Personal Essay: a college student’s inner dialogue with depression
By HANNAH GALEONE
“Wow, I’m going through this shampoo so fast… I feel like I just bought this bottle,” I thought to myself as I looked at my new micellar water hair product. I go through shampoo faster when I’m feeling depressed. I was stepping into the shower for the second time that day, finding myself soothed by steaming cascades of water yet again.
We’re all familiar with the feeling of craving a long, hot shower when we’re stressed, our day was tiring or we just need a people-free space to exist in. No one can bother us when we’re in the shower, and for some of us, the ability to self-isolate is extremely relieving. But when does it become too much?
I, like thousands of other students my age, am going through life in college with depression. We’ve all felt down, upset or just not “right” at some point in our lives, but it takes a toll having that feeling as a permanent part of your life. College is a difficult place to be when all you want to do is be alone. You can hear people running through the residence halls, laughing outside or bustling around campus and part of you desperately wants to do those things too. But the other part just wants you to stay inside by yourself.
Depression makes you feel lonely; it makes you feel like you and yourself are the only two people out there. It’s the two of you against everyone else. Your lowly lit, slightly messy room and pillow-covered bed become your favorite place to be. It’s ironically your “happy” place because your lack of happiness is what makes you want to be there in the first place. And when you’re out all you want is to be back there.
We’re faced with “impossible tasks”- easy, day-to-day things like running to the pharmacy that shouldn’t be this hard to accomplish- but they are. You try little things that you think will help- to do lists, cell phone reminders, good old fashioned sticky notes. And none of it seems to work. Yet, when you finally motivate yourself and complete an impossible task, the feeling is uplifting.
Every day I have to remind myself that my desire to be alone a lot of the time is coming between me and my happiness. I have always been a very social “people person” and I always will be. But watching myself stray further and further away from people is harder than the consequences of self-isolating.
When I think about it, it all comes down to rationalizing my feelings with myself. Getting out of bed really isn’t that hard, you just don’t want to. Starting that assignment isn’t as daunting as I’m making it out to be. It’ll take you five minutes to make that phone call that’s been on the to-do list for a week. I forget how powerful my internal dialogue can be and when I use it correctly, it’s helpful and motivating.
I find myself appreciating the time I spend with friends and family much more than I used to. Partially because I have incredible friends and family, and partially because part of the process was an obstacle that I had to overcome. Sometimes the idea of going out in a public space was overwhelming. Or I couldn’t find an outfit that I felt confident in. What if I go out and I regret doing it? But I have to push those thoughts away because they’re what hold me back. I have to tell myself, “just go do the thing, you’re going to have fun and feel better for doing it.” And it works. Sometimes I am truly my own worst enemy, but sometimes we can be friends.
People with depression or other mental illnesses are often labeled as weak. People tell us to “just cheer up,” ask if we’ve “just tried being happy,” or told that we’re using our mentality as a crutch. But in reality, we’re the opposite of weak. We just feel things more intensely than other people. When we feel sadness, we feel the weight of it resting on us and when we feel happiness, it’s a whole new type of energizing.
College is undoubtedly stressful for everyone, but for people like me, sometimes everything seems a little bit worse. But sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.