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What It's Like to Be Getting a Master's in Social Work While Struggling With Depression

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How do you help others when you can’t even help yourself?

I’m depressed. I have been for as long as I can remember. Honestly, I don’t know any different. After dealing with it for so long, it just becomes your way of life.

Sometimes you have good days and find yourself being productive. Other days, it’s a struggle just to brush your teeth and put on a pair of pants.

I’m getting my Master’s in Social Work at USC. Currently, I’m an intern with a wonderful organization that provides housing and services for veterans. The opportunity has brought joy to my life, but I still find myself unable to fully fight my symptoms and move forward.

My depression has been plaguing me since I was a teenager. I didn’t get help for it until last year, when I was almost 32. Now, at 33, I’m still struggling to maintain daily activity and wondering why it isn’t getting any better. The doctor visits aren’t helping, neither are the meds.

In September, I started my internship at a time when I was really feeling hopeless. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the pressure that social work would require of me.

I had no idea how much this experience would mean to me. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all sunshine and kittens, but I love it.

I get to experience the positive and negative aspects of a helping profession. It can be hard. It can be really hard. But at the end of the day, I know I made the right choice.

When you’re depressed however, some days are harder than others. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. to work with individuals who are homeless can be tough. It can take a toll on your emotions. However, there are times when they appreciate your hard work – those are the days worth getting up for.

Since September, I’ve noticed how much I’ve grown. I’ve learned so much from my clients — about life, about diversity, about what it means to really struggle and to be alone. I won’t learn that in a classroom.

I’ve also learned that recovery from depression takes time, and for me, it seems to be taking a lot longer than expected.

My current doctor said I have “treatment resistant depression.” That’s not something you want to hear. But, although there is no cure, there is hope.

Since starting my internship, I’m happier. I have the sense of purpose I’ve been longing for since I graduated from college ten years ago. Getting up before daylight is a lot easier when you know that you’re doing matters to someone.

Sure, there are still times when I have trouble showering, my kitchen sink is full of dishes and my bedroom is a mess. That voice in my head – that demon – that keeps me from being motivated is still there. But I feel like it’s getting a bit quieter.

It can’t stop me from being passionate about my goals and it can’t stop me from loving life. It has definitely tried, and a few times it was successful. But I have a lot to be grateful for and am always surrounded by people who care about me. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

Originally published: March 5, 2018
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