Mental Health Awareness


What Depression Actually Is Because It’s More Than Being Sad

Depression isn’t the saddest person in the room. Quite contrary actually, depression sometimes is the person you would have never expected. Along with trying to convince you they’re happy, they’re trying to convince themselves. 

Depression isn’t that melancholy person, you don’t want to be around. Oftentimes, it’s the person everyone loves because of the light they bring to a room is so bright but that’s only because they know darkness.

Depression isn’t the person screaming out for help. It’s the silent person dealing with battles they’re still trying to understand themselves.

Depression is doing everything you can to hide it. Because there’s nothing glorified about it. There’s nothing beautiful about a bad night as you fall you your knees, in a silent scream, that no one hears because you’re alone and you need to be until you get through it.

It’s the sleepless nights as you lay awake at 2 am staring at the ceiling.

It’s that time of year, you just get a little bit sadder for no reason.

It’s the tears you don’t tell people you cry because you don’t really know why you’re crying, you just know you need to.

It’s the want and need to be around people but at the same time, you push them away.

Depression is watching across social media, everyone’s highlight reels and you know it’s not an accurate depiction of their life yet you still compare yourself to them.

It’s the plans canceled last minute because you couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed.

It’s your alarm going off in the morning and you just want to go back to sleep.

Depression is that cloud that doesn’t seem to go away ever. And even in those happy moments, you cling to, you know it’s still hovering over you. Depression waits. It creeps and lurks. It waits for the best day of your life and your happiest moment just so the next one can be your worst.

It’s the fear of such happiness because you know it’s bound to fade.

It’s every good day, that are few and far between and that’s what you hang onto.

It’s the struggle in explaining to people when they ask why are you depressed? You just don’t know and you don’t know how to fix it. It’s just a feeling you can’t shake but you’re learning to work through.

Depression are toxic habits or people you gravitate towards.

It’s drinking the way you do because at least for a moment your pain is numbed. You know the effects lead to being even more depressed the next day. And you know alcohol is a depressant but being numb helps sometimes.

Depression is the constant unbalance of things in your life.

It’s either overexercising and being at the gym for hours or staying in bed for weeks immobile.

It’s either sleeping too much or too little. But no matter what, you’re always tired.

It’s eating too much or just never being hungry. It’s someone asking, ‘When was the last time you ate?’ And you actually don’t know the answer.

It’s weight loss that people commend you for but you know even you couldn’t help it.

Depression is people asking if you’re okay and you don’t respond with ‘I’m sad.’ You simply say, ‘I’m tired.’

It’s the envy of looking at others and just wanting to be that happy. So you glamorize your own life so it appears that way.

Depression is the overcompensating in relationships and trying too hard. You know you’re tough to deal with but there isn’t anyone you love more than those who accept you, as you’re still trying to accept yourself.

It’s that really scary moment when you open up to someone about what it is you deal with. And that new level of friendship you reach, when they welcome you with open arms and it almost brings you to tears.

It’s loving people unbelievably hard because you’re still learning to love yourself.

It’s looking ahead and looking forward to certain days in your life and really appreciating everything.

And even though you might not say it, as often as you should, it’s the love you have for everyone in your life which gives you strength.

Depression is becoming addicted to anything that gives you purpose. Whether it’s being a perfectionist in academics or becoming a workaholic. It’s becoming the most involved in a group or organization because you need something to look forward to. It’s excelling in sports because it really helps to have that and a team to fall back on.

It’s the need to be busy because if you’re not you’ll spend too much time alone and everything will get worse.

But more than that, depression is the person who would do anything to make others happy because someone else’s happiness is their own.

Depression is being overly observant because you know what it’s like to hide things, so you look for it in others.

It’s being the first one willing to help and being the person you wish you had. Knowing well, there’s nothing you can say or do but be there for them and that’s okay.

But more than that, depression is a strength in you because there’s nothing harder than overcoming demons within yourself.

It’s the trust people have in you, knowing they can turn to you without judgment.

It’s the excitement you bring to others because even though you’re sad, you do love life.

Depression is being the happiest, saddest person, people know but there’s a bit of beauty to someone who knows both emotions at such an extreme level.

Depression is an appreciation and gratitude for life. It’s knowing no matter what happens things will get better.

Depression is hope even in moments that seem hopeless.

It’s not letting this define who you are but rather learning to live through it and being the example others can follow.


What Anxiety Actually Is, Because It’s More Than ‘Just Worrying’

Anxiety are the restless nights of sleep, as you toss and turn. It’s your brain never being able to shut off. It’s the thoughts you over-think before bedtime and all of your worst fears become a reality in dreams and nightmares.

It’s waking up tired even though your day just started.

Anxiety is learning how to function with sleep deprivation because it took you until 2 am to shut your eyes.

It’s every text you wonder ‘how do I word this properly?’ It’s a double or triple text in case you messed up. Anxiety is answering texts embarrassingly fast.

Anxiety is the time you spend waiting for an answer as a scenario plays out in your mind of what they could be thinking or are they mad?

Anxiety is an unanswered text that kills you inside even though you tell yourself, ‘maybe they’re busy or will answer later.’

Anxiety is that critical voice that says ‘maybe they’re deliberately ignoring you.’ It’s believing every negative scenario you can come up with.

Anxiety is waiting. It always feels like you’re waiting.

It’s the inaccurate conclusions drawn as your mind takes off and you have no choice but to follow it’s destructive lead.

Anxiety is apologizing for things that don’t even require the words, ‘I’m sorry.’

Anxiety is self-doubt and a lack of confidence both in you, yourself and those around you.

Anxiety is being hyper aware of everyone and everything. So much so, you can tell if there’s a shift in someone merely by their tone or word choice.

Anxiety is ruining relationships before they even begin. It tells you, ‘you’re wrong, they don’t like you, they’re going to leave.’ Then you jump to conclusions and ruin it.

Anxiety is a constant state of worrying and panicking and being on the edge. It’s irrational fears.

It’s thinking too much, it’s caring too much. Because the root of people with anxiety is caring.

It’s sweaty palms and a racing heart. But on the outside, no one can see it. You appear calm and at ease and smiling but underneath is anything but that.

Anxiety is the art of deception for people who don’t know you. And for the people who do, it’s a constant stream of phrases like, ‘don’t worry’ or ‘you’re overthinking this’ or ‘relax.’ It’s friends listening to these conclusions you’ve drawn and not really understanding how you got there. But they’re there trying to support you, as things go from bad to worse in your mind.

Anxiety is wanting to fix something that isn’t even a problem.

It’s the stream of questions that make you doubt yourself.

‘Did I lock the door before I left?’ ‘

‘Did I turn off the stove?’

‘Is the straightener still on?’

It’s turning back around just to double check.

Anxiety is the uneasiness at a party because you think all eyes are on you and no one wants you there. Anxiety is that extra shot you take and it seems like you’re finally relaxing. Until you wake up the next day hungover, full of regret and wondering what you said to who and do you owe them an apology?

Anxiety is the overcompensating and trying too hard to please people.

Anxiety is being everywhere on time because the thought of being late would put you over the edge.

Anxiety is the fear of failure and striving for perfection. Then beating yourself up when you fall short.

It’s always needing a schedule or a plan.

Anxiety is that voice inside your head that’s saying ‘you’ll fail.’

It’s trying to exceed people’s expectations even if you’re killing yourself to do so. Anxiety is taking on more than you can handle just so you are distracted and not overthinking something.

Anxiety is procrastination because you’re paralyzed with fear of failing so you hold it off.

It’s the triggers that set you off.

It’s breaking down in private and crying when you’re overwhelmed but no one will ever see that side of you. Anxiety is picking up and trying again because the only thing worse than overcoming other people is overcoming you and your own demons.

It’s beating that critical voice that says, ‘you really fucked up.’ or ‘you should feel awful right now.’

Anxiety is the want and the need to control things because it feels like this thing in your life is outside of your control and you have to learn to live with it.

But more than anything anxiety is caring. It’s never wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. It’s never wanting to do something wrong. More than anything, it’s the want and need to simply be accepted and liked. So you try too hard sometimes.

And when you come across friends who begin to understand, they help you through it. Then you realize this might be a battle you face every day but it’s one you won’t have to face alone.


The First Time The Word Suicide Really Impacted Me 

I was 18 at the time, into my first year of college.

I had no proper training in suicide prevention. It hadn’t been a conversation I had ever talked much about. I would spend the next 7 years researching suicide prevention, reading stories, joining a board and speaking on panels.

But at 18 the word suicide became very personal as it would suddenly change the life of a close friend and his family forever.

I remember sitting on the bus coming home from a volleyball tournament.

A conversation became very dark, very quickly. Then he told me he wanted to kill himself.

I responded, “How?”

One word and I was figuring, did he have a plan? How serious was this? When would he want to do this? How long had he been thinking about it?

I knew if I could keep him talking, he was here with us and he was safe. That was always my goal when conversations in the future took turns like this, “keep him talking.”

I knew if I could try and understand as much about this as I could maybe things could change.

I was 14 hours away by car. 2 hours by plane. And not scheduled to come home for a few weeks during Thanksgiving break.

I ran to my apartment and called my mentor and coach from home.

“What do I do?”

“You are going to have to make a very difficult phone call right now Kirsten. Call his parents immediately when you get off the phone with me.”

So I did. The house phone went right to voicemail. Followed by a callback.

In the many difficult conversations I’ve had with people in my life, this was the hardest one to date. My words were met with disbelief. And while I was still trying to gauge the severity of this recent conversation his family was trying also to wrap their heads around it.

Text messages were forwarded to everyone who needed to see them.

And initially, my friend was angry with me for not keeping his secret. I would have rather lost a friend living, doing what was right, then lost a friend to death knowing I could have prevented it.

I went to bed every single night praying I didn’t have to fly back home to attend a funeral.

A lot of 18-year-olds my age were at the latest party, drinking to get drunk and have nights they wouldn’t remember. Me, I just remember most my nights consisted of looking at my phone every few hours. I held a beer in one hand and engaged in college activities but I was so emotionally checked out dealing with this.

I went to bed every night telling him to text me in the morning just so I knew he was alive and still here.

Just keep fighting until I come home, is what I told him.

We will take it one day at a time and that’s exactly what we did.

It gave him something to look forward to. November 28th, 2010

His father and I sat in the living room as he got ready. And there was an unspoken dialogue between the two of us. Our eyes met and he said thank you.

It’s been 7 years. 

He’s still here.

He’s still fighting.

And I still continue to learn as much as I can about suicide.

Maybe it’s odd how comfortable I am talking about death. Maybe it’s odd I get angry at these statistics. I just truly believe the second leading cause of death for people the ages of 18-22 should not be something within our own control. This needs to change.

My heart breaks reading another story about a college student who just couldn’t handle it anymore. Even though we are strangers it’s like I know them. I feel for them. I understand how hard it is sometimes. I know giving up might seem like you are taking away your pain but you are just passing it on to someone who has to live with the guilt of your absence.

In the seven years, I’ve done research on the topic, I don’t think it’s life people are trying to escape from, what people are trying for is no longer feeling pain or no longer feeling loneliness. No longer feel heartbreak because the person they loved left. They want to sleep at night without dark thoughts consuming them. They don’t want to lay there awake at night as things get worse in their mind or as they cry alone for reasons they can’t explain. They don’t want to keep hurting and have to wake up and put on a brave face and smile when inside they are falling apart. Only no one sees it.

Suicide victims don’t want to die they just want to live without this pain that consumes them.

They want to know they aren’t alone. They want to know they aren’t crazy for feeling these things. They want to know things will get better.

I can’t talk to every person who is struggling like I did my friend. I can’t be there with you at 2 AM. But what I can tell you and what I will continue to tell every friend, every reader, every person who confides in me is it will get better. Things will change. This pain you are feeling will subside and it will be replaced with something greater.

If you’re reading this and this resonates with you even if a little, I’m going to ask you to make me the same promise I made my friend make. Give it one more day. Just get through one more day. And watch quickly as it turns into two then three then weeks then years.

You are not weak for feeling things this heavy, you are strong for being able to fight this as long as you have. But don’t stop fighting. Don’t give up so soon.

You are needed. You are wanted. You are loved. And things will change.



Madison Holleran