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What is wrong with me?

Everything is going right — so why can’t I get out of bed?

Our elder is no medical expert, but it does sound like depression.

Dear EWC

I am a senior in college. I have an amazing girlfriend who can be a bit crazy but loves me no end and she just makes me feel so lucky. I work part-time for about 16-24 hours per week in the deli at a grocery store near the University I attend (two hours from home). My coworkers are great people and I get along with nearly everyone. I receive a lot of financial help from the academic program I am part of at my university. To top it off, I have a loving and supportive family.

The reason for my writing this letter is that I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have found myself pushing work back past deadlines and not putting any effort into my classes. I will have to drop two math classes this semester to avoid failing and ruining my GPA. Had I just sat down and actually done this work, the situation would not be nearly as bleak. For some reason, I find myself just laying in bed at my apartment for hours not having any will to get up. I get very hungry but cannot will myself to cook or make anything quick as almost nothing looks appetizing. Everything is laid out for the rest of my life, but I just seem to not be grateful for it. This heavy sadness falls over me when I don’t succeed academically. I’ve had thoughts of suicide over failing tests miserably. I don’t know why my emotions get so extreme, but I want to figure out why. If anyone has felt similar to this before and has any advice, I would much appreciate some. I do apologize if this is very vague, but I just want to know what to do. My mother has advised me to seek a university counselor of sorts, and I have lied about talking to one and scheduling appointments. Truth be told, I’m afraid to. I don’t know why. I’m fearful of talking to someone about my problem. Any and all feedback is appreciated.

Alexandra replies

I’m so sorry that you’re feeling this way, and I’m glad you wrote to us. It may help to know that you are not alone in having these feelings — we get many letters from college students who have similar stories,
I’m not any kind of doctor or mental health professional, but it seems to me that you’re suffering from depression — I’m sure the same thought has occurred to you. Your mother has the right idea — depression is a very treatable mental disorder and most colleges and universities have counseling services available for this very reason. The statistics show that 35 percent of college students suffer from depression.

As you have so many positives in your life — supportive family, girlfriend, financial help, a job you seem to enjoy — it might be a good idea to see a medical doctor or mental health professional to rule out any medical cause for the way you feel. Sometimes chemical or hormonal changes can cause these sad feelings and suicidal thoughts. It may take a combination of medication and counseling to get you feeling yourself again. Fear of talking to a counselor is not unusual. Many young people (young men especially) are unaccustomed to talking about feelings and emotions, but here’s the thing — bottling up these feelings will just make them worse. Talking — or venting, as it’s called — helps release these emotions and makes them easier to handle, Obviously talking to a professional counselor is the best plan, as they are trained to listen and help, but even talking to a good, supportive friend or family member about feelings can help temporarily.

I do understand your reluctance to talk to a professional — sometimes we just don’t want our feelings to have a ‘label’, but we are much more understanding of depression and mental health issues today. They are the most common problem afflicting students worldwide and there is no more shame in feeling depressed than there is in having a physical ailment like a broken leg. I urge you to make an appointment with your university counselor. I think you will be surprised at how easy it is to confide in someone who is understanding and non-judgemental.
There are also some things you can do for yourself. Do try to eat properly and get some exercise, even if you don’t feel in the least like it. Your physical health is extremely important to your mental health. Even a brisk walk in the fresh air can raise your spirits. There are many online mindfulness and meditation sites that can help enormously with mental health and depression issues. You can Google them and choose the one you feel would suit — add the word ‘free’ if you just want to check it out. You don’t even have to leave your apartment to try this. There are also several helplines you can call when you’re feeling down. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) has counselors on hand 24/7. It’s free, confidential (you can even be anonymous if you wish) and you certainly don’t have to be suicidal — you can call just to talk.
I’m pleased to hear that you have not resorted to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to cope with the sadness, as some students do. This only exacerbates the downward spiral and adds addiction problems to the depression, making it much harder to treat,
I’m concerned about you. I hope something here will help and that you will soon be feeling much better. Please feel free to write again if you want to talk more — we’re always here for you.

Letter #: 450696
Category: Self-Improvement

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