Imprisoned Without Walls

Trigger Warning: Depression, Suicide.

I was talking to my best friend on the phone yesterday, and I nearly broke down during the conversation.

She asked me, “What the hell happened to you? You’re not the person I remember from high school.”

And I tried to explain myself so much. “I don’t know. I don’t know how to go back. Please, please help me go back, I hate it like this.”

But I fear I just either don’t have the vocabulary to describe it, or I’m missing something.

When I began college, my first semester was pretty average — I was getting A’s and B’s as I had in high school. Keep in mind that I graduated with a 3.8 GPA from there. I mean, I procrastinated from time to time, and I rushed through things here and there, but I always got assignments done. And I always got them in on time.

My second semester of college, I got a pretty bad chronic condition. I don’t know where it came from, and it was rare for anyone younger than 40 to have. It affected how I walked and even sat up, so I was bed-ridden for about a year. Not only did I have to drop my classes from that semester, but I had to take the next one off too. Chronic pain is weird, though. I suffered through so much, and yet I had no idea it was impacting me psychologically. I didn’t realize that until I returned back a semester later.

When the next spring semester came around, I was obviously beyond ecstatic that my pain had decreased enough for me to continue classes, and try to have a “normal college experience” like everyone else. These are the golden years, they say. The friends you’ll make in college are your friends for life, they say. But I was a stranger. I had to transfer to another campus, a much larger and unfamiliar one that was closer to my home. I was a part-time student with only 2 classes and no driver’s license. I had to be picked up and dropped off straight away, with no time for extra-curriculars, and no time to join clubs.

It was a lonely time. Not only had my social anxiety reached its peak, but a much worse enemy crept up behind my back: Depression. That word was a weird one that I had only heard offhandedly. I was pretty lively, and really jumpy and naive in high school — I’d probably find me annoying if I talked to myself from back then. The word “Depression” was, in my mind, something that I never understood, nor one I particularly cared about. I just thought people were exaggerating their emotions to get positive attention and sympathy, to be honest. I still feel like that about myself sometimes.

So when I suddenly stopped doing my homework assignments, stopped going to class, kept making excuses, was too afraid to email the professors to resolve issues, started failing classes, that’s when it eventually hit me: There’s something wrong. I figured it must be because I’m so used to laying around, I’m just lazier and it’ll take some getting used to. To fix this, I thought that maybe if I just kept taking more and more classes, I’d be forced to be productive and get my life back on track.

Instead, what I got was worse. Now I was struggling with 7 classes instead of 2. I didn’t eat, I never slept, I didn’t do any of the work or study. I literally sat in my bed, in the same corner as when I was bed-ridden, and surfed the internet. I got addicted. I couldn’t leave. I lost contact with most of my friends from high school. I was called arrogant and self-centered. I was told I’ll never make friends again, with the way I’m behaving. They grew frustrated at my inability to respond to their messages, me canceling plans very often, leaving early when I felt too overwhelmed, having hysteria and panic attacks out of the blue. I isolated myself in my room, in a corner, crying and trying to get rid of the pain by suppressing it. I always wanted to be distracted. I was exhausted when I went outside, and I slept during the day inside.

So I was naturally frustrated with myself. Why did I, out of nowhere, start feeling like utter shit randomly waking up some days? Where was this coming from? Why did I want to argue and fight to do nothing and be left alone? And what the hell was my GPA doing at a low 2.5? I decided to seek out some help, without telling my parents. They didn’t understand that depression could be the reason I was like this — in fact, they triggered it a bit more unknowingly. By invalidating how I felt with reasoning like: You’re just being irresponsible, you’re being careless, you don’t love us anymore — I succumbed to wanting to commit suicide. Not once, but 4 times.

The help I sought out was at my university. It was like a 10-session thing with a psychologist, where they try to help you get back up. It didn’t do much, though. During the 10 sessions, I was improving. I got the courage to speak up to my parents to stop cutting me off when I tried to explain myself. I emailed one or two professors, too. But after the sessions were over, I went right back to how I was before them.

And now it’s honestly gotten to the point where I’m ready to give up on some days. It’s weird — I know I’m not lazy, and I know I’m not incompetent. The major I’m doing is one I’m genuinely interested in. And when I go to class and actually sit through the lectures, I actively participate. I become just as lively as when I was in high school. But one step out that door, and it’s right back to that spiral of futility.

I feel guilty about not completing my assignments too. When I start them, or actually do get the push, I complete them very swiftly and with extensive research. So it’s not like I don’t want to do them. And I am so passionate about things like feminism, current affairs, news, tv shows, everything. I am an obsessive type of personality, so why the hell can’t I get work done?

I have no motivation to do anything work-related. Literally none whatsoever. And I can’t explain why. I have no way to describe it. I don’t know why I don’t just do the essays when they’re due. I can write essay-length blog posts easily. I don’t know why I just don’t drive to class everyday. I can grab a ticket for the train to travel in less than 20 minutes. The professors are amazing, the classes are SO easy, I’ve studied most of this stuff in high school already. Yet, I just don’t. My mind physically just gives up, and I’m done, and I choose to fail. Then the guilt creeps in, and before you know it, I’m right back to hoping I’ll be better next time. And I never am.

It’s infuriating, but I feel like I have no choice. I also feel lost, I don’t know how to make anyone else understand. Because how can I fix something without knowing what it is first?

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