I was fortunate to have worked at the University of Notre Dame. Never, in a million years did I see myself teaching at such a place. I want to begin my story here because this was a pivotal time in my life coming out of graduate school. It was the start of something wonderful and awful at the same time. Actually, if I’m wanting to be honest with myself, and with you, then the truth is that the awful began back in college. I'll get to that later. It just wasn’t until starting my life at Notre Dame that I acknowledged something was wrong.
I found myself in a position, fresh out of graduate school, to work at one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. Currently, according to U.S. News, it’s ranked 18th. Certainly, in 2009, when I applied for the job, it was a big deal. You have to understand how small the world can be sometimes. I grew up in the southeast corner of Wisconsin; spent some time in Burlington and a lot more time in Kansasville. And no, that is not near Topeka. Most of my family had never been to Notre Dame. There was never any reason to go. We were a small town family mostly cheering for the Green Bay Packers from our living rooms and sports bars.
So yeah, my family was super excited that I landed a job quickly, but it took us all some time to realize what I had just accomplished. But that’s what I love about them. It didn’t matter then how Notre Dame ranked on any scale and it doesn’t matter now. They were simply happy for me.
I didn’t really tout my new job because prestige, while great to some, wasn’t a career goal of mine. To this day, it still is not a career goal. The only career goal that’s mattered was wanting to make a difference, to help people most in need. Little did I know, I was one of those people.
The transition from graduate school to my first professional job in the Fall of 2009 was difficult. I was officially diagnosed with Major Depression. I didn’t care about my job or much else for that matter. I always had, but my mental illness kept me from being me. Do you know how that feels?
I hope that by telling my story people learn more about mental health, specifically depression and anxiety. I will mostly tell my story because, well, I’m the one with a mental illness. I will however, attempt to do the best I can to include perspectives from those close to me. You will hear from my wife, other family, a friend or two, and my current psychiatrist. I’m not the only one suffering here. I believe it is vital to include their experiences if the goal is to educate and raise awareness. We all must be willing to listen and learn.
I have been a lifelong advocate for all things wellness and that includes educating others about mental health. I ask you to please listen and read carefully, repeat parts if you have to. Just have an open mind. I am grateful for your time. Welcome to my story.
In Kindness & Love, Stephanie
See you next week as I rewind a bit and tell you about my dad.
I just want all people to learn and grow together.