Depression doesn’t feel like a cartoon ball of sadness following you around the way you see in antidepressant commercials. It feels like arms made of shadows are wrapping around me, pulling me deeper into feelings of hopelessness. It feels like the weight of all my insecurities is threatening to crush me. It feels like I’m empty but full inside. It feels like every day gets me closer to either giving up or getting better, but I’m not sure which one. It might feel different to everyone, but to me it feels like something I need to hide, something I can’t tell anybody about.
I have struggled with depression for over 10 years now. I haven’t been diagnosed by a psychologist, but I know what I feel is not typical. My sadness doesn’t blow over in a few days like it does for most people; my sadness has stuck with me. Most of the time I feel worthless. I feel like my goals will never be reached because I am incapable to do the work required to reach them. I feel like every time I make a mistake—no matter how small—it makes me a big failure. And I feel ashamed of this because I tell my friends to have self-confidence when I have none. I pretend to love myself when I don’t. I act like things are alright despite that they haven’t been since I was 10 years old.
When I was in fifth grade, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to undergo surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy afterward. Before long, I hit puberty – my body began changing, and my hormones kicked in. It felt like I grew up suddenly and my life at home was different. My dad yelled at me all the time because I didn’t do enough chores and my room was always messy. He told me I was a bad daughter. The more he told me this, the more I believed it, and I began to feel worthless.
In addition, my parents are immigrants. In their culture, children don’t talk back to their elders. I couldn’t express my feelings of hurt or anger, because my parents saw it as being disrespectful. Throughout middle school, I felt alone. I thought no one could understand how I felt. Once I wrote a song about how sad I was, but the friend I showed it to called me “crazy.” Since then, I haven’t trusted any of my friends enough to tell them about my depression, in fear they will react the same way. I attempted suicide several times, because I thought everyone would be better off without me. Despite that, I’m still depressed, but I am thankful I didn’t succeed in committing suicide. I no longer feel it’s the answer to my problems.
In college, hard-working people who know what they want surround me. Many of them are happy, but like me, some aren’t. About 30 percent of college students reported they felt “so depressed that it was difficult to function” some time in the past year, according to a 2011 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment survey. My academic performance always suffers when my depression worsens. It’s difficult to concentrate, and I feel like my efforts won’t be enough to get me a good grade so I don’t try as hard. Getting a good grade boosts my confidence, but the second I don’t, my confidence drops.
However, not all aspects of my depression have been bad. Starting in middle school, I turned to writing to express my emotions in a healthy way. I wrote poetry and songs to help me cope with the loneliness. When I have no one to talk to, the paper becomes a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. I discovered my passion for writing because of my depression. My love for writing even helped me choose my major – journalism. It’s the one constant in my life and the one thing I love to do the most.
This year, my depression has become worse. I feel more alone and more afraid than ever before. My decisions seem to carry more weight, and as I progress toward completing my degree, I’m more worried about failing. But I am also starting to feel I can beat depression. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I want to stop distrusting everyone, I want to stop hating myself, and I want to stop holding myself back from fulfilling my potential. I will explore every treatment option–from therapy to a healthier diet to changing my thinking–in order to get better. I deserve to be happy–it’ll just take me more help and effort than most others.
The author Anais Nin was quoted saying, “and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” For me, that day has come.