Column: Prevailing in a struggle against depression

In Columns, Opinion
A sillhoutte of someone walking away from a ball and chain, breaking the chain heading to the sun.
(Danielle Evangelista/Daily Titan)

Just as every keyhole has a unique key that opens doors, people can also unlock their pathway to living free from depression and anxiety.

Despite depression and anxiety being some of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in the United States, treatment from professionals alone will not help everyone.

Getting help from a doctor was one of my biggest fears. Minutes seemed to pass by as I nervously paced back and forth, waiting to hear my name. My tireless pacing would have flustered anyone trying to track me on the Marauder’s Map from “Harry Potter.”

I walked into the psychologist’s office thinking I was going to lie down on a couch and not be in direct eye contact with anyone during the visit.  However, the visit was exactly the opposite of what my expectations were.

It wasn’t like talking to Dr. Frasier Crane where his eloquent “I’m listening” prompts you to talk about your problems.

I was sitting upright in a chair while my psychologist would write down notes and look up occasionally when I paused.

It made me feel like I was under a pressure cooker or as if anything I said was being recorded. Despite being told that the information I disclosed was confidential, I still felt uneasy.

After attending a few sessions, I stopped scheduling future visits but at least I discovered I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Despite getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, I would have mental breakdowns at social gatherings. Suddenly all the instances of me constantly feeling tired made sense.

I recall feeling ashamed when a family friend laughed at me after saying that it always looked like I just woke up from bed every time our family visited him at his video shop.

It was unnerving that I couldn’t let go of any experiences of humiliation because those feelings consumed me. Everyday life was extraordinarily difficult as I could not find a way to forgive myself. It got to the point where I found myself frequenting the National Suicide Hotline.

Then it hit me.

I realized that I had a problem and that it was up to me to take initiative to solve; this felt empowering.

I developed positive coping mechanisms, replacing self-harm with breathing techniques. I would inhale for five seconds and hold my breath for four before exhaling for eight seconds to complete one cycle.

This allowed me to slow things down and made things more manageable. Little did I know that the technique I employed is called diaphragmatic breathing.

This exercise causes the vagus nerve in the nervous system to release acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that increases focus and calmness, according to Psychology Today.

However, this method on its own was insufficient to combat the mental and physical battles that come with working full-time in addition to being a student.

I found another positive coping mechanism in playing “Tetris,” the 1984 block-building video game. Playing feels like unlocking a cheat code that bypasses my anxiety for extended periods of time.

I initially started playing keyboard variations of “Tetris” for a year before I transitioned to the NES version on Nintendo about five months ago. I discovered that because my mind was occupied on one task, I didn’t think about anything else.

The tightness in my chest and relentless heart palpitations subsided, making me feel like a weight was lifted from my shoulders.

As it turns out, the increasing speeds that a player can adapt to when playing guides people into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as a state of “flow,” according to NPR.

Although the feelings of sorrow still linger from time to time, I no longer am consumed by thoughts of suicide and loneliness.

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