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Seeking help: One student’s story

Ivan Vargas

Ivan Vargas

Vanessa Luis, Contributing writer

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I was in a dark place and it gradually got darker.
I gained 50 pounds, I lost most of my friends, my binge eating was up, and my school performance was down. I lost all motivation, I slept too much, and I was angry all the time. I felt confused, helpless and out of control.
I didn’t understand why I was no longer interested in doing anything. I had this urge to quit my job. I dropped most of my classes. I would close myself in my room, draw the curtains and avoid everyone.
The most confusing part is that I was happy sometimes. I would have a good day or a good couple of hours where I would smile, laugh and enjoy myself; yet the happiness was always fleeting. My smiles didn’t last for long, and when I was alone again with my thoughts I was miserable.
After six months of this, and putting my loved ones through hell, my mother suggested I speak with someone. One week later I was on the couch in a dimly lit room. A therapist sat across from me. She was reading the questionnaire I had filled out and every once in a while she would nod, or look up at me.
That day, after hours of questions and answers, I was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe depression, anxiety and a binge-eating disorder.
My therapist suggested I see a psychiatrist for a second opinion and an anti-depressant prescription.
I was ashamed – I thought I was supposed to be ashamed. I couldn’t fully grasp this information and it threw me into a depressive episode; I cried, I slept, I binged – a constant destructive circle.
Finally, I gathered myself and saw the psychiatrist. I got my second opinion: I was confirmed a person with depression, anxiety and binge-eating.
My psychiatrist prescribed Prozac and I began to take the pills in secret – afraid of what my mother and family might think.
After a month, I started feeling better than I ever have. I was looking at things more positively, my eating and sleeping were under control, and I was enjoying the company of people more. I suddenly wanted to do things and I had my motivation back.
My family noticed the changes and I decided to open up about the diagnoses and the medication. They were cautious but supportive; anything that would help me be happy.
I applied full-time for the spring semester at Ohlone, prepared for a trip to Italy, celebrated the holidays with my loved ones and didn’t feel a need to get away from everything and everyone.
I branched out and embraced myself during my trip abroad. I came out of my shell because I was not afraid, I was no longer withdrawing within myself, but rather I was embracing life with open arms.
It is six months later now and I am at the best point in my life; I’m involved at school, I’m focused, I’m happy and I’m enjoying things.
I required help to overcome this challenge. It took all the strength I had to take that step and decide I needed help.
I’m not ashamed of this, nor should anyone be. If you had a broken leg, no one would tell you to get over it. Mental health is no different; mental health is biological and uncontrollable.
If you have addictions and other mental illness in your family, you may be at a biological predisposition for mental illness yourself.
Seeking help is hard, whether it is for yourself, a friend, a loved one or a colleague. But if you arm yourself with knowledge and empathy for mental illness, you may save a life. It could be yours.

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The student news site of Ohlone College
Seeking help: One student’s story