Many people like to pretend that if they cannot see something, then said thing does not exist. For instance, if I don’t look at my bank account, then I can make it rain like a Romney. I’m still a healthy 150 lbs if I can’t see my scale. I have a 4.0 if I don’t look at Blackboard Learn. Unacknowledged problems will eventually go away, right?
Unfortunately that is a recipe for making our problems worse. Sadness is a very common emotion. Since no one likes being sad, we tend to laugh it off or bury it deep within our minds. Sadness that goes unchecked, however, can lead to full blown depression. With more than one in four college students having some kind of mental illness, it is not surprising that many of us students are walking around campus with depression and don’t even know it.
When I speak about my depression and anxiety, the only response I seem to elicit from anyone is something like, “Oh wow. You never could’ve guessed!” And that phrase would be repeated to me so much that I would get annoyed. I think the source of my annoyance was more so at myself than other people. Why didn’t I look depressed? If you feel like crap on the inside, surely you must look like crap, too. And that’s the thing with mental illness—we all try our hardest to make sure we don’t look bad. There are many probable reasons as to why two-thirds of us don’t seek treatment for our mental illnesses, but I think part of the reason is because we are told to always look happy. On Facebook, Snapchat and other social media outlets we are made to put our best foot forward to the world, and in that process we deny ourselves the opportunity to really reflect on our state of mind. Society practically tells us to remain quiet and suffer alone. I definitely hid my depression, and to this day I also get shocked when a friend of mine says they are not doing well. The minute we get into the habit of being dishonest with ourselves and our loved ones is the minute things start spiraling out of control.
Depression is surprisingly silent. We spend years studying the warning signs and symptoms of the illness, yet when it finally happens we get hit so hard that we remain immobile. The resources that should be sought out and the shoulders we should lean on suddenly become forgotten and we barely remember how to even take care of ourselves. Depression, to me, is just this perpetual limbo where you are just waiting to be happy again while the world passes by, erasing you from existence. It’s confusing because you don’t know why you’re down and you begin to lose hope and feel lonely. Even if you do find a moment to laugh, it almost feels fake, and you become scared that this is now your new normal and the former you is now gone. For eight months, I walked around just like that and had very little people to talk to. In fact, I didn’t even see a professional on the matter. Without being properly diagnosed and having an ounce of confirmation that my feelings were valid, I felt like I was just crazy.
In a weird way I find solace in the fact that 25 percent of college students are kind of like me. It helps me feel less bad and normalizes the entire situation. However, we need the other 75 percent who may not be feeling these extreme emotions to also help out. Everyone needs to be at least a little educated in these matters so they can be helpful to the people that need their support. The more we make it apparent that it is okay to not be okay then hopefully we can all stop being scared, reach out and be more honest with ourselves and the people around us. Try to listen and, more importantly, care for one another. No one wants to be going through this alone and one simple hug or meaningful connection could make a world of a difference.
In the end, I would like to think that this article is for the people out there who are not doing well and are too afraid to accept that. If you feel like you are unseen and alone, please know that you are not, and that I, at least, see you and know what you’re going through. College is somehow the best and scariest four years you can experience and you need to be your number one advocate during that time. You may be tired and done with it all, but a little honesty and self-love can get you somewhere. And being somewhere is a hell of a lot better than being nowhere.
Stephen Kolison is a fourth-year student majoring in trophy husbandry and wants to be a talk show host.