According to a 2008 Associated Press and mtvU survey, 34 percent of college students have felt depressed at some point during a three-month span. Thirteen percent have been diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety.
I can’t say I’ve been diagnosed with either, but that doesn’t mean I’m not part of that 34 percent that have felt depressed in the past three months.
When I first went to college, I had to transition from a large circle of supportive friends to an extremely shortened list. Luckily, I was still close with my mother and a friend from high school, but their contact wasn’t daily and was normally facilitated over the phone. My roommate situation wasn’t the best, and after breaking up with my boyfriend in my first semester I would go days without face-to-face communication.
It was a battle every day to come to terms with the way things were away from my former high school self. I was too far away from home to visit on the weekends and my closest high school friend seemed to always be busy. It ultimately pushed me into poor relationships and led me to transfer universities.
A lot has happened between then and now. I’ve transferred back to UTSA and now retain stronger, more positive relationships and have the confidence to stand on my own — the latter being the most important to me.
It wasn’t until I was with a friend the other day who joked about going to the movie theater alone that something began tugging at me. Later, another friend said she ate at a restaurant alone for the first time. The negative connotations surrounding their statements brought up what had been bugging me — I had done all those things my freshmen year of college.
I went to a restaurant alone because I wanted to avoid my empty apartment. I went to see a movie on a Friday night when I had no one to go with me. I’ve been grocery shopping, working out, window shopping, eating out… alone.
I want to clue you in to what I didn’t know then and know now: Being alone is not a bad thing.
Society has idealized reality, and when we find that reality is doing things on our own — most of the time alone — it seems like a harsh world to live in.
Social media and reality TV tend to portray a reality of friendship, fun and adventure. Sitting alone in my room seemed arbitrary compared to what my friends from high school appeared to be doing: partying, camping, studying — all surrounded by friends. And reality TV showing celebrities on elaborate vacations and friends rooming together in a mansion didn’t help.
Now in my senior year, I can spend a day at home relaxing alone without feeling anxious or lonely. I can browse Facebook and feel okay that I wasn’t invited to that vacation over the break. And more importantly, I don’t feel lame going to places alone.
When I became comfortable with my life and stopped comparing it to what I thought it should be I found myself happier, more carefree and more focused on the positive things in life.
It isn’t easy, but have confidence in yourself and don’t rely on other people or things to make your day a good one.
I still have bad days, when I feel down, complain a lot or am just being stubborn wishing for things I can’t have. They happen less often as time goes on, and the loneliness I felt freshman year has transitioned from a bad memory to one of empowerment.
It’s a good feeling — being able to knock down the negative stereotypes surrounded by being a “loner.” When my friend brought up going to the movies alone, I simply implied that nothing is wrong with that. Moments later another one of our friends admitted to having done so the following weekend. That made me smile.
See, even in doing things alone, you’re not alone. Remember that.
You’re not alone.
“Nearly half of all college students report feeling so depressed at some point in time that they have trouble functioning.”
― American Psychiatric Association
For information on handling anxiety and depression, visit the UTSA Counseling Services website at www.utsa.edu/counsel.