Digging Deeper: Where College Depression Lurks (Part III)

Girl Depressed, Sitting on Chair

Irksome classmates? I’ll take the gaff for those of you who know what I’m talkin’ about. The subject of irritating, insulting, insolent classmates was briefly mentioned in the first part of this discussion about experiencing “the college blues.” That first piece discussed the “professional” aspects of college that make students susceptible to depression. Since depression is enormously complex, I’m going to narrow it further and frame it by space: the “public” (classroom settings) and the “private” (intimate relationships).
Although the notion of public versus private is enormously complicated, particularly à la Habermas, etc., I’m simplifying those terms for the sake of this discussion about depression. (Please make note, the public discussion is aimed towards “nerdier” readers in the humanities, i.e. those who identify themselves as being highly competitive within the liberal arts, say in the disciplines of film, philosophy, literature, history, etc.). I also have words for you about graduate school – it only gets worse. Plus, the pedagogical approach changes dramatically and professors no longer praise you. If you are heading to graduate school next year, right after completing your B.A. (which I don’t recommend), prepare yourself for this change. It can cause depression, too. For the time being, however, let’s discuss your frustrating classmates.
This is not the time to guffaw, shrug, or defensively say, “Whatever, it’s just class . . . Even though I’m frothing at the mouth ever time I leave, because a classmate cut me off and libelously twisted my words during discussion. I mean, it’s Friday and I’m just ready to hang out with my friends, and forget about my irritating classmate.” If you’re like me, however, you don’t forget about it.
It’s not that simple, and if I had hands with a million fingers, I still wouldn’t be able to count the times I said that to myself, trying to convince my own mind that it was “no big deal.” But, folks, it didn’t work. In some courses I took, when the debates were actually engaging, I’d find myself awake at night, retracing the arguments, and wishing I’d said this or that to reassert my original position. As a self-proclaimed nerd, I won’t apologize for the obsessing. Although I lost a lot of sleep, this type of ruminating also helped me improve my presence in the classroom. That type of action, I believe, boosted my self-confidence and allowed me to act. But I didn’t just act impetuously, as that would’ve been an indication of anxiety related to depression. Instead, my actions were informed by prudence and temperance.
There was a hell of a lot of thought that went behind my words, my actions, and that helped me confront the type of depression I experienced as a result of these frustrating moments in the classroom. With that said, to act, whether in a classroom setting or in an intimate situation, is the first step to straightening your self-destructive ways, and allows you to break away from those downtrodden emotions.
As I said, just as it’s important to act in class as a means to stave of certain forms of environmental depression, and, as I said in a calculated, thoughtful way, the same goes with the way you behave in intimate relationships. But wait? What’s that? I hear your broken-hearted voice saying, “But I can’t act anymore, I can’t think it through with my partner, because they’ve left me! So who cares about these virtues, who cares about confidence (besides, my ex sucked it out of my heart), and all the other malarkey of which you speak? I’m alone. My friends have brushed me off because of the time I spent with my partner. Even worse, I thought, foolishly, that this relationship might’ve been the one!”
Calm down. Calm down. I feel for you. I really do. I’ve been there SO many times, and can totally relate. There’s a plain and simple reason: I fall in love easily, too easily. My heart was shredded by leftists, axed by Latinos, trampled by a couple of (nice) hipsters, and stomped by a few band-guys (nice too). I mean, just pick a category and it’s most likely that my heart was grated like a hunk-o-cheese by a person from that group. As you can see, I have dated A LOT, but each relationship was peculiar, memorable, and downright special – I hated to let them go. I didn’t “let them go,” as I was the one usually dumped, but for reasons, I later realized that weren’t related to me at all.
Nevertheless, it was hard to let go of the emotions and sense of self-worth I’d derived from that person. Even though many of these romances didn’t last long (a couple of months, at best), I endured insufferable loneliness each time they ended. And just because I’d been through break-ups before, that didn’t make the next (inevitable) break-up any easier. If you’re a sensitive, bookish, kind, and giving person like me, every break-up you experience will always be entirely different. You’ll simply never be prepared. Some of you may ask incredulously, “how so? Why is that the case?” Well, with the passing of time, with the insights you gained from your previous relationships, the stage of life that you’re in, all of it will be different. Even though you identify with my thoughts, perhaps you feel flummoxed by this “you’ll never be prepared” stuff. While I stand by that claim, that doesn’t mean you won’t be stronger, more thoughtful, and perhaps more careful the next time around.
More than anything, I realized that attributing my depression to a failed relationship was wrong. I misdirected my angst and melancholy, zoomed in on the loss, and therefore evaded the deeper components related to my own depression. I mean, self-pitying is far easier than addressing the reasons why you’ve fashioned yourself as a type of self-deprecating, self-effacing person, right?
Of course, I’ve been in a long-term relationship now for years and years, and the thought of it ending (whether it’s a break-up or, God forbid, by sudden death) inspires an eerie, unfathomable form or terror within my heart. And I’ll just say it like that, even though it’s cheesy. If you, my dear reader, have lost someone significant, then you’re not really experiencing depression, but grief. Those terms are inextricably bound to one another, but the former (again, when it’s not been diagnosed chemically), has much more to do with you than anything else.
Next up . . . Graduation and Dealing with “Post-College Blues”

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