by Sammy Van den Berg |
I don’t remember the time I was depressed very well. I don’t remember that person; I don’t think I want to.
I was a sophomore in high school. I was first realizing I was bisexual. I was first realizing a whole lot of things I’ve come to know myself as.
I don’t think I knew that I was depressed at the time. Unfortunately, I think that’s how it works sometimes: The denial runs deep and you chalk up all these changes and everything that’s different to something else.
I spent most of my time on Tumblr, discussing religion and politics and life with friends I still hold dear. Yes, internet friends can be fun and safe. Proceed with caution.
I went to school and I came straight home. I still went to soccer practice, something I had once found so much joy in, but it always felt like a chore. I barely remember doing schoolwork. I had always been a 4.0 student, but I’m still surprised I managed to pull out a 2.8 GPA that year.
I fought with my parents, usually because I wasn’t doing well enough in school, or getting enough sleep, or generally taking care of myself. I was so angry with them at the time, but in hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have learned to care again without them. I wouldn’t be OK if my dad hadn’t have pushed me out of bed every morning. I wouldn’t have been OK if my mom didn’t make me do my homework at the dining room table with the internet off. I wouldn’t have been OK if they didn’t show me so much love when I told them I was bisexual.
I had always been full of so much joy, and wanted to do everything and be everywhere all the time. I cared about school and soccer and work; I cared about my friends. Through all of this, caring for my friends was the only thing I could still do. Thank God for that.
I hated not being that person. Even with everything I’ve repressed, I remember that. I remember hating myself, I remember not wanting to go through another monotonous day.
But I also remember when it started to get better. No matter how much I refused to believe there was something troubling going on, I did notice when I started to feel OK again.
The summer after my sophomore year, my friends and I went to the beach for one of their birthdays. We went to Seabright State Beach in Santa Cruz. That night, we set up a bonfire and talked about the stars. We frolicked down the beach toward the cliff separating Seabright from the main beach with the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Back in the day, there used to be a cavern underneath the cliff, where you could crawl under to the other side where the boardwalk was. The cavern has since been filled, and there’s an outlet on the other side that separates the beaches even further. But that night, we crawled under, over beer cans left by previous visitors, and on the other side we emerged to a stunningly lit up boardwalk. The lights carried all the way down the beach and to the pier at the other end. Fireworks went off a few minutes later.
How damn metaphorical that is, right? I still have the panorama I took that night on my awful camera flip phone. I can’t believe now how lucky I was. To experience that before the cavern closed, to be with people that stood by me and cared for me during the hardest year of my life.
It didn’t get better right away, but it did eventually. Sometimes it just takes a night to snap you back to reality and stop denying anything, realize just where you are and want to come back – come home.
We all struggle. Let’s struggle together.
Sammy van den Berg is a senior Organizational Communication major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 408-656-4761. Sammy is the current CPB Director on the ASUP Executive Board and also a member of Active Minds, a group on campus dedicated to educating our community about mental health and demonstrating that people are not alone in their mental health struggles.
Mental Health Resources:
UP Health and Counseling Center: 503-943-7134
Multnomah Mental Health Crisis Line: 503-988-4888
Active Minds: email@example.com or Facebook.com/activemindsatup