Regardless of when it decides to strike in life, depression is a struggle. Much like the flu, there’s no convenient time for depression to attack. In fact, it can often happen at the worst time, when you’re not expecting it.
I was diagnosed with depression halfway through college. While everyone else was partying, and having the time of their lives, I became a social recluse and hated myself. I had to quickly figure out this new thing that drained my body and my mind.
I felt like it sucked all the life out of me and I had to accommodate to it while managing all the normal stressors that college brings. It’s already difficult being away from home, trying to make friends, and all the work and study it takes to obtain a college degree. Add in a debilitating mental illness like depression, and it can become more than anyone can bear.
Statistically, it is typical for a person’s college years to trigger their depression.
‘College students face challenges, pressures, and anxieties that can cause them to feel overwhelmed. They might be living on their own for the first time and feeling homesick. They’re adapting to new schedules and workloads, adjusting to life with roommates, and figuring out how to belong. Money and intimate relationships also can serve as major sources of stress. Dealing with these changes during the transition from adolescence to adulthood can trigger or unmask depression during college in some young adults.’ – The Mayo Clinic
1. What on God’s green earth is this feeling?
I hadn’t really heard of depression before. Strike that. I’d heard of depression, but I didn’t really know what it entailed. I didn’t realize that it could feel as bad as it did.
When I felt the brutal force of depression attack, for the very first time, I had no idea what it was or how to deal with it. I was just like, ‘Wait, what on earth is this? Why do I feel so down all the time?’
In those early days, I fought so hard to battle the fog but, in the end, I couldn’t help but succumb to it.
2. Depression never seemed to cut me a break.
At first, I just thought I was in a bad mood for a couple of days. But, when the bad mood went on to last weeks and weeks, I knew something was horribly wrong. It became a constant bad mood that I couldn’t seem to get out of or shake off, no matter how hard I tried.
It wasn’t exactly like a bad mood though. It felt like, nothing, a deep, blank, endless nothing. And it was always there. It was there when I woke up, it was there when I went to sleep, and it never seemed to falter.
3. I stopped enjoying everything.
I used to love going out drinking, partying, and being around all the new people I was meeting. I used to love going to classes, studying, and learning new things through my major. I used to love shopping, exercising and writing my own personal blog. All of that stopped.
I didn’t enjoy anything anymore. Everything became a chore, a hassle, something that I desperately wanted to get out of. All I wanted to do was sit and wallow in my depression. I lost the motivation to do anything.
Someone who was once a happy-go-lucky, bubbly party girl at college, had turned into an emotional wreck. I had so many negative thoughts running through my head all at once, which I found almost impossible to defeat.
4. I’d never felt so alone.
I was away from my home and my key support network that I’d spent years building before college, and I didn’t know anyone well enough to confide in them.
I felt like the depression fog was my battle, and my battle alone, and I didn’t want to burden anyone else with it. Looking back, I was trying to be strong.
I didn’t realize that it’s okay to have moments of weakness and not be strong all the time. No one is strong all the time. It’s a part of being human. I just felt lost. Empty. Alone.
5. My grades suffered.
I ended up spending a lot of time in bed instead of going to class. I still cared about things, don’t get me wrong. I just stopped enjoying everything.
Depression affects your physical health, as well as your mental health, so I found it incredibly challenging to do little things daily. Like, for example, shower. It was so much effort just to take a shower!
There were days where the depression fog had lifted slightly, and I could go out and do the things that I used to love to do. I could be ‘normal’ again. But there were also days that I felt the lowest I’ve ever felt in my life. And there was no way that I could even leave the house.
6. I developed anxiety.
They say that depression and anxiety often go together. It makes perfect sense, as depression takes over your mind as well as your body. It makes you think unhelpful thoughts. And not only think them but dwell on and even believe them.
Some people develop generalized anxiety or start having panic attacks. In my case, I struggled massively with social anxiety, which meant that I found it very difficult to be around people.
I thought that they were constantly judging me. Whatever I said, they thought I was stupid. If I spoke and my voice quivered, they thought I was an idiot who couldn’t articulate a sentence. In hindsight, the depression fog was like a wall in my mind, blocking any positive thoughts from getting through to me.
7. I underestimated depression.
Sure, I didn’t really know what depression truly entailed before it struck me. But I certainly didn’t expect it to be so powerful.
I was helpless for a long time. The depression cloud was falling on top of me, crushing me, destroying what little light I had left inside of me. It didn’t stop, and it wasn’t satisfied until it left me in complete and utter darkness. It fed on any happy energy that I had and sucked the joy out of every experience.
8. I put on a mask.
I was too ashamed to confide in anyone initially. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me, and I wasn’t strong enough to fight it. I thought I was pathetic. Obviously, at that point, I didn’t fully know that I had depression.
Instead, to get through daily life, I put on a mask. I pretended I was fine, even though I was far from it. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone or admit to anyone that I wasn’t okay until it became too much for me.
9. I was finally brave enough to get some help.
I got to the point where I was sick of fighting it on my own. I just wanted somebody, anybody, to take the weight off my shoulders. I tried to do it alone, but it became apparent that I was failing miserably. I now realized it was completely okay to feel this way.
You can rarely fight depression on your own. Even the strongest amongst us are diagnosed with depression and must seek help to feel better.
I told my parents after a couple of months of feeling like a zombie. They were devastated that I didn’t reach out to them sooner. They love me so much and couldn’t believe I was going through what I went through on my own.
I finally saw a doctor, and that’s when I began to feel human again. I began to feel like ME again.
10. My story had a happy ending!
Slowly but surely, that depression cloud began to lift. It took months for it to really become dormant, and even six years later it still makes the occasional comeback. However, I feel victorious now. I believe I defeated it.
I didn’t defeat it entirely alone though. I beat it with the help of a doctor, my parents and a couple of very close friends. If it wasn’t for them, I’m not sure I would’ve faired so well (and I’m not ashamed to admit that).
It didn’t happen overnight. Some days the depression attacked harder than others. But, eventually, my counterattack was mightier. I could go to class and enjoy learning again. I could spend time with the people I love, and who love me, again. The lost, empty feeling subsided, and the college socialite came back to life. In fact, she came back stronger than before!
If you’re struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression, I implore you to learn from my mistakes. Don’t do what I did, and try and take on the challenge alone. You need help. You need your support army around you. And there’s no shame in that.
It was such a difficult battle to have to face in college, with everything else that college has already going on. But, in the end, I fought a good fight against depression, a powerful opponent. And I won.
If I can do it, you can too!
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