When I was 18, I moved out of my mother’s house and into my own apartment. It wasn’t much: a small, one bedroom off-campus type place, the type of place where rent is cheap and the fixtures are cheaper. I decorated my new pad with things from the “dorm aisle” in Target. I had a set of three nesting tables, two beanbag chairs, a blue card table with four folding chairs, a futon, and one flimsy but oh-so-essential white bookcase. (What can I say, I was a bookworm. Hell, I still am.)
Sure, it was sparse, but it was mine. This place—this entire space—was mine, and mine alone.
I had started college two weeks before and had been holed up in a Hampton Inn four miles from the campus since that time, so moving in was the most exciting day, and the most exciting moment, of my short adolescent life. But it was also the most terrifying, because in those two weeks I was already spiraling out of control. In just 14 short days prior, I had gone from being an overachiever to a “failure.” I was skipping class—opting to stay in bed in a dark, and unclean, hotel room. I was eating less and sleeping more.
By the time the keys to C16 were in my hand, I was already deep in the throes my first ever depressive episode (my first depressive episode on my own, that is).
When you are young and teetering on the edge of adulthood, when you are young and getting ready to face the world alone, everyone warns you about drinking and drugs. They warn you about school violence, the risks of unprotected sex, and what will happen if you don’t keep your grades up, but no one warns you about the isolation. No one warns you about the panic, the anxiety, the loneliness, and the desperation. No one warns you that this event—this major, life-changing moment—is also a huge stressor. No one talks about the fact that this transition can trigger depression, especially if you have previously been diagnosed with the condition.
And it didn’t take me long to fall into a crippling episode. It didn’t take me long to give up. I withdrew from college in my second semester, through I kept it a secret until the end of my freshman year. I started going out less and drinking more. I hid in my boyfriend’s dorm room most of the week. I would stay in his bed with the covers pulled over my eyes and a pillow lying across my face while he went to class and did what 18-year-olds were supposed to do. While he did what everyone assumed I—a straight-A student—would do. But I couldn’t do it, or anything, for that matter.