Dear Professor, I have Depression
This summer, I thought that I was finally liberated from my depression since I had not experienced a severe episode of depression in a few years. Unfortunately, I was wrong. For several personal reasons that seemed to hit me one after the other like I was standing out in a hail storm, my depression was starting to settle in. I thought I had it under control, but it only got worse. I sought to combat it through therapy and meeting with my pastor, but that was futile. I tried to alleviate the ailment through drug therapy and antidepressants, but that was also futile. It gradually began taking a toll on my academia. It may seem at the moment like I am a bad student (in fact I think I am) but I promise I am not always like this. I don’t always skip class and I don’t always turn in my assignments late.
I battle with Persistent Depressive Disorder and some days the battle takes a bigger toll than other days. Some days, I lose the battle all together. I am typically a great student, but lately I have not been able to shake my depression. Depression affects five main areas of functioning: emotionally, motivationally, behaviorally, cognitively, and physically. I’m not necessarily sad, though I do go through intense sadness episodes. Most of the time, I feel empty and numb.
Learning, which usually excites me, brings me no pleasure. I have no motivation; no motivation to complete an assignment, no motivation to go to class, no motivation to interact with people, and barely any motivation to wake up. I have become a lot less productive with my time and I am not the same ball of energy that people know me as. I try as I might to put up a smile and act like typical John, but when I am not intentionally doing it, the charade falls. It falls because I lose a sense of being present in reality and get trapped in my head. I begin ruminating on very dark and disturbing thoughts. These pessimistic thoughts keep coming. I play over events that I blame myself for. I think of all the people I hurt and how I hurt them. This only serves to perpetuates my self-loathing.
I am in a complete brain fog and lose track of time. Although I have been awake through the night, I still miss my alarm. I have difficulty remembering deadlines and appointments without my phone blowing up with reminder notifications. I cannot even remember the pages of notes I just tried to study.
There are days where I just cannot get out of bed. I’m not skipping class because I am not interested or lazy. I just have complete apathy and loss of interest. I see all the work I have to do, and just shut down. I start to question if it is even worth it. I will open up the assignment and begin working, but all energy and motivation gets immediately drained. I get exhausted and feel as though I had just ran a marathon and have written a doctorate dissertation, when in reality all I did was type the title of the paper. Exhausted doesn’t even due to justice to describing how physically, mentally, and emotionally tired I feel. I am too lethargic to complete everyday tasks and usual activities. When I do get the energy to get out of bed, I have poor concentration, and not just because of my ADHD.
Depression affects almost every aspect of my life. I am less than a few months from graduating and I can no longer put a number to the amount of times I have earnestly contemplated dropping out of school. Not all professors understand how depression affects academia, but thankfully mine at GCU do and have shown me such patience and compassion. I’m not at my best at the moment, but my attitude and mood have been improving by intentionally taking active steps to improving my mental health. Even now, my motivation level is immensely low, but God has gifted me with a heart of resilience and tenacity. I will continue to push myself until I graduate. I will allow myself to fail if need be. I will allow myself take mental health sick days. I know I am not the only student who has depression and you may have never encountered it before, so thank you for taking the time to read this with an open mind.