So I’ve written a couple of articles, but up to this point, I haven’t been as candid as I can be. My mother always says that there is a certain amount of healing in transparency; healing for the person sharing their truth and for the person the truth is shared with. People feel less alone and it also opens up doors for support. But here is a little disclaimer: There are certain things I haven’t been comfortable with sharing. Whether it be because I am scared of people judging me or because I don’t want to think about it, I find it hard to talk about this topic. However, this will help a ton of people that should be comfortable with talking about it. So… Here it goes… I have anxiety and depression. I have been anxious since I was younger but it manifested in different ways. For example, when I was in kindergarten up to about 4th grade I would have these random outbursts that I now believe were from anxiety as certain situations give me anxiety. I actually have social anxiety. I find it extremely difficult to have one-on-one conversations with people I don’t feel super comfortable with and can’t be with people that I just met by myself for a long period of time. Because of this, I tend to shy away from people sometimes and it makes me feel alone. Obviously, for someone who enjoys being around people, this puts me in a tough position. This comes from a huge fear of rejection, that leaves me stagnant from approaching people, whether it is romantic or not. It makes it very hard and it hurts because it makes me feel like I won’t be able to talk to people or have friends or a girlfriend/wife. Those feelings can sometimes lead to depression.
My depression actually started to rear its’ ugly head during my senior year of high school. Although past hurts, like the unresolved issues I have with my biological father, played a huge role. It was also the demands of the college preparatory school I was in. The pressure to always do well, be loved, serve others, and feed hundreds with one loaf of bread started to weigh heavily on me. Additionally, it made me realize that I didn’t talk a lot about my personal life. I only shared certain information, even with my closest friends. Not even they know this, but I felt like they didn’t know me and that I wasn’t really their friend. This made me feel guilty as well, because these guys were like my brothers and I felt I didn’t open up to them like I should have. Another epiphany surfaced in high school that I knew where it came from but didn’t quite know how to change it. I started realizing that I made others happy but I didn’t have that same sentiment because no one ever saw me outside of my peacemaker, keep everyone else happy emotion. The hardest thing about making people happy is that you feel like there is no one to make you happy. People become so comfortable with “taking” that they don’t realize that sometimes that person needs the same thing. It is something that didn’t sit well with me and my guilt for letting myself down led to my depression. The image that I had inadvertently created for myself left me with no room for error! I felt like I had to be perfect, like every single move I needed to make had to be right. I couldn’t screw up. Everyone loved me, and I was Marcus: the (seemingly) happiest man on Earth. What does it look like if I screw up? My feelings progressed during the fall of 2015 and honestly, social media didn’t help! I saw people that were seemingly happy and enjoying their time at college, and that was nice for them. For me, it hurt to see because I was wishing I could feel like that. Side note: everything you see on social media is NOT true. I’ve posted stuff acting like I was the happiest person on Earth when I was struggling just to be calm. I thought these feelings were caused by a location. I initially went to college in Ohio and I thought maybe if I moved back to my hometown, everything would magically get better. Part of that was true because I needed to be closer to my family, who is my biggest support system. However, there was still a lot more work that I had to do. Believe it or not, things got worse before they got better. In an entirely new place, where I knew no one, past the Welcome Week, ice breaker stuff that happens, and being someone who didn’t feel that I could approach anyone in order to just have friends (I didn’t care as much about having a significant other, I just wanted a friend) I was at rock bottom. Despite the efforts of some friends of mine, nothing helped me; I was in a pit. I became very reckless. I was intentionally hurting myself, just because I felt like I needed to. I wanted to give up. And February 15, I almost did. I had given up on everything and didn’t care about anything else. To me, I wasn’t a good son, I wasn’t a good big brother, I wasn’t a good friend, and I wouldn’t be good at much else. I just wanted to end it. Before I did, I talked to my mom and we worked through it and both cried our eyes out and I got help. I was at a point where anything I did was an improvement. Where am I now? I’m better. It’ll take a while for me to get to saying, “I’m good’, but being better than where I was not even a year ago is good enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with certain things and I still have sad and depressive feelings, but I know how to deal with them better. There are days when I stay in a funk and don’t know how to get out of it but I have tools that help me out so I hopefully never get to the point I was at earlier this year. I sometimes don’t believe it, but I know in my heart of hearts, everything will be ok. I need to share this, because there are so many people every day that struggle with this and they should know they aren’t alone. I really want the people that feel that they need to make others happy before themselves to read this, because you need to read it.
So, moving forward, let me tell you the things that made/make these feelings a whole lot worse for college students. Below are some do’s and don’ts for adults and fellow college students.
For the adults:
Please stop asking us if we have our lives together when we come back for breaks.
We get it. You saw us when we were 38 minutes old and are excited about what the future holds for us. But when you ask us at every single break, it gets very draining. Asking us, “So, what are you going to do with that?” is fine, but when you start going into saying, “… I don’t know if you want to do that…” or, “People never work in that field”, then you need to stop. We want to come back home on our breaks and not have to think about how we are going to figure everything out, we just want to be loved and eat stuff. That’s why it’s called a BREAK!
“You got a boyfriend/girlfriend?”
If we do, we will tell you; and you’ll want us to shut up about it. Sometimes, we feel pretty crappy already because we don’t have a significant other, and no one likes being reminded of feeling like crap. But, trust me, we will let you know about our love life when we get one.
Stop saying, “God will take care of it”
I’m sorry, but that doesn’t help us. It doesn’t, and it isn’t about having to listen or pray; it is about the fact that you can’t just say that and expect everything to be better. I always want God to give me things that will help, but I ask for the courage to keep going instead, or the peace of mind to get through this. If I say, “Man, I feel like crap”, don’t just say, “Pray on it” or “God gon’ take care of it” or “Jesus walks” or recite John 3:16. Because no matter what your faith is, you still feel like shit sometimes, to put it bluntly. Telling me to pray won’t make everything alright.
Now, for the college students:
Good God, TALK TO EACH OTHER
This sounds so simple, but we really need to start an open dialogue about this. We are all more or less in the same boat, and a lot of us act like things are good when they are not. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done this too but I have stopped that. Being honest with each other about how we feel and how things are going is one of the first steps to feeling better. Just talking to one another about it should really help us.
Don’t feel bad if it looks like people are doing better than you.
I’ve fallen into this trap MULTIPLE times. This is the reason I don’t have Instagram on my phone anymore and as trivial as it sounds, it really isn’t because at my age, we’re “supposed to have “Insta.” However, when you get on and see people having fun with friends or posting cute pictures with their significant others or other stuff, you tend to feel crummy about yourself. It isn’t because you aren’t happy about how they appear to be happy, you just wish that you were having a good time. Just know that everything is not what it seems. On social media, you would have thought I was having the time of my life, but clearly that wasn’t the case. SO don’t believe the hype.
Let’s start to change things.
Let’s start asking people how they are doing and actually want to know, let’s tell people how we’re actually doing, let’s try to brighten people days. No one should feel depressed to the point where they want to end their lives and it is unfortunate that it happens, but honestly, one person can make a big difference. Trust me when I say that. Just saying hi to someone can make someone’s day, and in college those random hellos or smiles have made my day. When I get an unsuspecting wave from someone it reminds me that people are good and makes my positive outlook shine even more. There’s a lot of crap in the world and there will always be, but helping people feel better and helping yourself feel better can make it slightly less crappy.