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I finally started to feel the first significant decrease in my depression symptoms the spring before I left for college. Over the summer, I continued to become healthier mentally, spiritually, and psychologically. I was excited to go to college and have a fresh start, and I couldn’t wait to start living more independently.
Fighting depression had forced me to grow up early in many ways, and I thought since I was “strong” and “self-motivated,” I would adjust wonderfully to college.
It wasn’t until I got to college, however, that I realized having spent the last four years focusing much of my energy on my fight against depression, I hadn’t focused as much of it on many of the normal processes of growing up.
I was mature beyond my years in some areas, and immature far below them in many other ways.
While many of my friends were excited to have independence from their parents, I found myself feeling lonely and ill-equipped as I struggled with a small relapse of depression without my parents right beside me to hold me up.
When feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred arose, I struggled to find my identity now that my life wasn’t controlled by mental illness – something most of my classmates had figured out during high school. When difficult or uncomfortable situations arose, I had to learn how to face them instead of just running from them–something I needed to do before because I was already facing as much as I could handle. It was a stretching and painful experience, but it also taught me two important lessons I may not have learned otherwise.
One of the most important lessons I learned my first year of college was:
Growing up doesn’t mean growing out of a need for support.
Depressed or not, everybody is designed for relationships. We all need to be cared for and supported by others. It took me a long time to adjust to the fact that I couldn’t handle all of the struggles I was facing on my own.
I learned the importance of calling my family and sharing my life with them – letting them help me make decisions without relying on them to fix all of my problems.
I learned the importance of developing deep friendships and opening up to allow the other person to invest in me, even when that means I have to make myself vulnerable and trust them.
I also learned many of the coping mechanisms I grew accustomed to were no longer necessary now that I was healthy. I no longer need to avoid relationships and situations that could end in pain or heartbreak because I am now strong enough to withstand hurt, rejection, and disappointment. I no longer need to ration my energy to the same extent as during my struggle with depression.
My first year of college was difficult, painful, lonely, and terrifying. I didn’t have time to take growing up one step at a time; I was forced by necessity to grow up more quickly than I would have chosen. But one year later – stronger, sure of my identity, independent, and more mature – I can see that the hard times and desperate emotions were growing pains.
I grew more in one year than I ever could have in an easier situation. The pain of my first year of college surprised me, but the strength it brought out of me surprised me more.
Elizabeth currently holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is planning to work towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Elizabeth feels blessed to have been surrounded with support during her journey with depression, and she is passionate about using her experiences and education to bless people in the same way she was blessed. She hopes that as a contributor to Libero, she will be able to provide very practical support.
SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.