Editor’s Note: The following post was written by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. They have been going through a rough time and want to share their experiences and contribute to the discussion of mood disorders and their prevalence, without having the spotlight on them.
I was dating someone at the time, and he made me happier than I had ever been. But my low self-esteem and my tendency towards self-deprecation and negativity took a toll on him and our relationship. Anytime something went wrong, I blamed myself to the point of making myself cry. I told him, repeatedly, to break up with me because I felt so unable to solve anything. I was rarely able to pull myself out of my self-destructive spirals long enough to focus on fixing our problems together.
We broke up. The bags under my eyes started getting worse because I was unable to stay asleep for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time. When I went home for winter break, my parents noticed that I wasn’t sleeping well at night and put me on house arrest in the hopes that I could better relax. I wasn’t allowed to go out for more than 5 hours, and I wasn’t allowed to use any electronics after 11PM. They meant well, but the lack of distraction just left me stuck in my own thoughts, in this endless loop of I’m not good enough. I don’t try hard enough. I don’t care enough. I’m not good enough. I grew distant from my friends, not only because of the enforced lack of communication, but because I didn’t have the energy to reach out, nor the energy to follow through with plans. I knew my moods were affecting my interpersonal relationships, but instead of motivating me to make contact, they just made me feel even more guilty and upset. I lost all interest in my hobbies; I lost all interest in the club I had previously worked so hard to save. Some days, when it was sunny out, I would get these bursts of excitement and I would become hopeful that I was over it–today is the day I go outside–but after an hour I would feel the energy slowly draining out of me and I would lie back down on my bed and curl up and go to sleep.
It was worst when the weather was bad. I don’t remember the day, but I remember I was coming back from class and I had gotten off the bus because I’d started crying. I didn’t want people asking me if I was okay because I didn’t want to be a burden. In a moment of clarity, walking in the bitter cold and the rain, I became self-aware enough to recognize, however dimly, that I was showing signs of depression and that I should seek help.
I remember how useless I felt as I was unlocking my phone. I cried harder as soon as CAPS picked up. I felt defeated. I felt like I had lost. How could I have let my emotions ruin me like this? I told the woman on the phone that I needed to make an appointment, as soon as possible. I hoped with all my heart she could understand me because I didn’t know if I would be able to repeat myself without falling apart completely. Clearly, she had experience talking to inconsolable, hysterical people because she scheduled me for that Thursday and gave me a number to call in case I needed to talk to someone after-hours.
I cried my way through my first few sessions. The counselor asked about everything that hurt; everything I didn’t want to talk about: my ex, my inadequacy, my guilt, my regret, my denial about wanting to get back together. But he helped me find the willpower to push through the sadness long enough to get into my distraction methods. Coping was extremely doable, once I stopped drowning (literally and figuratively) in my tears. I started keeping a dysfunctional thought record, to write down anything that made me feel like getting back into bed, and once I had symbolically transferred the thought from my mind I found it easier to move on from them. I made a slow return to the things I loved, but this time, I pushed myself to get lost in the activity. Over time, the feeling of dread associated with doing anything changed to a feeling of anticipation; I chased the catharsis. Nearly five months later, I go to CAPS to have someone to talk to, because the unconditional support offered by my counselor has been the most important tool in my arsenal against my depression. And as cliché as it is, time really does heal all wounds.
Obviously, I still have bad days. Just last Thursday I missed an entire day of classes and didn’t go to lab because I was crying that morning, but the best way to overcome negativity is by not dwelling on it. So I’ll seek out my roommate, or text a friend, or go to the gym, or read a book. But almost no one knows I’m seeing a therapist, as I still have not gained the confidence to believe that others won’t think less of me. As an Asian-American, it’s even harder to admit to my parents or my peers that I’ve changed or that I’ve been seeking help–partially due to the taboo against mental illness & treatment in Asian cultures, but primarily because it’s in such stark contrast to the lively, confident, driven person that most people knew me to be. I know I never considered myself a sad person, nor did I know I even had the potential to be depressed, until this year. But if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that falling into depression is easier than you think. Getting out is the tricky part. By fighting it, I am happier. I find more joy in and appreciation for the little things in life. I’ve gained more confidence in myself because it is proof of my strength–proof that I am, in fact, good enough–and one day soon, I’ll be able to wean myself off therapy.
One of my closest friends, and the first person I told about going to CAPS, attached a quote to a cup of my favorite drink from Starbucks. It’s a little cheesy, but beautiful in its simplicity as an oft-unstated truth:
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”