Clinical depression sucks, my dudes.
That said, it’s also #relatable disturbingly similar to the symptoms of academic burnout and senior-year cynicism, or often confused for general millennial malaise, so. What’s what? Am I exhausted because of my 9 a.m. lecture, or is this just chronic fatigue? Am I in the throes of existential dread just because I’m graduating, or is it because a product of depression is hopelessness and pessimism? Do I skip club meetings because I’m jaded and overcommitted, or because my former pastimes no longer inspire delight? A fascinating conundrum, my good sir and/or madam and/or variations thereupon, thank you for your interest; let us examine the matter further.
(I’d like to preface this article with the fact that yes, I recognize that these behaviors are unhealthy, and yes, I’m doing the therapy thing, and yes, I’m on antidepressants, and yes, I’m practicing self-care (read: clinging to ritualistic face masks). Now that there’s no excuse for y’all to critique my coping mechanisms, we continue to ransack my psyche for parts.)
Insomnia and/or irregular sleep schedule
Considering I turned in for the night at 4 a.m. on Thursday (or early Friday morning, I suppose), I can’t refute the reality that my insomnia, which is historically a surefire sign of worsening depression, has reappeared with a bitch of a chip on its shoulder. Compounded by the fact that I have regularly rolled out of bed at 1 or 2 p.m. the last five weeks, my sleeping schedule is … ‘ow you say? Fucked. Between a dwindling supply of sleeping pills, a film class with an evening screening once a week, and a Daily shift that requires me to speed-read 17,000 words between 8 and 10 p.m., there are fairly few methods for fixing said sleep schedule. Lukewarm successes on that list include listening to music on a low-battery phone in the dark, counting backward from 100, or daydreaming myself into an alternate universe where I’m a celebrity on a late night show feelingly revealing my emotional fragility; all of these scenarios, however, stubbornly ignore the impending doom of graduation, grad school apps and the looming black mass that is the future that rudely refuses to die quietly. There’s also the reading I should, in fact, be doing for the following day’s lecture, and yet, my brain decides to bitch at me about my inadequacy as a person instead. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, insomnia.
Conclusion: Depression, exacerbated by nighttime academic and club commitments.
Apathy towards classes
Some dark, inevitable day in an indefinite future timeline, I will sit bolt upright in bed in a cold sweat, the phrase “intellectual vitality” flashing across my eyelids in apocalyptic neon, because it’s a meaningless, manipulative phrase employed by the University™ to guilt us into working ourselves into a “productivity”-induced coma.
Full-time studenthood is already fundamentally exhausting; your brain is constantly exercised, challenged, criticized and excavated supposedly in service of critical thinking skills and pattern recognition but really in order to further a capitalistic agenda put forth by a university more concerned with churning out wealthy alumni who then return-donate to their alma mater than with instigating intellectual and personal development. Furthermore, we all work, fam — everyone’s got a job (or three, @me), a staffing position, a sport, a theater company that eats up their time. Burnout, as a result, runs rampant on all college campuses. With classes occupying a pitiful 35 percent of my mental capacity at any given time, how in the bloodiest of all hells am I expected to study for the sake of studying? Why can nothing secure my attention anymore, even Italian gothic literature or Virginia Woolf in the context of the #MeToo movement, both of which are objectively cool courses that cater directly to my academic niches? For what overpriced and implicitly imperialist tropical vacation spot has my intellectual curiosity decide to ditch me? My brain feels atrophied, like the muscles of someone who has subsisted entirely on French fries and tapioca pearls. Is this just a manifestation of my disenchantment with the institution of Stanford at large? Is it due to the fact that I’ve burned through both my major requirements and my WAYS, so I have no external impetus to study? I have no answers — for you, or for my professors.
Conclusion: Equal parts depression and senioritis.
I was a very holier-than-thou high schooler. As such, I often professed that people shouldn’t feel the need to drink, or smoke weed, or do any drugs, really, in order to enjoy themselves; if you require alcohol to savor an experience, I argued, you shouldn’t be engaging in that situation — whether a house party, an uncomfortable family affair or a furry warehouse rave a la Netflix’s “Umbrella Academy” — in the first place. While there’s a lot to unpack in that, we’re just going to trash the entire suitcase of that sentiment and instead acknowledge that, as a senior in college, I have seen and consumed my fair shake of alcoholic beverages (and other substances that shall, for this article, stay anonymous), and you know what, Me From the Past? You’re stupid. But also, I normally drink in moderation, and that has… not been how I would describe my recent revelry. (And by recent, I refer to the last, hmm, eight weeks? Yikes.)
Irritability and/or frustration
Listen. I try. I try to be optimistic, even though it’s not my default state. (Although who really knows? Being depressed from a young age really skews your optimistic/pessimistic meter; I could’ve been a chipper Cindy Lou Who as a child for all I’m aware.) And yet, no matter how I mentally reframe it, literally every aspect of campus life is killing me. The bland, tan architecture. The dining hall food that got gross in 2015 (not you, dining hall workers, I love and appreciate you). The administration’s constant insistence that we should be kissing their feet for the chance to study here. The shittiness of Axess — a website whose express purpose is to house and adjust student profiles — on enrollment days. University-sanctioned “mental health” resources that prefer to shunt responsibility onto suffering students instead. Tourists who take photos of classes through open windowpanes like we’re exotic curiosities in a Victorian circus. And I know! These are all idiotic complaints! I do, in fact, appreciate my underpaid, untenured professors and the ridiculous resources with which I am presented! And! Yet! I! Am! So! Close! To! Spontaneously! Combusting! From! Boredom! And! Disillusionment!
In the last two days, I have contemplated the body parts on which I would place two different tattoos, floated the idea of an industrial piercing (even though the nose ring has already traumatized my parents), outlined a road trip to Vancouver instead of attending classes, and asked four friends for opinions on me bleaching my hair. (It’s already blonde, how badly could it possibly turn out?) Clearly, my subconscious is working through some shit, just screaming “DO SOMETHING!” so loudly that my mental speakers have exploded and are vomiting debris all over my physical form. Am I calculating the cost of a new ear piercing because I genuinely enjoy the aesthetic, or am I just antsy to tangibly reject and recreate my current sense of self, thereby reassuring myself that I’m not stagnating and useless?
Conclusion: Equal parts depression and senioritis.
Was this article productive? Eh. Was it a way to procrastinate? Absolutely. Is it a healthy expression of emotion? Jury’s still out. Wish me luck with recovery, y’all.
Contact Claire Francis at claire97 ‘at’ stanford.edu.