College is supposed to be the best time in a young person's life.
It's the time of immense personal growth, and it's a time when lifelong friendships are made. The four years that we plan for and anticipate our whole lives are talked up to be the ones in which we fall in love and discover our passions, all while having a ton of fun day in and day out.
I hated high school. I promised myself that once I went to a university, I'd be happy. I'd find friends. I'd finally fit in and have the “college experience” everyone had always told me about.
I've struggled with depression since I was 12 years old. I hopped around schools and always felt restless with myself and my place within my town.
I moved to a university city a year and a month ago, ready to leave all my sadness behind and be a passionate, happy, outgoing and charismatic college student.
As it goes, problems seem to follow no matter where you go. I'm going into my third semester here now, and I am feeling more restless about myself and my place within the campus.
I've been asking myself these questions every day: Why aren't I happy? Why haven't I found friends? What is missing?
I felt so alone in this. Everyone else seems so happy. I pass groups of friends on campus laughing. I see photos of friends in sororities, at parties or dressed up for a football game.
But this semester, I realized that everyone has a different experience, no matter what season of life they're in. The one I hoped or expected to have simply didn't become reality, and that's OK.
I just had to realize that because of my depression, being a college student is going to look different for me. I know there are other college students out there feeling the same way because none of us are really ever alone in our struggles.
So, I want to share the four ways I'm working through my depression as a college student:
1. Finding a community outside of campus.
I've found that being on campus can amplify feelings of not fitting in or not having a place. Unless you want to be in a sorority, live in a dorm or be in a club, it can be difficult to find a supportive and genuine friend group.
A good way to find that outside of campus could be joining a church, finding a job or finding groups of people who like to do similar things. There are really cool resources out there for people looking for running or hiking groups, or even different cooking and book clubs.
I've come to realize that where you live isn't home until you have the people who make it so. Especially for people with depression, a community will be vital for your happiness in your college town.
2. Asking for help.
I struggle with guilt a lot for feeling sad or restless because I understand all the opportunity I have being a college student. I can study whatever field I am interested in, and there are endless things to get involved in.
I feel like there's no reason for my uneasiness, but that is one thing you have to remind yourself: Depression isn't your fault, and you should never apologize for it or hide it. Rather, ask for help.
Asking for help can make you feel vulnerable, and that is sometimes scary. But through sharing my struggles, I've found a lot more people understand than I had thought.
Feeling understood can immediately lift your spirits enough to feel like you can make it through the day, the week or the semesters.
3. Asking the hard questions and being brave enough to answer.
I am a person who can stay comfortable and not want to change anything. But working through depression really is work, and being a student can make that harder.
If you want to get through it having grown, had fun and learned more than you thought possible, you have to ask yourself a lot of hard questions. Try writing down all your fears and then brainstorming ways to overcome them. Try overcoming them.
You'll never really know anything until you try it, and most of the time, it was well worth it.
4. Let go just enough to enjoy the ride.
At the end of the day, college should be enjoyable, but so should every season of your life. Life does get inevitably hard, but no one deserves to be struggling every single day, and you should allow yourself to enjoy it.
Get out of your comfort zone and go to a concert, a football game or on an afternoon hike. Soon, you'll graduate and you'll enter into another season of life, leaving the college scene behind.
Depression can make the idea of “seizing the day” almost impossible, and these four things helped me see the bigger picture and get through the days when happiness seemed impossible, too.
If you're a college student dealing with depression, you're not alone. Find a good community, get yourself out of the house, connect with others and yourself and always remember that it is important to not be too hard on yourself.
After all, life is always changing, which means the hard things pass, and good things are right around the corner.