Phillipian Commentary: Why Are We Here?

About one year ago, I had my first experience with depressive symptoms. It was during the two weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break when I began to lose a sense of purpose. Going to classes each morning felt like a chore, and so did eating. More often than I would like, Paresky Commons just seemed way too far for me; I could do so much more homework if I skipped dinner. I couldn’t cry because if I did, I wouldn’t stop.

There are too many teenagers in this world today who become stuck in this never-ending cycle of doubt. I was lucky enough to realize what I was heading towards before it worsened, and with the help from family, I managed to escape. Though I may not have come even close to the full extent of the mental health disorder, that feeling of complete loss is ingrained into my memories forever. There is no way I can simply walk away without sharing my story, and my hope is that it may encourage peers experiencing the same struggle to look for a possible solution in the surrounding community.

The long-dreaded winter term has arrived again, notorious for the number of students whose moods begin to mirror the bleak weather. Since we are at the prime of our educational career, our brains are set to take in as much information as possible. We are not prepared—in fact, nobody is—to fight off that inner mental battle. Since I arrived on campus last fall, I’ve noticed that Andover students do not talk much about their mental suffering and difficulties. Yes, it is widely talked about in E.B.I. and other programs across campus, but I can say from firsthand experience that for some reason, we do not talk about it to each other.

I think the main explanation for why we refrain from doing so is because we are constantly being told to not spread negativity. I agree, but only to some extent. Andover can be a stressful environment at times, so we are encouraged instead to support each other mentally as friends and as peers. However, we are forgetting one crucial aspect that makes every one of us humans; we can feel lost and miserable as well, and if those emotions are kept bottled up, we will all eventually explode.

Dr. Nance Roy, a clinical professor at Yale University, emphasizes the importance of “promoting social connectedness.”[1] Dr. Roy claims that “feeling connected to campus, family, and friends” is proven to help students cope with loneliness. She phrases it in a way that does not mean we must always be positive and cheerful, because that would be quite impossible. Instead, the best method is to develop connections with people you can easily contact, and feel trusted enough to confide your emotions in them.

My friends around the world, my family back home, and my counselors on campus all helped me through this period of time. Why am I at Andover? Why did I choose Andover? It’s because of the people. When I experienced that mental suffering last winter, it is because I almost failed to see that the solution was the reason why I came: Andover’s people. The community’s diversity, intelligence, and maturity—this is what makes Andover prestigious and memorable.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by the weight of schoolwork or stress, don’t attempt to lock up the demons inside of you, because they won’t go away. Find a close friend, teacher, family member, or someone else you trust to invest your emotions and thoughts in.

On your own, too, think deeply about how much your actions will impact your future. Know why you are putting in so much effort before you actually do it. Pick that 90 percent over the 95 percent if it allows you to sleep two more hours and eat breakfast. Look forward to every activity in life as a means of mental and physical growth, because it is and will be. And never forget that not only are we all struggling together, we will walk out of it together, too.