You are the soldier of a silent war. The battlefield is your bedroom. The enemy is depression. What is at stake is your sanity and consciousness tonight – the usual prize. This is not a new battle, however. In fact, this is a battle that has been fought over many years. With tears, doubt, misery and loneliness as ammunition. Ceasefire can never be predicted. It is as if your own mind is holding you hostage. You are the prisoner and the guard, the hero and the monster and the soldier and the enemy behind the trenches. You are a contradiction of good and evil.
Looking at you, one would never guess that depression has you. Your depression, your black dog, will you follow around sometimes. Sometimes to class, sitting by your heels patiently waiting. During the nighttime, it may sleep on the bottom of your bed, curled up, taking up the most room. It will show up during the most inconvenient times. The wave of sadness that comes over you is sometimes too much for you to bear but you keep a straight face. Whatever you do, you can’t betray your secret. Your black dog will disappear sometimes but never for good. You never know when it will come back, either.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (who also had depression) once said “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Depression sometimes turns you into a monster. Not in a scary sense, in a sense that it distorts you and stretches you until you cannot recognize yourself anymore. After staring at the abyss for so long, you have trouble figuring out what is real anymore. You are stuck in limbo between fantasy and reality. You want desperately to cling to the fantasy and whatever scrap of hope is left inside you, but reality hits too hard sometimes. A story from the book Chasing Misery used the phrase “the sheer weight of living.”
That is what depression is. The sheer weight of living. It is a burden a lot of us have that we do not choose to carry, but it was bestowed unto us for a reason. It makes us question the world around us and why we are here to begin with. Depression makes ordinary people philosophers because we face our death and our mortality constantly. It makes us question our place in the universe and what our role in it is.
Depression makes you appreciate the beauty of the world because you see the ugly side of it, too. Every emotion that is coursing through your blood is amplified a thousand times over. But it is more than just being sad. It is having the sheer weight of living resting between your shoulder blades, and it is exhausting. Living becomes exhausting. Crying yourself to sleep almost every night is exhausting. Every inch of humanity is sucked out of you, you are merely a shell of a person, not fully formed. Living is exhausting, indeed.
You are not alone. 30% of college students reported they were so depressed that it was difficult to function, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. When there is a war inside of you, life gets hard. Sometimes you want to let the enemy win, but you know better than that. You know you need to win the battle, but you don’t know when it will be fought, let alone won. But you know you will win it, because you are a soldier of silent war.
Resources you can utilize to discuss mental health issues at your institution
DepressionQuest – a video game that simulates living with depression in a way that educates the player about the illness.
To Write Love on Her Arms – a nonprofit that focuses on people struggling with addiction, depression, suicidal ideation and self injury. The founder, Jamie Tworkowski, recently wrote a book called “If You Feel Too Much” that is worth reading.
Cultural Perspectives on Mental Health – this article explains how different cultures view mental health illness (important when working with international students!)
Depression On the Rise Among College Students – a NPR story from 2011 that chronicles the rise of depression among the college students
IMAlive – an online chat crisis line for those who suffer with depression, suicidal ideation, etc.
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Podcast With Dave Kerpen on Authenticity/ Branding on Social Media