The never-ending battle against depression

Depression can affect anyone, and it can be incredibly hard to shake. Peter Lozinski / Ryersonian staff

Depression can affect anyone, and it can be incredibly hard to shake. (Peter Lozinski/Ryersonian Staff)

In 2009 I was diagnosed with depression.

It was around then that I realized the way I was feeling was in no way normal.

Apparently, it isn’t normal to be convinced everyone hates you. Apparently, it isn’t normal to outwardly loathe yourself. Apparently, it isn’t normal to wish yourself out of existence.

They said it would get better. It did. But then it got worse.

Last February it was happening again. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I had no energy. I hated myself and, as much as I didn’t want to die, I wanted to just not exist.

I couldn’t sleep either. Before bed, thoughts would swirl through my head: “Nobody likes you, nobody will ever love you, you’re a loser, you’re a total failure” — would repeat over and over again. The soundtrack of my life was reduced to those four phrases.

I was going through life with a smile on my face while silently screaming inside my head.

I was going through life with a smile on my face while silently screaming inside my head.

It came to a head one day in class. It was a small class, maybe 10 people. I was getting upset. I excused myself to go to the washroom. I went for a walk away from the building and cried. I didn’t know why. All I knew was that I needed to cry.

I was deteriorating and I knew it.

I decided to walk into the counselling centre. I asked to be put into group therapy.

They told me that was rare. Apparently, it’s unusual to walk in and ask to go to group therapy, but I’d been through one-on-one counselling once before and I wanted to try something new.

That was my first experience with the much-maligned Student Development and Counselling Centre at Ryerson. I’ve heard students complain about how long it takes to get treatment, that the treatment they receive doesn’t last long enough, and that after the treatment is over they feel abandoned.

One student I interviewed in second-year complained that after 12 sessions with his counsellor he was told he had reached his quota. He didn’t feel better yet, but he felt cut off from his care.

At the mental health and well-being town hall this week at Ryerson, students voiced some of these complaints. One speaker described herself as a “mad student.”  She said at 2:30 in the morning she was going to blow and her RA told her to be quiet as it was quiet hour. “Mental health is nothing to be quiet about,” she said. She described her counselling experience as “horrible.”

Mental health is nothing to be quiet about – Ryerson student

“There are several people in severe crises, who get priority,”  said Dr. Su-Ting Teo, director of student health and wellness. “Unfortunately that means the wait-list for less severe cases gets longer and longer.”

It would appear that Ryerson’s counselling services are letting students down. But I think they’re doing the best they can with the resources they have been given.

The counselling services’ resources are stretched thin, but counsellors are doing all they can to help as many as possible. More resources are needed, whether it be support groups, or more counsellors, or a greater awareness of the services available, so that every student can access help in a time of need.

The Centre For Student Development and Counselling is doing its best to help students in times of crisis. Peter Lozinski / Ryersonian Staff

The Centre For Student Development and Counselling is doing its best to help students in times of crisis. (Peter Lozinski/Ryersonian Staff)

My therapy only lasted for about six sessions. Six sessions is nothing, especially in a group setting. By the end of it I was able to identify where my emotions were coming from, but I still wasn’t able to deal with them.

To be honest, I don’t know if it was therapy that I needed. I’ve gone through therapy before, in Oakville, where I grew up. After I was first diagnosed, my parents paid thousands of dollars on private counselling to help me get better. Eventually, I was discharged from the Oakville mental health outpatient unit. I no longer had to see my psychiatrist. After a few months, my doctor and I decided to stop the antidepressants.

I was happy.

And a year later, I wasn’t.

This time around, though, there was no doctor to diagnose me. There was no doctor to recommend therapy or prescribe medication. There was no doctor to check my progress every few months and make sure I was on the right track. But I needed one.

“Why do we never tell people to go for mental health checkups?” my younger brother asked once on Facebook.

“When you are a kid, you go to the family doctor once a year, the dentist once every 6-8 months, the eye doctor every 2 years. But when you go it’s not always because your foot is about to fall off or your eye suddenly stopped working. Majority of the time it’s just a checkup. Nothing special or exciting. Just taking a look at you, seeing if there are any problem areas or more tests needed, giving advice on how to stay healthy, and you go home with a lollipop from 2 of those places,” he wrote.

Why can’t we just go for a mental health checkup?

Mental health is still something we just don’t talk about. But we should. And we can.

In high school, all I did was say something to a friend and she intervened. She probably saved my life.

Don’t stay silent, because this thing will eat you from the inside. This thing will devour your heart and your soul, and leave nothing behind.

Speak out. One day, you may truly be able to smile.

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