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When My Professor Helped Me Discover I Had Depression

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Fifteen years ago, around this time of year, I was at the lowest point in my life. I had always been a little “down in the dumps” from time to time. I was always sort of a pessimist. I complained a lot, didn’t have many friends and just kept to myself most of the time. I had someone I loved in my life, but we were in a long distance relationship. I was also away from my parents and I started to push away the few friends I had with my isolating behaviors.

I’ve heard one of the first things to be affected by depression is one’s perception. With me, this was absolutely true. I felt like my life was spiraling downward and out of control, but most things were actually OK! I was doing well in college and getting good grades. I had a couple of great friends as well as a boyfriend and parents who loved me, even though they were miles away. So why did I feel so awful? I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t know how to define it.

One day during this spiral, my practicum supervisor (I was studying to be a teacher) pulled me aside after class. She wanted to speak to me privately. She asked me how my practicum was going. I lied and told her it was going fine when truly I felt like I couldn’t handle it and I could barely drag myself to get out of bed every day.

She asked me how I was feeling. I said I was fine even though I had been to the doctor recently trying to find out why I was so tired all the time.

She looked at me, her eyes full of concern, and said “It just seems to me that you are very depressed.”

That was the word. That was it. The truth hit and I began to cry, at first just a little, but soon I was sobbing uncontrollably. She gave me some information about the student health center and helped me set up an appointment to go see a counselor there.

I can’t remember the name of my professor, but that first step — her ability to recognize the signs I was blocking out, set me on the path to recovery. Were it not for that professor, I don’t know if I would be here today. I hope somewhere out there in internet-land, this reaches her as a thank you. But even if it doesn’t, I want her to know I am thankful for what she did and said. You never know how your words may influence another. For me, her words set me on a path to recovery and eventually led me down the road to become a professional counselor. I encourage everyone to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of mental illness if you are concerned about a friend or a loved one. Let them know you are concerned, sometimes it only takes a few words to change someone’s life forever.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a conversation you’ve had that changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 25, 2016
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