“College, now those are the best years or your life,” says a fella-wearing-a-tux-from-the-squeaky-clean-1950s. Uh-huh, sure, fella.
Before paralyzing you, my dear reader, with my cheekiness, I’ll check my sarcasm at the door. While the experience of college is truly a gift, i.e. if one is open to education, willing to forge new friendships, and eager to learn something from their lovers, it is also a tumultuous period in one’s young adult life. Suffice to say, depression is common, and most college students experience varying degrees of this mental illness.
To be sure, the term is overly-used and problematic, just as the term melancholy was exhausted during the 19th century. Nevertheless, that’s not to say depression isn’t real – it most certainly is, and I know a handful of people who thought its symptoms so real, they are no longer alive (incidentally three of them were in college, and one of them shot himself in the library’s bathroom at my school, while I wrote a final paper at my carrel).
There are a lot complicated reasons why college students are susceptible to depression. In order to clarify the complexity of this issue, my first few discussions address environmental forms of depression, which are just as serious as chemical ones.
For starters, if you’re a competitive student and an outgoing person, college can be overwhelmingly demanding. I’m not just talking about your coursework or – if you’re a dork like me – worrying abut your professor, wondering if s/he is enjoying your term paper as you read this blog (but trust me, don’t fret about it – you’re off their radar, unless you’re standing in front of them (impossible since you’re reading my blog, right?)0 Let’s get beyond the mundane, and delve into the meaty stuff.
Let’s face it, you are being pushed hard, challenged to think in new ways, and, therefore, intellectually burdened (that’s not a bad thing). You find yourself reevaluating many beliefs that you’d been raised to think were just plain true. (Unless you were born into an academic family – and that’s not a guarantee either – you’ll most certainly experience these emotional and intellectual tensions). Moreover, if you’ve ventured off into “deconstructionist land,” your head is churning like a Dairy Queen malt-maker, and you find yourself up at night “realizing” that truth does not exist, I have words for you, à la Tony Soprano: “a’ take it eas-eee!.”
Step back from your Derridean texts for a moment, or just your plain ol’ science book, and understand that these sorts of brainy somersaults are a good thing. Sure, it’s scary, uncomfortable, and just weird to push your thoughts in different directions when reading. Plus, it’s also hard to consider someone else’s point of view during a classroom discussion, particularly when you think that the person, who espousing such contrary views, is an idiot, stinky, odd, or simply annoying. But listening to your classmates, regardless of what you think about how they look, how offensive you find their aroma, or whatever, well . . . that’s the “stuff” that makes college worth it.
There are, however, other factors that aren’t directly related to your academics. We’ll investigate those next.
In the meantime, do any of you relate? If so, please share!