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Depressed and Guilty

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Recently, I have been feeling incredibly hopeless about life, and my future. I know I am relatively well-off compared to most people in the world, and I am lucky in a lot of ways, but right now I am just feeling absolutely miserable, and I am starting to wish I wasn’t alive, so that I would not have to worry about trying to make myself happy.

Let me give a bit of background information. Perhaps not all of it is relevant, but my situation is somewhat complicated.

I am now a senior in college. I have been in a relationship with a wonderful guy since my senior year of high school. We have had to have a long-distance relationship during the school year, as he chose to attend a prestigious college on the opposite side of the country, and I am attending a state school closer to where we grew up. I am not resentful towards him for choosing to go to school out there, as it was a wonderful opportunity for him. The distance has been hard, but we have managed things, and our relationship is very strong. We both envision ourselves getting married and starting a family once we are done with our respective formal educations.

The problem is this: I have been depressed more than half the time that I have been separated from him. It is not as though I cannot function without him, but it has been really hard for me to make any friends whatsoever in college because I’m always somewhat distracted by missing him, and it’s hard for me to relate to everyone else in school, because it seems like they all either have a relationship with someone they can be with all the time, or are constantly out looking for someone to hook up with. I got off to a rough start with making friends in college, and I’ve kind of stayed in a rut as long as I’m here.

Because I’m miserable most of the time that I’m at school, and I feel much better and more grounded and social and happy and optimistic when I am with my boyfriend, I worked really hard to graduate in three years instead of four, with the hope of being able to go to graduate school closer to where he is. I started working on applications for graduate school over the summer, and gained lots of volunteer hours, which are a prerequisite for the kind of program I am trying to get into.

However, despite the fact that I have been working incredibly, INCREDIBLY hard (basically to the point of utter exhaustion) for the past year or so to make the goal of moving out closer to him a reality, I was not able to gain enough volunteer hours to apply to the only graduate program in his city. I did everything I could to try and meet the deadline for the completion of hours, but some administrative procedures got in the way, and it just wasn’t feasible. The school I want to get into has a very strict admissions policy, and they have told me they will not review my application this year since I did not meet the volunteering deadline.

I would really, really like to take a year off from school, get a job, and move out and live with my boyfriend next year. I could apply to grad school the following year, and maybe save up a little bit of money if I lived in a somewhat spartan fashion.

However, I don’t see my parents approving of this choice. I have not directly proposed my moving out there to them yet, but they are under the impression that I will be starting grad school next year. They know and like my boyfriend, but because they both married young and then divorced, I just feel like they would think I was stupid for wanting to move out with him.

I am terrified about bringing up the subject directly with my parents. I just know that they will veto the idea, and that I won’t have the opportunity to make this choice that is so important to me. The thought of spending another several years in a long-distance relationship makes me feel very hopeless.

I am somewhat tempted to go ahead and find a job near my boyfriend, and tell my parents once everything is finalized. However, I know that this would be rash and deceitful, and it would ruin the good relationship I have with my parents, who have been very involved with my education, and who paid for my undergraduate education. I would feel incredibly guilty going against their wishes.

The conflicting worries of not being able to move near my boyfriend and making my parents disappointed in me have been making me miserable. I haven’t been able to sleep well, I have started crying almost every day, and I’ve stopped buying groceries because my parents pay for my food right now since I’m in school full time, and I’m just feeling so guilty about spending any of their money if I’m going to end up doing something they don’t agree with. Today I locked myself out of my apartment, and had to spend $60 of their money for a locksmith, and I feel so incredibly guilty.

I know I need to talk to them, but how do I muster up the courage to do so? And should I try to get counseling through the school’s mental health program? I honestly feel like having to make this decision is making me completely insane, and I’m starting to have suicidal thoughts. I just don’t want to have to deal with making myself happy, as well as everyone else. This all is just too hard.

Absolutely, you should go to the school’s mental health center. You are describing what could be the symptoms of a significant depression. You can’t decide to move in any direction so you are stuck and miserable. You need help sorting out your feelings. Now that you are finished with college, I think you also need a little help restructuring your relationship with your parents so it is more adult to adult than kid to parent.

I was startled to see that you are only 19 and that you are finished with school. Part of your problem may be that the responsibilities you are assuming are very hard for someone so young. Although you clearly have the academic talent to accomplish so much, it may be that you weren’t quite ready for the college environment or for the decisions you are now making. A counselor will also help you figure out how to bring your maturity into line with all the issues you are trying to manage.

Please don’t deny yourself the help that is available to you. College counselors have seen many, many students with problems like yours. They are there to help you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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