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Commentary: Friends, family, counseling help in fight against depression in college

There is so much functionality and beauty in the young body. At 19 years old, I could still parade miles in heels without a knee collapsing. I could stay up until 3 a.m. and still make it to my 7:30 a.m. lecture with minutes to spare. I could eat three cookies and burn them off walking to class.

However, at 19 years old, my mind was not impressed.

Spring Semester 2013, I suffered from crippling depression, an experience shared by 30 percent of college students, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The statistic can be comforting for some, as it may enforce a sense of community and simply being diagnosed can provide a name to the monster, making it less horrifying.

Instead, I had an out-of-body experience in the world’s most distressing way following my diagnosis. I spent much of the semester bubbling out of my own skin, wishing to be relieved of my own physicality. I had no appetite, but I needed to eat. I was restless, but I needed to sleep. I wanted nothing to do with my friends and family, but my body craved human touch. My body was a foreign device I felt obligated to care for.

My remedy to the situation was filled with dark rooms, underivable tears, skipped classes, slipping test scores, trips home and drafted letters with the intent to sign my life away. Having little personal regard for my own safety, I would walk at night with music blaring in my earbuds, I would jaywalk to challenge cars and I would abuse the side effects of Benadryl to lull myself to sleep.

Worst of all, though, my misery was unexplained. At the time, everything was perfect on paper: my grades were high, my friends were phenomenal and my personal goals were crossed off.

Also, if I could have pinpointed what aspect of my life was causing my body to shut down, I would have fixed it.

I could not attribute my sadness, and I was determined to not burden my friends and family with something I could not explain. I squirmed for a few months before finally letting the “secret” slip to a close friend, who I forever laud for sitting with me, talking to me, outing my condition to my parents and directing me into recovery.

With medical attention, including multiple and ongoing visits to my family practitioner and psychiatrist, and sessions at Ohio State’s Counseling and Consultation Services, my body has reconnected with my mind, and I have repossessed the ability to look forward to the future while embracing the present and being thankful for the past.

Through my experience, I had not only learned a lot about the power of the brain, but also the prevalence of depression for college students. College is perhaps one of the biggest transitions of early life, but, among many other reasons, its focus on the future can spiral some students into what is often deemed a “quarter-life crisis.” When you only have four years to determine what to do with the rest of your life, for some, years seem to quicken and no time is enough time to reach your fullest potential.

When feelings of inadequacy or hopelessness become vices of numbing proportions, it is important to express these feelings to anyone at anytime. Humans are social creatures, and it is a primal instinct to help each other, whether it is to hunt down a woolly mammoth or finish a spreadsheet for accounting class. Once my friends and family were alerted to my sadness, I no longer felt obligated to keep an iron smile, but instead work through all the pain to achieve normalcy.

Talk therapy provided as a cathartic way to express my hesitations without being forced to articulate the triggers of my depression. After all, to this day, I cannot derive the meaning of my past sadness. However, if it weren’t for my family and friends, perhaps those drafted letters may have been signed.

Thanks to them, I happily made it to 20 years old.

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