Off the beat: Working past my depression

karen_kwaning

I usually leave my television on and lower its volume to fall asleep to the murmur of Anderson Cooper discussing something serious. On a particular early August morning, I felt comfortable enough to turn my television off, roll over to one corner of my bed and put on my earphones.

The first thing that played on Pandora was Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love.” When I got to the part where Sheeran screams so powerfully “give me love,” I no longer paid attention to his lyrics. I just heard his scream. I was listening to his pain. I immediately paused the song, but it was too late to escape my memories of depression.

I remembered sitting alone at midnight near Strawberry Creek. At the time, I made sure no one walking around late on campus could see me, but I didn’t care much if anyone could hear me cry. I had harvested so much anger and stress for the longest time that I couldn’t control my emotions. I could feel my reddened eyes open wide, my straightened hair slowly curl and my lips stretch back as I strained the veins in my neck to release a forceful muted scream.

I had been depressed for nearly nine months, and I had never asked for help. I didn’t want to. I became accustomed to believing my sad feelings would disappear on their own. I believed keeping to myself and not complaining would make me a stronger person. I was drowning in the pressure of the intense academic life at UC Berkeley and naively trying to fix a domestically violent relationship, but I never could muster enough courage to seek assistance.

Somehow and somewhere in those nine months, I lost myself. I tried everything I could to feel like myself again, but nothing worked. I used to love being me. I missed enjoying the simple things. Only I understood what songs meant to me or how to navigate through books and make the stories my own. Only I knew how to make myself happy. But I was empty now.

I used my iPhone to light up my dark room. I opened my bedside table and reached for a pen and paper. My MUNI pass was going to expire the next day, and I decided this would be the perfect day to make use of it. I wrote down places I planned to be in San Francisco. I planned to get one of the best cups of coffee at Four Barrel Coffee, explore Golden Gate Park and sit next to the ocean at Baker Beach right off the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Although this city was still a strange and unfamiliar place to me, I didn’t just want to explore. I was desperate to find myself. Maybe she was in San Francisco.

I waited until it was 6 a.m. to set out for BART. When I found Four Barrel Coffee, my macchiato drink enlightened a small and familiar feeling of genuine happiness. I anxiously went to find Golden Gate Park.

As I walked down a sidewalk bordered by evergreen trees, there was a subtle dirt pathway that led to Shakespeare Garden. Fierce orange-colored lilies, mandrakes, tender-looking violets and red roses seemed so vivid that afternoon. Quietly standing around and brushing my fingers through them made me feel like my inner emptiness was slowly closing.

Eventually, I found Baker Beach. I walked through the deep sand until I found a spot close enough to the bridge and the ocean. I laid my head down on my backpack, put my earphones in and played “Give Me Love” once again. When I got to the part of the song that usually led me into a dangerous reverie, I started to feel myself coming back instead. It was a strange and beautiful feeling. I missed her. I felt like I had woken from a deep coma. All of my dreams and intense passion for making a difference in the world surged through me at that moment. I didn’t feel empty anymore.

I realized that thinking about taking away my life meant taking away this ocean air, Shakespeare’s mandrakes, the warm smell of coffee, calm city bus rides and the chance to save someone like myself. It meant silencing my voice, never being able to be a survivor and leaving such a good world behind. It was a world that needed some fixing, but it was a damn good world.

Some try to heal through medication or with therapy. For me, a day of self-reflection while traveling in the city changed my life. Depression is not something that many people admit to experiencing or like to talk about, but it’s also not completely abnormal. I realized that part of growing up means knowing when it’s necessary to ask for help. Everyone deserves the chance to fulfill his or her purpose in life. Everyone deserves to enjoy the unique person he or she is. Even if reaching through the darkness for help seems hopeless, there will be a hand to guide you back to exactly where you need to be.

For me, an August day in San Francisco was that hand.

“Off the Beat” guest columns will be written by Daily Cal staff members until the fall semester’s regular opinion writers are selected.