You don’t realize it until you see the dishes.
As I lay in bed for the third day in a row, staring at nothing in particular, I noticed them.
Stacks of crusty cereal bowls and half empty cups of water sat on my desk atop a scattering of papers. Loose notebook papers with notes scrawled half heartedly, bills, drawings I had started but never finished.
It had been a hard semester. My three jobs plus a breakup left me more vulnerable than ever to the bitter Kansas winter. I had always been pessimistic, even a bit dark, some might say, but by December I was feeling a kind of low I hadn’t ever felt before.
Lying in bed, staring at the remnants of corn flakes on my desk, I realized how apathetic I had become.
I leaned over the bed and found my laptop on the floor, opened up the browser and found the student health center portal. When you make an appointment online, you have to pick a reason for your visit.
I scrolled past the headaches, earaches, coughs, fainting and nausea until I found it.
An overwhelming number of college students suffer from depression every year. The CDC says 1 out of 6 adults deal with it.
I’ve been sad for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of depression was being on the playground in second grade and telling my friends I wanted to be alone for a while. I was seven, but I didn’t know what it meant.
I dealt with years of being unhappy in one way or another, attributing it to being bookish or introverted. But liking Harry Potter isn’t the same as being exhausted all the time, and by the time I was in high school, any amount of stress would drive me to daydream about crashing my car into telephone poles.
When you go into the office for a mental health appointment they have you fill out a survey asking you about mood and suicidal thoughts. Then, like a quiz in the back of a Cosmo magazine, you add up your score to see what you get. Instead of figuring out what kind of romantic I was, I found out I had clinical depression.
As the doctor went over the results of my questionnaire, I felt hot tears escape my eyes and roll down my chin. I was embarrassed.
“Was it really this bad?” I remember asking. “How didn’t I see this?”
The doctor looked up at me and asked, “Would you like to try medication?”
Without hesitating, I answered. “Yes.”
Since that day, I start every morning with an apple, a cup of coffee and 10 mg of Lexapro. I’m lucky that the prescription has worked so well for me. I’m not ashamed of my mental health anymore, and from speaking with friends I know it can take years to find the right pharmaceutical concoction to balance your brain.
I found out my dad has struggled with depression for years. He started taking medication and, eventually, so did my mom. We talk about it openly at the dinner table when I come home. I hope my little brother, who is now 17, doesn’t think about driving into telephone poles.
If he does, I’ll tell him it’s okay to ask for help.
Not every day is perfect, and there are times when I still struggle. But I have seen who I am without depression, and I feel forever indebted to crusty cereal bowls, glasses half full of water, and little white pills.