When Depression Is Mistaken for 'Senioritis'

In this time of back-to-school sales, homework assignments and adjusting schedules to account for early mornings, there is a flurry of activity both in school and out. For many, this time signifies the end of the “freedom” of summer vacation that didn’t seem to last long enough. For some, it’s the final countdown until graduation. For others, it’s a year of agony, trying to keep up with the demands of the education system while fighting the increasing desire to remain in bed.

According to Google, the definition of senioritis is “a supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance.” That’s certainly how I remember my senior year in high school. At the time, I just laughed it off because everyone I knew was “feeling the symptoms.” It started with an increased need for sleep, then moved on to an extreme issue with procrastination and ended with me spending most of my senior year in sweatpants. I thought that was textbook senioritis. What I didn’t know was that senioritis wasn’t the right word for it.

Depression doesn’t show up with ubiquitous symptoms. The idea that gets conjured up most frequently is reminiscent of a Nicholas Sparks’ book on repeat: never ending tears, lying in bed with copious amounts of ice cream or chocolate and tissues at the ready. Add in a rainy day and you have the perfect commercial for an anti-depressant medication. The reality is, depression is just as unique as the individuals who may be affected by it. You can’t “do depression” the wrong way.

There have been times I was the poster child for the “checklist” of symptoms. Listlessness, hopelessness, crying and social isolation, the whole list has happened to me at some point and probably to a fair number of other people as well. However, I’ve also experienced the kind that runs along the line of, “I feel completely dead inside, but I can’t just let my appearances drop so I have to keep going.” I’d sleep as much as I could, cover my face in makeup and drink as much caffeine as was necessary to get me through the school day. To everyone who wasn’t inside my head, I looked like a normal teenager, complete with loud music and a bad attitude. However, inside my head, I was drowning.

While it’s completely normal to have to remind yourself you have to “finish strong,” sometimes a “supposed affliction” like senioritis warrants medical attention. Dismissing the way you feel as normal not only could damage your grades and ability to achieve your goals, it’s setting you up for a lifetime of bad self-care habits.

So good luck to everyone heading back to school, and especially good luck to the seniors!

Image via Thinkstock.

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