Depression Through My Eyes…
As I sat down for dinner with my parents for the umpteenth time in my life, I felt…annoyed. There was no specific reason or event that caused me to feel this way – I was just irritated. I pulled out my phone in between bites of Costco meatloaf and started to scroll Twitter. In the Martinez-Esquibel household, that was a big no-no. Family dinners were important as it was the time to hear about each other’s day and catch up on what was happening in our lives. Ever since I received my first cell phone, the golden rule was “No phones at the dinner table.” But tonight, I didn’t really care. Couldn’t tell you why I didn’t care but in that moment in time, I would rather read fantasy football news than hear about my parents’ day. As I got up to slice myself another piece of the surprisingly good meatloaf from the plastic container, something dawned on me that never had before: How many more family dinners am I going to get with my parents? Not that my parents are sick or elderly in any way but we all have busy lives so we didn’t always get the chance to sit down together. Right then and there, I came to the realization that the real reason for our golden rule was because my parents genuinely wanted to hear how I was doing. A sudden appreciation came over me for being incredibly lucky to have parents like I do. As soon as I sat back down, I put my phone aside and chimed in on the conversation my parents were having for the rest of dinner.
Before I had attained some success in healing my depression, that second part of dinner never would have happened. My state of just not caring and being agitated remained constant. It’s been a long journey of too much fast food, therapists, and self-reflection to be able to see this new light of appreciation. I wouldn’t say my depression is gone, but now I have more good days than bad.
I want to preface this article by saying that this is my own experience with depression. Everyone suffers from it in varying degrees, and everyone’s struggle is unique. For the first time in years, I’m finally able to see how my behavior changed my sophomore year of college. I find it important to write it down to help others get at least a sense of what it was like for me to suffer from this mental illness and possibly relate to how I was feeling.
The Great Wall of Doubt
I felt trapped. It was as if I was in a hole and brick by brick, my former self was being buried alive by my doubts and fears. Another Friday night alone eating fast food would add a brick. Another shirt from my closet that didn’t fit anymore due the weight I was gaining was another. Not making friends in classes or being someone’s last choice for a group project added more. I didn’t realize it at the time but once I graduated college, this great wall had been completed and my days of happy and carefree living were entombed by this wall of angst. It was like a fucked up version of Patrick Star’s house from Spongebob.
This is the wall that I wrestled with when someone told me “Just get out of bed and go outside, that’ll help,” or “You just need to be around people more.” When I heard people tell me these things, I wanted to do them. Dear God, I wanted to. I wanted to go out with my friends on Friday; I wanted to join a club on campus; I wanted to meet new people. But I couldn’t. No matter how bad I wanted to, I was stuck. I would make up excuses, and then get mad at myself for not going. Upset with myself, I went out and ate away the pain. It was an endless cycle that I didn’t know I was being sucked into. I spent days worrying about my appearance and nights worrying about my friends noticing all the Carl’s Jr.’s bags I would come home with. This shadow of doubt casted over me everywhere I went.
While I don’t feel like I have completely broken out of this tomb, I’m slowly chipping away at the bricks that have held me down the last few years. I still stay in most Fridays but I’m not eating my feelings away through a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger and a Cherry Coke. I’ll take whatever little victories I can get. Looking back, my biggest takeaway wasn’t that I didn’t want to change, it was that I couldn’t.
To revisit my opening paragraph, when I wasn’t self-absorbed in my crippling doubts, I found myself constantly irritated. Most times it was for no reason at all. My parents would come home and simply ask how my day was and my mind immediately went to a place where I felt that my parents were hounding me about my life and that they were suffocating me with questions. I played the victim, and felt that the whole world was against me.
Before my behavior started changing, I considered myself a very happy-go lucky sort of person. I was very care-free (in a good way), almost too much so. Rarely did I ever get upset or angry. I was so caught up in all my anger that I couldn’t even remember what that person was like. The scary part about my depression is that I just accepted this as the new norm for me. The memories of myself having patience and wanting to go out of my way to help others were almost erased. There was never a day where everything just clicked, and suddenly my personality did complete 180; it was over time like vines growing over an old gravestone. Day by day, this was becoming my new reality and before I could stop it, it was too late.
Most of the time I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to be around people, especially big groups or social outings. Being in social situations stimulated my nervousness and doubts. I would wonder what other people thought about me, whether my shirt was too tight or if it was coming untucked during a presentation. My freshman year, I would make friends in classes and always participate in discussions. Just a few semesters later, it was as if I couldn’t remember how to function. My loneliness caused my depression to grow because the problem was that at that point in my life, I needed to be around people the most.
Overcoming this loneliness was the first step to chipping away at the bricks that weighed on me. My last semester I was hired as the sports editor of my college newspaper. Writing was one of the things I still enjoyed because I could do it alone and if I wanted to move into writing, being the sports editor was my next step. Suddenly, I was thrusted into running a team of writers and photographers. I HAD to interact with people daily. This helped tremendously. I couldn’t chose to stay home; people relied on me to get the paper out on time. I spent more and more time in the office, interacting with whoever was in there. I made new friends who I would go out with every Tuesday night. For the first time in years, I could feel glimpses of my former self just peeking through. While I still had my doubts and was irritated more than I should have been, being forced into the world and being around people was the first step I didn’t know I needed.
One of the hardest aspects of my struggle is what you’re currently reading. A few years ago, I couldn’t even fathom writing an article about what I was feeling, let alone begin to describe what was happening to me. I was unable to find the right words as I was consumed before I knew it. It is a proud moment for me to finally be able to put the words together but even prouder that I can finally see who I was before and how I have changed. I still have days where I get irritated but it doesn’t last long. I still want to spend time alone but I spend it reading or writing and not watching Netflix and stuffing my face.
I wanted to share my experience for two main reasons. First, the aforementioned reason of seeing how I have changed, finally finding the words to describe it. Secondly, and most importantly, to show that, if you relate to what I experienced, it is something that CAN be overcome. Being Jimmy V Week in college basketball, it’s only right to end with his famous words. “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
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