems–clinical depression, schizophrenia, marital conflict. I didn’t need that.

As I spiraled downward, I gradually became more open to the idea. Spending most weekends in tears wasn’t normal. Was I even myself any more? Was I really convincing myself that what I was experiencing was ok?

At the beginning of October, I broke down. Just after sacrament meeting, my friend in my ward asked me if I was doing ok. To that point, I had been mostly honest when people asked me that question. I frequently answered, “no.” But I couldn’t even choke that out. I just was in shambles, and she just waited, listened, translated through my sobs and tears, and suggested (again) I go see a counselor.

After doing essentially the same thing to my bishop, he suggested the same. (I had visited him and laid out my woes to him frequently in the two months prior, so I think he realized I needed more help than he could provide.)

Seeing a counselor gave me a bit more perspective than I was exercising. While talking with her (and somehow making time for it), I recognized some of the lies I’d been telling myself, primarily: Life wouldn’t be better if things had gone differently. I’d followed The Spirit when accepting a job, when breaking up, when prepping for classes and practices.

Spending my life choosing (and that’s what I had mostly been doing) to focus on what I thought should have been was dragging me down.

Life started getting better. I regained some amount of control over what was going on. Volleyball was still pretty hellacious, and I realized I far preferred teaching.

I resigned the coaching job pretty soon after the season. There are a few reasons beyond just doing too much and not getting along with my assistant as to why I did, but they are less relevant here.

So things looked up.

For a while.

I was teaching, enjoying it, enjoying my students, and enjoying not having additional responsibilities at the school.

But around Thanksgiving, I started realizing I wasn’t exercising my mind enough at school. I needed more. I needed freedom from the shackles of district policy (which for student privacy, I understand) if I was going to continue trying to teach technology and computer science to students.

So the first Thursday of December I rewrote the curriculum for mobile development for the state of Utah, and the next day I wrote a letter resigning my teaching position as of 16 January 2015.

It was a big change. It was a scary change. I didn’t have a job offer, but I had resigned.

It was a massive leap of faith. I have no idea what the future holds. I interviewed pretty heavily during the following weeks (eight times in six calendar days) and was told “no” by all the companies I interviewed with.

I spent the Christmas break taking stock of what I really wanted.

I want flexibility. I want control. I want to enjoy my coworkers. A stable paycheck is less desirable than these things.

A few things I’ve realized:

  • If I were married, quitting my job wouldn’t have been an option. I would have to languish doing something that stifles me at least until the school year ended.
  • Perspective matters.
  • Depression can still hit. My family was here for most of the Christmas break, but because of some thought processes I had, I couldn’t stand being with them for more than a bit at a time. I had to spend most of that time alone just to keep my sanity.
  • I don’t know what the future holds. But Father does.
  • Even in the depths of depression, I can choose to have hope. It’s not easy, and for some people it may not be possible. But I can choose hope, and that makes things bearable when they seem beyond all possibility of enduring.
  • I have a Savior who walks my path with me. He may not be the only one I want to walk that with me, but He is The One who walks with me now.
  • Father sees the end from the beginning. I may not, but I will eventually.

And that gives me hope.

About the author: Lee J

Lee J Hinkle spends his days writing video game code. It was never a job he expected to have. Check out Rogue Invader online. Any search will send you to the right spot. Unless the language is foreign. Then maybe 50% will be right.

He tries to be a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and hopes his Father recognizes his efforts.