When I was in high school, I had depression. I listened to depressing music during car rides and ached with passion and fury for the day I thought I would feel better. I believed with everything in me that everything would get better in college, and I was very, very wrong. I was holding out hope that the reason I felt bad was because I was a teenager, and I was around a lot of snobby people. College made me realize that I, in fact, am indeed the drama. I say that as a joke, but seriously, getting through this degree while struggling with mental illness was so much more of an excruciating talent than I anticipated it would be.
I struggled with maintaining a routine and juggling my responsibilities. I said earlier that I was “the drama,” and I am a bit dramatic, but I wasn’t around people who were good for me to be around either. My people-pleasing tendency certainly did not work to my benefit while I was in college. I could’ve done a lot better with just a little bit of courage and determination, but it just wasn’t something I could find within me when I was depressed. It felt like most of college was just me fighting for myself to go through the motions. Looking back, I know everything I did wrong and wish I could fix it, but unfortunately, it’s not something I can change. I am graduating though. I did this. You can do it too. I promise. With every anecdote I tell you, promise yourself to be better.
Don’t screw yourself out of good opportunities because of what other people think is best for you. When I got to college, I desired to stay on top of my grades, join an academic extracurricular, and a club. I really wanted to join the women’s rugby team. I know that sounds a little weird, but I think I would’ve liked it. I ultimately didn’t join because my roommate convinced me not to because of whatever reasons she felt were important enough to impose on me. I wish I advocated for myself, to myself. This was just one example of something I wanted to do, but ultimately gave up because someone else convinced me not to, or it would’ve impeded my social life, or some other stupid college freshman reason. It became especially depressing when my social life fell apart, also due to mental illness, of course, and I had nothing to show for my time in school. I realized I wasn’t advocating for myself at all.
So, I became more adamant with my school from what I needed from them. After three years, I finally got accommodations for my depression. I could’ve had them sooner if I would’ve put my foot down and demanded for things to be fixed before the damage got too bad. I had a plan for how I wanted my life in college to be like, and I didn’t get any aspect of that dream little high school me gently put together on a silver platter.
You must be a little selfish. You must demand better for yourself. Don’t bend to the expectations of others because you’re worried about what they’ll think about you. Dude. Those people SUCK. Stop hanging out with them. Go do what you want to do, and make friends with the people who are there instead!
This is so important to grabbing onto that feeling of being “normal,” when you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. What is normal? For me, normal was waking up, getting ready immediately, and going straight to class. When college gave me more free time to work with than I could comprehend, I spent 90% of my time not doing what I was supposed to be doing. I lost my sense of what was normal, so I lost my normal self.
Make a routine for your schedule. Stick to every aspect of it, even if it’s annoying and you don’t want to. I get it. In college you discover than you can simply choose to just not do things, and it is so much easier to not do things. It is, however, not fulfilling to do nothing. I understand that it feels like you can’t do anything right now, but you can do anything for 15 minutes. If all you can achieve today was waking up and brushing your hair, that’s perfect. You did something today to battle your depression. You’re trying. You’ll be able to do more soon. Hold on tightly to all the progress you’ve made, you’re going to build onto it soon.
No, really, what’s happening? I discovered I was suffering the most from not being able to regulate my moods and emotions. I felt like I was being blindsided by my own personality as I made it through the day. I had to identify what aspects of my life were setting me off, and how to react to the circumstances in a healthy way. I was in denial about which circumstances were affecting me negatively, and in retrospect could’ve improved sooner if I could’ve faced things head on. It takes self-reflection and painful decisions to inspire pain in our lives, but if we don’t identify what’s really happening, we can’t fix anything. You must take your unrelenting hope that things will be better, the same hope that brought you to this article, and use it to reignite the flame within yourself. The cure to depression does not truly exist. It is only through reflection and action that will anything change. You’re reading this because the bullet point articles of random tips aren’t working for you, and you have that hope that you’ll get through this and make it to the finish line.
Find a good doctor. Find a good therapist. Find something that fulfills you. Be brave enough to do what’s needed. You don’t need anyone else’s permission.
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