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MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA

“No, I can’t be depressed. I’m not some psycho,” I remember telling myself once. For two-and a-half years I had felt this way. I went on with my life just telling myself I was in the wrong place, and ignored the very fact that I was suffering from depression. It was far too easy to blame Georgetown or other people for my struggles than it was to blame myself. However, over time, as I took a look inward at who I was becoming, I became terrified. I saw how I was hurting those who were important to me; I saw how I was creating problems for myself; I saw that I needed help. For too long, I had avoided seeing therapist, out of a misguided sense of pride. I thought I could fix myself. I was wrong.

Earlier this year, Robin Williams took his life, shocking the world. More recently, Wayne Brady came out and said he was suffering from clinical depression. People think that successful people are immune from depression, probably because they think that they have no reason to be depressed. This has made it uncomfortable for people to talk about being depressed, as if it were some sign of weakness. As a result, there is some kind of shame to admitting you are or were depressed. This only works to further the stigma regarding depression. As a result, people like myself, who would have benefited from therapy as a freshman, avoid seeking help.

When we write people off as crazy we further stigmatize mental health issues; however, when we see people as humans, we can understand why people feel certain things or act in certain ways. As a university community and as a society as a whole, we need to see people as imperfect humans. Doing so will help destigmatize a condition that affects nearly everybody.

It is incredibly painful for me to look at all the people I have alienated because of my depression. For the 27 months during which I was in denial, I acted like I was a different person altogether. The depression had crippled every part of my personality to the point that I was not myself. As a result, I watched people who were important to me drift apart. I hope someday I can mend all the bridges I burned because of my depression.

By no means do I consider myself cured, but I can finally admit that I need help. Mental health issues are so easy to ignore, yet their impact on countless lives is so immense. The past 27 months, I have become the biggest barrier to my own happiness and success. I realize this now, but back then, I blamed the people I was surrounded by, the people from home who I missed, and the school I was attending. And this only created for me a downward spiral. My life could not go on the way it was. This realization has saved me from letting depression ruin my next three semesters; although the battle with my mind has just begun.

For years I have been ashamed to have felt depressed. I thought I was being weak. However, when I saw how depression was taking control of my life, I finally discovered I needed help. I thought seeing a counselor would require me swallowing my pride and admitting I was some kind of weirdo, but I now realize the only weird thing about me was that I refused to seek the help I needed. Seeking help does not require abandoning your pride, and in fact, I feel a stronger sense of pride now because I can admit that I am imperfect and need help at times.

I hope that by writing about my struggles and experiences others might not be ashamed seek help, as I was. Depression does not make you a psycho; depression is not something anyone should ever be ashamed about. It does not make you abnormal. It makes you an imperfect individual in an imperfect world. I wish I hadn’t waited 27 months, but if just one person can read this and feel empowered to seek help, then my struggle won’t have been in vain.

Joe Murdy is a junior in the College.

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4 Comments

  1. Joe, thank you so much for writing this. I’m currently in the process of seeking help for my depression and reading your account makes me feel less alone in this, so this article felt like encouragement to keep going.

  2. Georgetown Student says:

    Thank you so much for your post. I went through a similar experience freshman year, but luckily since multiple people in my family had had depression in the past, my family noticed my depression and forced me to seek help. I wish the best for you and I promise that getting help is the best thing you could ever do for yourself. Luckily for me, depression is a thing of the past. Good luck to you!

  3. Bravo, Joe! I suffered through bouts of depression and anxiety while I was as student at Georgetown and for about 10 years afterward. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s that I sought professional help, and I’ve been free of depression and anxiety ever since. When I look back at my teens and 20s, wasn’t all dark; it was mostly fine. But there were periods that I’m sure I could have gotten through much better if I had sought help earlier, and I regret not having done that. A lot of very accomplished figures in history dealt with depression. Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower are two who come to mind. You shouldn’t feel at all ashamed about getting professional help to cope with this challenge. You’ll thank yourself, as I know I have.

  4. Parent of a GU Student says:

    Thank you, Joe, for sharing your experience with depression and for having the courage to write about it. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 1995 when I was 32 years old. In the ensuing almost 20 years since then, I have been virtually symptom-free thanks to the SSRI class of medications (not all sufferers respond to SSRIs, but I was fortunate). Without my successful treatment, I likely would not now be enjoying the experience of having a child attend GU as a freshman. Unfortunately, there are still many people who view depression as a character flaw instead of an illness, and its stigmatization causes many (and their families) to endure avoidable and needless suffering. So, keep talking about depression and your experience with it as often as you can, as you may literally save lives by doing so. But be careful, as by speaking out you do, in fact, reveal some of your own character traits, such as courage, honesty and compassion; and the ones (hopefully few) who might deride your depression as a character flaw are usually those who do not possess such traits. Best of luck to you.

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