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What I Wish I Knew About Having Depression While in Nursing School

When I graduated high school, I could not wait to move away and start over. I thought leaving the town where all of my troubles were meant a carefree, happy college life. I quickly learned that your past, no matter where it started, doesn’t end when you leave the city. In my first two years, I made it through my prerequisites and general classes without too much trouble. I assumed it all would be the same when I started the two-year intensive portion of my program to graduate nursing school.

Through high school and college, I was easily the bubbliest person in the room, but hiding inside was the deep dark depression telling me every day that I was not worth another breath. I managed through the constant chatter and buzz of everyone else around me. This continued and worked until I began my clinical rotations in nursing school. There are around 64 girls in my nursing program, and 34 of us were placed on various inpatient psychiatric floors throughout the area. I was eager to work with patients and hopefully make some sort of an impact, whatever impact a student could make.

On my very first rotation, I was on an adolescent/adult acute psychiatric floor, where patients were anywhere from 15 to 75. I sat in on my first group session only to be hit with the reality that I am supposed to be there helping people in the room, barely able to keep myself together, thinking: “How can I be helping people when I probably should be getting help myself?” It was the hardest 11 weeks of my life, but I continued on. Through my following rotations, it got easier. I got better at being able to put myself aside and remember that in those six hours, my role was to make sure someone else made it through the day. And honestly, those six hours twice a week, in unknowing ways, kept me alive.

Throughout the course of these two years, I was at my best and my very worst. I faced hours and hours at the university counseling center, trying to come up with a plan for me to not have to go inpatient because I was petrified of missing a day of class. Looking back, I very well may be in a better place now if I had taken a pause from school to take care of me. But school was also what kept me going. How could I end my life knowing that, at 6 a.m. the next morning, there would be someone who needed immediate care? Someone who needed to be bathed, dressed or even just to chat with. If I didn’t wake up, would someone else be there?

As I get close to graduation, I am so thankful for the support my university has had available to me. But it took me too long before I reached out. No pill will fix depression. Hell, it kept me alive, but it didn’t and won’t solve the cause of this illness I face. Depression is hard. College is hard. Nursing school will drain you emotionally and physically. It is an amazing profession and I don’t regret nursing school for a single minute, but if I had to do it again, I would have started therapy sooner, reached out to professors sooner, and made myself a priority before I was barely able to function.

So, to the person out there considering nursing school, but facing mental health struggles: Don’t let that get in the way of something you think might be a passion. Go for it, but remember yourself along the way. You can’t give to others if you are barely able to give to yourself. Surround yourself with support, and anything is possible.

Photo by Mathilde LMD on Unsplash