I tend not to put too much of my personal life on this blog, both because I don’t really have much of one, but also because I’m a private person and this blog is mostly for writing.
But I know probably a lot of my readers are around my age and/or struggle with some of the mental health stuff I do.
And ultimately, this blog is about stories, in a way.
So I wanted to share this with you, part of my story, because you never know who might need it. And it’s better for me to talk about it and accept it than it is to ignore it and hide it away like it doesn’t exist. Because doing that sure as hell doesn’t have any benefits for me, really. Typing this all out is rather cathartic.
cw: talk about depression, mental health issues, mention of suicidal ideation/morbid thoughts/low self esteem, mention of visiting doctors/taking medication, stress and anxiety, college
As my about page on all my websites will tell you, I’m a college student and young adult. I’ve been nearing the end of getting my degree for a while now- I was supposed to graduate in 3.5 years, and then 4, and now…
I don’t know when I’ll be getting my degree. Somehow, I will finish it, (my tentative plans track me in at a summer and another fall semester) but right now…I’m not. Right now, I’m leaving college, because my mental health is just too bad to continue with it.
I’ve had depression for at least the past 4 years. Depression, or major depressive disorder, the specific type I’ve been diagnosed with, is characterized by sadness, anxiousness and unease, emptiness, hopelessness, pessimistic attitudes, agitation and irritability, low self-esteem, pain without direct cause (such as headaches, backaches, and stomach aches), loss of interest and enjoyment of things, tiredness and lack of energy, memory and concentration problems, inability to physically do things, under-sleeping and over-sleeping, lack of appetite, and morbid, morose mood and thoughts about death, self-injury, and suicide. You can have some of these symptoms, or most but at varying rates. I’ve pretty much had all of these at some point, though not always at the same time. The most persistent has definitely been the mood and mental-related ones, which I’ve highlighted in bold.
It took me three years to finally get myself to see a doctor. When you spend month after month hating your existence and wishing you were dead, eventually you acknowledge that you really, really need some help. I told my doctor all my symptoms, she diagnosed me, and prescribed me with an antidepressant.
It’s a 30% chance the first antidepressant you try will work.
Another five months later (because that’s how long I spent wondering if maybe I was making it up, if maybe the antidepressants were working and I was just a lazy piece of shit who should get my act together- other symptoms of depression clearly still effecting me), I got switched to a different antidepressant.
With this second one, I saw more of a change.
My day-to-day morose, morbid thoughts and self hate went away entirely. I was able to combat and decrease my insecurities. I had an appetite again. I could see positives in things again. I was less stressed and I was sleeping well at night.
I think partially why this second antidepressant worked so well for me in the beginning was because it was during the summer. Meaning, I wasn’t stuck at college. And college has been the biggest contributor to my depression.
See, the thing is, is that antidepressants don’t fix everything. They don’t cure you or prevent depression from coming back. But they are supposed to help rebalance the lack of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is something your body produces that regulates mood, appetite, sleep, motivation…surprise, exactly what depression effects!
But everyone’s brain is a little different, so some SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors- chemicals that regulate the usage and production of serotonin in your body) may not work for everyone, all the time.
The sort of way I characterize how they work, is like this:
At the left, you have a regular mood without depression and without medication. Generally, you might have a spike of some really bad days, but your moods are going to be fairly consistent and you’re probably not going to hate everything all the time.
At the middle left, you have a mood with depression and without medication. A lot of bad days, a lot of bad feelings, everything is terrible, and this is pretty much constant.
At the middle right, you have a mood with depression and with medication that’s working for you. The medication, if it works, should produce some sort of beneficial change. Less of the depressive moods should be occurring. It could be that there are still a lot of them and the dosage has to be adjusted to combat that, but the medication will lower the threshold of how bad the depressive moods should be able to get.
At the far right, you have a mood with depression with medication that isn’t working for you. For me, my stress/anxiety levels increased because of being back at college, so the level the antidepressant worked at (the strength of the medication) is no longer enough to combat and decrease the higher amounts of depressive moods. Thus, *internally screaming* happens. The idea with medication is that you want to get back to the regular level of moods on the far left, but this isn’t an easy, straightforward process most of the time.
There are soooooooooo many types of antidepressants, so chances are there is going to be something that works for you. But because of the chemistry of medication and symptoms involved with depression/other mental illnesses, it might be difficult to find the right one.
This is just my opinion, and I am not a doctor. What worked for me might not work for you, and vice versa. My experiences are not everyone’s experiences.
But to put it simply, my brain isn’t producing enough serotonin, for whatever reason, and I haven’t quite found the right dosage of medication to help rebalance that.
Most people don’t understand how difficult living with depression is. And in my experience, not all types of depression are equal. The depression you experience with grief isn’t the same as the fear of failure.
Nobody really talks about this. Nobody talks about how difficult it is.
I mean, depression is a disease that eats away at your ability to see anything good, in any situation. It limits you, in every single way possible. Mentally, physically, emotionally, socially. It makes it hard to do everything. Getting up out of bed. Sleeping. Showering. Daily hygiene. Eating. Going to school or work. Caring. Hanging out with friends and family. Enjoying anything.
Nobody talks about it in part because depression isn’t visible. People put on a happy front or don’t say anything because they don’t want others to worry, or because they don’t think other people will be understanding.
The truth is, is that people are more understanding than you think. But things aren’t easy to understand, and depression isn’t an “easy” illness to have.
You think, why can’t I just do this thing? Why can’t I get out of bed? What’s wrong with me, when it’s so easy for everyone else to go about their lives? Why is it so hard now, when it used to be easy before? Why can’t I just fix myself?
When you’re depressed, you spend a lot of time stalling. Stalling on what your supposed to be doing, and stalling in the sense that you’re pretty much just waiting for things to change.
Change isn’t quick or easy, and maybe it’s not permanent.
And crap, I used to be happy. I used to be. I haven’t been happy in a long time. I’ve had good things and there have been things that have brought me happiness (writing is one of them), but I haven’t been really happy in a long time.
For some people, depression is tied in with other things, like anxiety. I’m not sure about me, but when my stress levels increase, I also have an increase in depressive episodes/moods.
Now, depression can be caused by various factors- situational, genetic, hormonal, etc etc etc. I don’t know if there’s a specific medical reason for me, but the clear beginning point of my depression was the end of my first semester of college.
I’ve always been a good student- but school had always been relatively easy for me. I did exceedingly well in high school, and while I was there I unconsciously built up this idea that anything less than a B was terrible, and I needed to try harder.
(Mental health issues are really common, actually, in students who have been in “gifted” or accelerated learning programs, like I have.)
So at the end of my first semester of college, I didn’t do terribly- not at all! Crap, I wish I had the grades I did then, because it sure has gotten a hell of a lot worse!
But I used to be a mostly As student, which translates to a GPA of 3.5-4.0.
After the first semester of college, I had a couple C’s, and a B average GPA. Which looks like a 2.6 GPA.
To me, that looked like failure.
And I know it sounds stupid- it’s so stupid to me- they’re just grades, and they weren’t even bad, and it was only my first semester. GPAs are full of LIES. It’s just a cucking number, that no one really cares about after you graduate. (key word there: after -_-)
But depression isn’t logical. The “reasons” you’re depressed aren’t stupid.
You have to understand that my entire life was built around school, school being the most important thing and the most successful thing for me. Doing poorly meant disappointing everyone, even myself, and “failing” meant that whatever I was doing was not enough anymore. I wasn’t enough anymore.
And as things continued on, nothing I did worked. I tried and tried and tried so hard, and it didn’t work. Things got worse. My grades dropped. My depression heightened. It wasn’t exactly the first time I’d been depressed, but it was the darkest I’d ever gotten, for the longest time. I honestly don’t know how I’ve gotten this far.
I’ve dug myself into a hole. I’ve dug that hole for 4 years. And sure, there were probably things I could have done sooner to help myself. But I can’t live my life trying to make up for that, or beat myself down for not doing what I should have been doing.
Depression is an illness.
Sometimes, it’s not something you fight. Sometimes, it’s not something you live with. Sometimes, it’s something you struggle with. Sometimes, you survive.
Staying at college was struggling. Staying at home is still struggling.
I don’t know how, but I’m hell-bent on surviving this somehow.
The best I can do now is figure things out and keep moving forward.
My doctor told me over the summer, that if there was ever any point during the school year that I felt the antidepressants weren’t really working anymore, or if I had any other problem, to give her a call and they’d get the dosage upped/adjusted.
For a long time I thought, if I can just work hard enough, if I can just do x better if I could just not fuck my life up even more, if I could just- but that’s the thing.
With depression, I can’t.
I can’t do those things.
I can’t stay at college.
It’s killing me to stay. Killing me, and I cannot live like this.
When I went back to college after winter break, my stress levels went up; my anxiety levels went up. Because of this, I wasn’t sleeping at night. Because I wasn’t sleeping at night, I was exhausted during the day. Meaning I could barely make my classes and do my homework. Meaning I was behind even on day one. I was constantly playing catch up, which only made me more stressed…and the cycle continued.
Near the end of January, it got to the point where my morose/morbid thoughts and self hate was coming back too. I’ve laid in bed a lot of nights in February, crying myself until morning, wondering how in the hell I’m going to manage to graduate this semester if I can’t even manage getting to ONE. CLASS. If I can’t even SLEEP. AT NIGHT.
It’s not normal.
It’s so, so, so difficult.
And I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t live like this. I can’t handle going to college if my life is a constant struggle like this. It’s not worth it. And I can’t afford to stay and fail everything and ruin my GPA any more and waste money and time.
It’s a waste, to be here, and I really do feel like I’m wasting away.
So, look. If you’re in my situation or close to it…we’re gonna figure stuff out. Things will turn out okay. You are completely allowed to be unable to do something. You’re allowed to fail. You’re allowed to need help. You’re allowed to take up space. You’re allowed to be a burden.
You will figure things out.
I hope you can get some help if you need it, and please try to be kind to yourself. Help each other out, but let others help you, too. The latter is often one of the hardest things to do. We can’t live this life completely alone, and even more now than ever we need to rely on each other if you can.
And I guess if you don’t know how to help someone, the best advice I can give you is just to let them know you care. Check in with them. Interact with them. Support them. EDUCATE YOURSELF about whatever they’re struggling with, LISTEN TO THEM, and BE UNDERSTANDING. Listen first before you judge people for not being able to do things that seem “easy” to you.
Every small thing helps more than you know, and some days it’s the small things that help the most.
For me, I don’t know how things are going to go in the next year or so. I don’t know if whatever my doctor adjusts me to is going to work. I have tentative plans to finish up my degree in around less than a year- I will finish it, crawling, to get that fucking diploma. Because I want that stupid piece of paper that I’m at fucking 99% completion on, and then I want a job for fucks sake I’m so tired of school.
Unfortunately, like I said to my college buddy, “apparently they can let a rotten orange in a tupee who doesn’t have a political science degree or any political experience be president, but they can’t just give me a Biology degree already because I need more general university credits.”
Yeah, I’m not bitter at all -__-.
When it comes to this blog and writing, nothing is changing. I started this when I was depressed, and I’ll continue it while I’m depressed, and I want to continue it when/if I’m better. Gotta keep going, unless I don’t enjoy it anymore. Keep on keeping on, you know? I’ve got more stories to tell. I’ll be sticking around, don’t worry.
I’m just doing the best I can, and sometimes the best I can do looks pretty terrible. It’s still something.
Take care of yourselves,