What my battle with depression has taught me.

When most people think about the average college student, they think of all-nighters, crazy-fun weekends, football tailgates and overall a young person living the hell out of life. For the most part, I guess that is true. For the average college student, you would not expect them to have any other struggles beyond passing a hard class or saving up for a cuisine not based off of Ramen and frozen chicken. I went to college with this idea, that life would be the greatest thing ever and that my dark and grueling battle with depression would just disappear. I was damn right proved wrong when the “Sophomore Slump” hit. Of course, the new has worn off and reality of life, slowed metabolism and financial responsibility sets in but for me the battle of depression came back with a vengeance.

I guess I could consider myself a depressed person? As far as I can remember, the dark cloud has passed by months at a time, letting the sunshine through for a bit then clouding up again. It saddens me that I have missed out on so many opportunities and pleasures that youth brings because I was trapped by my own mind.

It was not until this semester that I truly sat down with myself and looked at the situation for what it is. I guess I was ashamed of it but who wouldn’t be? It is not exactly the best or easiest conversation to have and when you are the type of person that sucks at expressing emotion.

I allowed myself to accept and acknowledge what was going on in my heart and mind and learned a few things in the process:

  • Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.

We constantly compare our lives to that of others and it is so easy to feel ashamed or embarrassed of these deep internal feelings. It can often lead us to doing things that do not bring us joy just to come off as normal to others. When in reality, you are not alone. There are many people around you that might be battling the same things but are just as scared to talk them out. It surprised me that when I came out about my battle to close friends, a few of them joined me with tears in their eyes acknowledging their own battle with depression.

  • You have to be honest about what makes you happy and what doesn’t.

This includes friends, classes/major and of course the activities you participate in. In college, it is quite hard to swim against the mainstream current and pressures of what everyone is doing. Trust me, I battle with this all the time. It’s easy to blame others when you feel as if you aren’t doing what makes you happy. If you enjoy working out, work out and do it unapologetically. If the drinking culture leaves you feeling unfulfilled, leave it and do it unapologetically.

In order to change the function of something, you must change the structure. This my friends is the honest truth, you are the only one that is responsible for your choices and actions, therefore you cannot blame anyone else for how those choices make you feel. Be honest with yourself about what brings joy, vitality and satisfaction to your life and surround yourself with it. It feels uncomfortable but the change is worth it.

  • Talk about it.

This is a big one that I really have to work on. I suck at talking about myself unless it’s something not relevant to my emotions. I guess the transparency invites vulnerability, which I do not like. I’ve learned that it is so important to throw out your ego and force yourself to be vulnerable and honest with yourself and others. This creates a humble heart and allows you to be at peace with your current situation so it is possible to move forward.

I am not saying to talk to just anyone about your inner demons but find someone you trust or if you are like me and need to work your way up to talking to someone get a journal and write. My journal has been such a safe place for me to acknowledge my feelings and it wasn’t until recently that I shared a few entries with my roommates. It was freeing but it took me to write it out before I was ballsy enough to talk about it.

  • Solitude and loneliness are completely different.

If you are suffering from depression, it is a pretty damn lonely place to be. I still sometimes have times when I feel lonely, but that is when I get out of my room and walk a few steps to my living room to join my roommates and the feelings of loneliness fade away. The hardest part of not feeling lonely is making the effort to not be lonely. It is a pretty hard move to make because you just want to be alone when you are depressed but putting yourself out there helps a lot.

Though, loneliness is an unwelcomed feeling that I actively try to overcome, solitude is a choice. Solitude is an important step in self-discover and growth. Sometimes you just need to be by yourself but when it starts to come out of a place of fear instead of love is when it’s easy to allow loneliness and depression to overwhelm you.

  • Running away won’t fix it.

This semester has been really hard on this old gal and battling with depression hasn’t made anything any easier. I haven’t been motivated in school, the gym and any social environments. I guess you would say it is a serious case of burn out. I’ve called my parents bawling, wanting to come home. I have filled out a few applications for transferring. I have thought about changing my major. The easy way out seemed like the best choice for me and I praise God my parents didn’t let me come home. Why? Running away would not have made my depression go away. Honestly, it probably would have made me feel guilty which would have made everything worse.

Everyone’s battle is different and their journey for treatment and recovery is so unique to themselves. I am not completely recovered but I feel confident on my road to healing. I pray for those reading this who suffer from depression. I pray you find healing and happiness. Whether it is keeping a journal, seeking therapy or doing your own thing, I pray that you will be successful.

Life is way too beautiful to not be living it.

Xoxo,

Alee

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