Depression in college is looking at everyone around you and wondering why you’re not having the best time of your life, like everyone told you it would be. It’s knowing you have so much to do and not physically being able to do it. It’s crying and not being able to answer people when they ask what’s wrong, because nine out of 10 times, nothing happened to trigger you. It’s saying sorry for anything and everything because you feel like it’s all your fault. For some, it’s unselfishly giving everything you have to the people you have so no one else has to feel how you do, but leaving you drained in the end.
Depression in college. Is. Brutal.
There is nothing like the endless cycle of trying to do your best, not doing well, being disappointed in yourself and feeling worse than before, setting you off on a bad foot for your next assignment. I’ve had a messy, unconventional four years of college. I don’t think I’ve overcome depression or have the authority to preach self-help, but I have learned a few things about depression in college.
It’s okay to ask for help
First, it’s okay to go to your school’s health center for counseling or to get a psychiatrist. It’s also okay to take medication, despite people saying it’s a drug, a crutch or not helpful. It’s also okay to ask for help from your teachers. Sometimes, in cases of test anxiety or ADD, it’s okay to go to your school’s student disability center and get help with note takers or taking your test in another room.
Being too embarrassed to ask for help from disability, I would talk to my teachers at the start of the semester and tell them I have social anxiety and I might not speak up in class much. I offered to email them after class with the thoughts and other comments I would say in class if I could, to get participation points. I never had a teacher say no.
It’s also okay to ask for help from your friends. I know it sounds selfish. While it is important not to push your friends’ limits, they appreciate knowing how best to help you. For me, I ask my best friends to check in and ask how I’m doing, because I’m terrible at asking for help. I ask for encouragement or reminders that they love me because my mind often tells me otherwise. Sometimes all anyone needs is someone to listen.
As someone who has felt helpless at the hands of depression for several years, especially the last four of college, this one feels tough to say. But I promise you can only take back control of your life by fighting the battle raging in your mind. I’m not saying you can cure depression or that it will ever just disappear, but I’m saying you can make it better.
We don’t give our mind the credit it deserves. Taking a class on positive psychology (something I suggest doing or researching more if you’re interested) taught me so much, including that you can indeed fight your thoughts. Labeling our self-deprecating thoughts as depression speaking, practicing healthy thinking patterns and visualizing doing the thing we feel helpless to do. I swear this sounds crazy, but it works: visualization and verbal, positive encouragement.
Treat yo’ self
I think sometimes reverting back to a childlike state helps. Whether you enjoy coloring, reading, napping, snacking or listening to simple, happy music, self-care should become part of your routine. Add it as another task that you have to complete in your day. If you feel guilty about taking care of yourself this way, that’s just a sign that you really need it. Self-care helps with eliminating bad thinking patterns to check the facts (what is actually true versus what our brains tell us about the truth).
For example, say you have an assignment is due soon. You’re not getting anywhere just sitting there worrying, so take a quick break to calm down. You could paint your nails or take a walk around campus. Then tackle the assignment with a new mindset.
Self-care varies from person to person. Be careful not to use the “treat yo self” method as a way to do things that harm you in the end, like overeating or binge watching.
College is hard, but doing it with depression is harder. Give yourself some credit and never give up, because despite what your mind might tell you, it can get easier with some devotion. When things get bad, always remember that you’ve been in a time similar to how you feel now. You got out of it and you will again.