I never expected my work to affect my mental health. At first, like most people just starting a new job, I was thrilled about my new class, the kids I would be teaching and the environment I wanted to create for these young minds. I had a real passion for children and couldn’t wait to be the best teacher I could be. I would read articles about teaching kindergarten classes, developing children’s emotional intelligence, and what could make me a great educator.
I was so passionate about my work that at the beginning of each school year I would work into the wee hours on the weekend before the first class, preparing and decorating the classroom with pictures of animals and rainbows for the children to enjoy. But everything fell apart when my depression kicked in. Every part of my life seemed to be coming to pieces and my passion for work diminished as I tried to regain my mental and physical energy.
Then, one morning in May, I got a worrying text from my boyfriend: “I’m struggling to get out of bed. I was recently diagnosed with moderate depression, and it has taken me a while to tell you. I’m not doing well at all. I was advised to see a doctor for treatment.” I immediately felt a dark cloud taking over my mind and fear flooding my entire body. I knew he’d been struggling with depression for months, but the fact that he now had a doctor’s diagnosis made things look bleaker.
I was due to start work in a few hours, but I wasn’t in the right mood. A huge wave of concern, worry, and fear clouded my judgment and my emotions, and I knew that I could not go to class in this state. I wanted to encourage him, but I needed strength and faith myself; I was just as depressed. I was over 10,000 kilometres away from him, which only added to my worry.
And then a crazy thought crossed my mind: What if I took time off work, even if for only a few days, to go see him? I felt that I absolutely needed to see him. I’m an emotional person and I didn’t feel it would be possible to stay thousands of miles away while the love of my life was dealing with mental health issues. I had to see him. After a little reflection, I decided to talk to my boss and ask her for this favour.
“Is it absolutely necessary?” she asked me—for the second time—after I explained my plan to go to the USA for a few days and the reasons behind this decision.
“I would not have asked you this if I didn’t feel it was necessary. Of course, you have the last word, but please allow me to go. I have to see him because I’m very worried,” I pleaded.
She sighed and gave me two days off, counting them as sick days. There were two national holidays that week and the following week, so I would only be missing two days instead of four. I bowed in gratitude for her generosity and thanked God as I left the office, preparing to buy my plane ticket.
I found the cheapest same-day flight to Orlando, Florida. After filling in all the necessary information, but before paying, I paused for a moment, struggling with the fact that I couldn’t really afford this ticket. Its cost was twice my monthly salary, and I knew that upon returning from the US I would barely be able to make ends meet for a while. I would be spending my hard-earned money which I had been saving for my tuition and a nicer apartment. Still, despite all of this, I clicked to continue my payment and booked the flight without looking back.
I packed my bags in less than 20 minutes. I then checked my phone and found a text from my sister asking me to call her when I had time. I had nothing else to do but wait for the time when I would need to leave for the airport, so I called her.
“Hey! I just wanted to make sure you’d be my maid of honour at the wedding,” was the first thing she said to me…although I wished she’d asked me how I was doing first.
Her words weighed down my thoughts even more. I confirmed that I would be her maid of honour and she assured me that everything was planned and that she would order my dress that very day.
I tried to sound more cheerful than I was feeling on the inside to cover my emotional state, but I wasn’t sure how that was working out. My sister had last-minute wedding preparations to take care of, so she hung up.
Against my wishes, I felt an enormous wave of jealousy and envy towards my sister. She was getting married after a year of dating her boyfriend and I wasn’t even engaged after a year and a half of dating. I had harsh feelings towards her and her fiancé, not because he wasn’t a good person, but because I wished to be where they were in life.
In fact, I had been struggling with this issue for months, and I deeply hated to admit that it was a battle that was intensifying instead of waning. As selfish as it sounds, I was envious not only of my sister but of all my friends who were getting engaged or married.
I felt left behind. I knew I still had time and that God’s timing is perfect, but I was consumed by envy and jealousy. I had no one to talk to about my frustration. If I were to bring it up to my boyfriend, he wouldn’t take it well and would blame it on himself as our plans had been delayed mainly because of him.
I spent the rest of the day sleeping and waiting for time to pass. The only eventful thing I did was eat an omelette that had been left over from the previous day’s dinner. I had three hours to go before leaving for the airport when I got another text from my boyfriend. “If you are thinking of coming to Florida for me, please don’t.
Not because I don’t want you to, but because I would feel even worse if you did.” He then added, “I would feel so guilty for having you spend so much money just to come for a few days and, while having you here would make me feel better, I would feel so much worse after you leave. Please don’t come. Save your money for other more important things.”
His message did not surprise me. He was rational and empathetic. But I became confused about what I should do under these conditions. Should I go anyway, especially since I had already bought the ticket? Should I stay put—because it seemed that would help him more in the long run—and hope to get a refund for the ticket?
“Would me not coming to see you benefit you and your mental health in the long run? If that’s the case, I won’t come. I don’t want to do anything that will make you feel worse in the long run,” I responded after some thought. He replied immediately saying that it would benefit his mental health if I didn’t come. And, in that moment, just as spontaneously as I had bought the plane ticket earlier that day, I cancelled my flight and didn’t look back.
I didn’t want to do anything that would make my boyfriend suffer more and when I told him my decision, he expressed how much he still appreciated my intentions to see and support him. Two months later, he came to see me in South Korea, and we spent a whole month enjoying each other’s company. We toured the botanical gardens, ate at good restaurants, and relaxed at home. It was a beautiful time in which we discovered things that helped us grow and understand each other better. We talked about how his mental health had affected our relationship and we discussed our plans for marriage.
Mentally and emotionally, I felt like a new person. During six challenging months—which had been tough because of my job, my relationship, and my negative feelings—I had become increasingly unhappy. I had thought there was no room for happiness, but one by one my problems began to diminish and eventually resolve.
After my boyfriend and I had the chance to talk face to face, I realised that happiness was not unattainable. Our relationship had been through many issues due to challenging circumstances, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to work out or that God wasn’t blessing us. In fact, I believe He teaches us the art of patience and perseverance, allowing us to go through challenges and thus grow individually and as a couple, becoming even better prepared for marriage.
I believe that God is the answer to every problem in life, regardless of its nature, and He is the only one Who can provide peace and joy amid challenges. With Him by my side—no matter how unexpected or strange the situations I encounter may become—I can find happiness every day.