By Chris Shaddock
Lately, I have been trying to open up about myself, and I think part of that requires me talking about my depression.
I have been diagnosed for about a year and half. I probably had it longer than that, though. When I went to South Korea between my sophomore and junior year, I felt miserable throughout the trip. Objectively, everything I did with my friends was awesome, and I have fond memories of the country. But I just remember these random moments of despair throughout the trip as I began to loathe and resent myself and others. A month later, I went to a therapist and was diagnosed with depression.
I have never intentionally kept my depression a secret. It’s just not something I go out of my way to tell people. The only people at this school I had first told were my roommates and that was because I used to be on a medication with some adverse side affects and I thought they should know about them in case there was an issue. I just don’t want to have depression as my defining trait. My depression is not me, it is just a disease that disrupts who I really am.
Mental illness in general is awful. Personally, I think depression is one of the milder forms of mental illness, and I have a lot of respect for those who go through much worse than I do.
Depression is crying uncontrollably for no reason, it is foggy numbness that keeps you from thinking clearly, it is resenting others for petty reasons, it is random sadness and self-hatred, it is insecurity, it is paranoia, it is insomnia, it is overwhelming fatigue, it is selfharm, it is seeing the world in black and white absolutes, it is apathy and it is wanting to die.
I don’t necessarily have all these issues and feelings, and some are rarer than others. But people do get them and they experience these terrible issues. I also don’t think you need to be depressed, or even mentally ill to have them. If any of you have these, I hope things get better for you. No one deserves this.
The reason why mental illness is so terrifying is that it messes with your perception of reality. When I am depressed, all my thoughts, attitudes and emotions revolve around this nihilistic feeling that nothing matters. Boredom is by far the worst emotion I have ever felt. It is being without purpose, desire, or a will to live. At best it is mindlessly going through a routine, and at worst it is doing random activities just to feel something. I used to think that optimists were living in an illusion, but I know now that my negative viewpoint is the actual illusion.
This negative viewpoint is not how I truly see the world. There is so much to love about it. I love knowing and relating to people, I love music, I love literature, I love film, and I love adventure. Sure, there are shootings, terrorism, war, disease, and greed, but they are tiny bad parts of the overwhelmingly good world. The issue I have is that I always focus on the negative aspects, and while I try to let go of my hate and empathize with others instead, it can be really hard.
Part of the reason I feel comfortable telling people about this is because I am now doing better. I still get depressed sometimes, but it is not as bad as it has been in the past and I know how to handle it. I have my therapeutic techniques such as meditation, exercise and several hobbies that help me get through the day productively and positively. I’m also on a medication that works much better than the ones I’ve used in the past.
The other reason I wanted to write about this is because I feel it should be said. I’m not the only person with a mental illness at this school. There are also probably some people who do not even realize they are suffering from a mental illness, which is a worse experience than acknowledging it. Around one in five people have a mental illness in America. That is fairly common, yet a lot of people do not acknowledge the severity of mental illness. Anyone who goes through its pain has my utmost sympathy. Even for those who do not have mental illness, but are still going through something painful, I hope things get better for you. Life can be unimaginably hard sometimes for no reason at all, but dwelling on the bad belittles everything else that is good.
While depression is awful, it also taught me how to appreciate life. When I am not depressed, life feels like a blessing. I am grateful for having friends that bring me up rather than put me down. I am grateful for parents who have always supported me, whether it be paying for treatments for my depression or just supporting me in my passions and convictions. I am grateful for any person who has ever shown me kindness or help, because those acts meant a lot to me. Lastly, I am grateful for myself. I may occasionally exhibit self-loathing, but there is no one else I would rather be other than me. I am awesome, and so is everyone else for going through life’s struggles. We all need to take a moment and appreciate everything. Find the good in the bad and love the parts of life that make you happy. Sometimes life sucks, but it can be so beautiful too if you just look at it the right way.