The following is an anonymous post written by a student with Depression for IU Depression Awareness and Screening Week (#IUDASW). He/she is now a member of Crimson Corps. Learn more about Crimson Corps here.
By: A Crimson Corps Student
At the end of my freshmen year of college, my Facebook feed was filled with posts from my old high school peers blogging about the lessons they’ve learned over their first year in college, and the experiences they’ve shared with new friends. I cannot tell you how many times I would reread those posts, see how many people commented or liked those posts, and how many times I questioned what was wrong with me and why my story was not the same. It was not until I was diagnosed with Depression the following summer that I began to understand.
When I left for college, I quickly realized that I was not adjusting as quickly or easily as I had previously thought. That belief was reinforced and strengthened every time I logged onto a social media account and saw the positive experiences my friends were having at their new schools.
Within two months of leaving home, I was not sleeping or eating on a regular schedule. I was overcome with anxiety stepping into my large lecture classes because there were too many people surrounding me and conversing with one another. I was exhausted all of the time, except for when I would finally climb into bed. Not wanting to worry my family and friends, I never revealed how much I was actually struggling. And the times when I would confide in them, they always promised that everyone adjusts to college life differently and that it would get better with time. However, things became worse.
I started to miss my classes. At first it was just one or two classes when I was having a rough day, and then came the days where I would only get out of bed to give myself enough time to make it seem like I went to class so that my roommate wouldn’t find out that I laid in bed all day. I had always prided myself in the fact that I was a strong student and never skipped a day of high school, and now I was missing several classes each day for days in a row. What happened to the unapologetically happy person I used to be? Why could no one see I was struggling? When would I be able to look my friends and family in the eye and tell them the truth?
This is the state I was in when my family came after spring finals to bring me home for the summer. But my family didn’t notice, and I don’t blame them. Not only was I extremely good at hiding what I was going through, but I was also excited for the first time in months to be home for more than just a few weeks.
Once home, I decided to see my therapist again, who officially diagnosed me with clinical Depression. At first, I was relieved to finally put a name on the feelings I was experiencing, and then I grew angry. It wasn’t fair. I already had my rough patch. I felt that going through middle school with a debilitating case of obsessive compulsive disorder, and working harder than ever to learn how to control it meant that I was set in recovery mode.
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I have Depression and need to learn a new skill set to live with both depression and anxiety, but I was soon able to accept that part of myself. I began to see strength and resilience in myself, instead of weakness, laziness, and hopelessness.
I was able to open up to my family and tell them about the year I had been through, and their support gave me the courage to open up to a few of my friends. However, the first friend I confided in lead me to doubt myself again. Instead of being met with support and love, my friend responded with comments rooted in social stigma. He told me that while I was one of the most anxious people he knows, I was also one of the most positive and lighthearted. He told me that Depression “just wasn’t me” and that I only needed to keep my chin up because “happiness is a choice.” For a moment, I doubted myself and fed into the stigma that surrounds mental illness, until I told my story to my best friend. The support I received helped me to move past the comments rooted in stigma, and I began to heal. Now, I am able to notice my triggers and recognize when I am headed on a downward spiral. I have a toolset to use when life becomes overwhelming, and as a result, I am a stronger woman.