Dealing with Depression
By Bernie Michel
The losses of high school students from Drake, and our very own Novato High in recent months has shaken the entire local community to its core.
The loss of Novato High senior Jackson Talbott was one of the most shocking and saddening blows to the Novato High senior class and the school as a whole. This raises the questions of what can be done to help understand the struggle better.
It was made public by Jackson’s parents at his memorial that he suffered from anxiety and depression. It is not a secret that many high schoolers do as well. More awareness needs to be raised on what it's like to deal with something so intense.
Senior Mashayla Thompson described her experience with anxiety.
“I mean it's hard, sometimes even debilitating and I feel like if more people knew that, people would be a little bit more supportive and understanding,” said Thompson.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and an anxiety disorder. Most of my anxiety symptoms can be found in various forms of anxiety. Having anxiety causes people to feel depressed due to its exhausting symptoms. The constant feeling of anxiousness can cause many to fall into what may feel like a never-ending cycle of depression. All of this has made me realize how hard it is to cope with a mental illness.
MDD is a commonly diagnosed form of a depression disorder. Going through the downfalls of MDD have been some of the hardest moments of my life. I suffer from a number of things, including lack of appetite and energy, insomnia, inability to focus and occasional thoughts of suicide. My anxiety causes me to suffer from panic attacks, irritability, trembling, and racing thoughts. All of this has taken a toll on me, my relationships with others, and many other areas of my life.
I was put on an antidepressant and I now see a therapist once a week. It took me a long time to get there though. I had to first admit that something was wrong, as I didn't feel like myself anymore. In the beginning, it felt like I was having just some “off” days. It progressively got worse.
I constantly fought off random bursts of tears in class. I would sneak away and have panic attacks. In the span of three months, I had 15 panic attacks, some more intense than others but they all felt the same. Panic attacks feel as if you’re having a heart attack. Your body’s fight or flight kicks in and you don't know why. You are in no real danger, yet your mind just thinks you are, which triggers your body into unnatural feelings. It leaves you out of breath with tightness in your chest, often with thoughts that you're possibly going to die.
I felt like I was losing myself. I was missing large chunks of school at a time due to an inability to get out of bed or constant doctor appointments trying to figure out what was wrong. It was draining, to say the least. It took a good month or two to find a doctor that would discover an antidepressant that worked for me.
The process to get help took too long, as two months can be detrimental. They make you jump through too many hoops to get help from a doctor.
This is what it’s like dealing with a mental illness and with the amount of kids that have stories similar to mine, it's important to educate people on what depression is, how to deal with it, and how to help the many of us that deal with it.
Novato High School Psychologist Arezu Iranipour described ways to help break the stigma connected to mental health issues.
“Stigmatizing people with mental illness can take an already difficult situation (living with mental illness—anxiety, depression, etc.) and make it more isolating and allow for more self-blame rather than providing a space for support and care,” wrote Iranipour in an email. “The more people share stories about mental illness and mental health, the more normalized and destigmatized these topics will be. One in five people lives with a mental health condition. Those people are our friends, parents, siblings, and neighbors. It’s important that we remember that.”
Iranipour also explained the best way to educate people.
“Read, learn, share! There are excellent organizations that provide factual information about mental health issues and mental illness and who can support students who need someone to talk to (The Trevor Project, Crisis Text Line, Jed Foundation, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Pay attention in health class and seek out more information. Hear people’s stories as they discuss how anxiety or depression impacts them,” Iranipour wrote.
Educating and spreading the word about the importance of mental health can save lives. I know how hard it is to emerge out of a dark place and people don't have to do it alone. Whether it’s a friend or a therapist, you can find someone willing and wanting to help you.
The Trevor Project: a suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youth 1-866-488-7386
Crisis Text Line: 741741
Jed Foundation: 1-800-273-TALK