Learning How to Emerge from the Darkness of Depression

Learning How to Emerge from the Darkness of Depression
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My story of how I overcame depression and self-doubt started when I first moved to the United States from Japan when I was 6.

My family and I were in search of a better quality of life for me, given my diagnosis of spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and visual impairment. I found amazing opportunities awaiting in the U.S. I was put into a general education classroom with neurotypical students.

In the fourth grade, however, the school tried to put me in a special education classroom full time. My mother hired advocates who specialized in special education law, which resulted in having to change elementary schools. During the fight with the school districts, I began to doubt my own abilities, although I did not have the words to express it at the time.

With age and a little bit of wisdom, I began to understand that the root of my self-doubt came from those years. This fighting continued with the schools even though we changed districts when I went to middle school.

High school was the first time I felt that my school saw my potential. I attended a charter school called USC Hybrid High School, which was founded by the USC Rossier School of Education. I was finally in a school that focused on what I could do instead of what I could not. I thought I was getting over my self-doubt.

The University of Southern California has been my dream college since I was 9. I was so excited when I received an acceptance letter to the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, but that self-doubt mentality was still lurking under the surface. In my first semester of college, I passed all of my classes. However, in my second semester last fall, I got a D in one of my journalism classes, and that self-doubt came roaring back, which led to depression and anxiety. I decided to seek mental health counseling.

With my friend Timothy Lupo on the field at Angel Stadium in the fall of 2017. (Photo by Miyuki Kobayashi)

It felt like I was in a deep hole with no way out. Of course, like any other college student, I have friends at my university, but I pushed them away, which is often the case with depression, in my experience.

My stress manifested itself as stomach problems. During spring semester this year, my stomach symptoms worsened. I didn’t see any way out of this situation. I mostly stayed home due to nausea and other symptoms. When I finally started getting better, I leaned heavily on my friends for guidance and support.

My friends proved to be the most important aspect of my emotional well-being and healing. You can never underestimate the power of friendship. I realized that whenever I go through a tough situation, it’s vital for me to have a good group of friends around me.

Sage advice and great conversations with my friends really helped me heal. For example, my friend Timothy Lupo often says to me, “Try to have some perspective.” My other friend, Hawken Miller, has said to me in many conversations that “the worst thing you can do is hate yourself.”

With my friend Hawken Miller outside Wallis Annenberg Hall last February. (Photo by Miyuki Kobayashi)

My experiences have taught me that when you’re in a dark place, you can’t take things day by day — you have to take them moment by moment, minute by minute, and second by second. You have to ask yourself: “What can I do today, or at this moment, to make myself feel better?”

The best advice I can give is to seek help from someone, and don’t be shy about asking. Say something until someone listens to you, and remember that you’re the only one that can control your own happiness.

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