Invisible Illness
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Invisible Illness

Depression Loves Young Adults

A disease that preys on the forming minds of young people

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

It is a well-known fact that 18 to 25-year-olds are the most common age group to be afflicted by depression. These years encapsulate the transition from youth to adulthood. Most individuals are leaving the safety net of their homes, entering or exiting higher education, or jumping into the workforce. Quickly, young adults are faced with a reality that may not align with the world they thought they were living in.

My early 20s have been just that. Now, looking in the mirror means more than examining possible acne spots or if the color of my beard grows red. These seven years are filled with sleepless nights, tears caught in the crook of sleeves, questions without answers, and sadness without peace.

A strong case can be made that no other time in my life will be harder than these seven years. I am attempting to sculpt my most important art piece yet — my identity. As I mend this metaphorical clay, I am consumed by the gravity of questions I’m not sure I hold answers to… but shouldn’t I?

Aren’t they simple enough?

What do I believe?

What am I searching for?

What makes me, me?

Turns out, these types of questions reiterate the ever agonizing fact — since the beginning of time, humans are still struggling to know themselves.

During these years, my soul and mind are fragile, as my invisible stardust is compressed into a full-fledged adult. Yet, as I continue to work, the world does not wait. Quickly, I am faced with the realities of a spinning society that asks for everything, and in return delivers judgment, rejection, and fear.

Science says the brain isn’t fully developed until 25 — depression proves that. In these formative years, my frontal lobe wrestles with stabbing self-doubt, an uncemented personality, and the notion that I should have it figured out. The ticking clock sits beside my eardrums. Day and night.

Tic. Tic. Tic.

Being young is naturally perceived as euphoric. Tight skin. Fast metabolism. Endless hope. Few responsibilities. However, many young people are running dry on serotonin — and it’s a drought unlike any other. Many of us move through these years expecting maturity or time to hand-deliver the instructions we’ve longed to find inside the box, or in this case, the cerebrum.

However, the sobering truth is that age doesn’t cure our internal metaphysical cyclone. The powderkeg of emotion that accompanies young adults often results in major depressive disorder. Over 13 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds are currently living with MDD — me being one. I’m 24, and the storm continues to rage inside my soul.

Depression in your early 20s isn’t a rite of passage or a part of growing up — it’s a disease that preys on the forming minds of young people in every type of neighborhood. It makes life a continuous cloud that hides clear thoughts and rains on understanding.

Depression in your early 20s makes me worried for the future. Wondering if happiness has skipped over me and found its next body to live inside. I struggle to motivate myself to change my dirtied graphic tee, sort through the piling mail, or pour a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Depression seizes up every inch of my body, as my brain looks for the off switch — or maybe the on switch?

My fledgling mind runs an endless track race, where there’s no winner, as my pain refuses to take a water break. Our early 20s are supposed to be filled with idyllic happiness, documented via our Instagram feeds where we unquestionably are backpacking across the Swiss Alps, singing and swaying at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, buying a new Gibson guitar, and meeting friends at our favorite corner bar. At least that’s what we’re told — and see. But we know these images are a digital facade; depression sits behind one in 10 smiles.

Why is it that a time of great envy is a time of devastating sorrow? It’s another question that may not have an answer — surprised? So many of these sentences have accompanied question marks. Here’s one that doesn’t. Depression knows my name… and the name of so many of my peers. This invisible illness isn’t a friend, and it remains glued to our bodies — like an additional layer of skin.

My depression feels like a tangible weight, sandbagging my physical, mental, and emotional health. These seven years have been bookended by two major depressive episodes, each one making sure I know they have set up shop inside my innocently trying brain. My depression isn’t special, millions more are wearing the same shoes as me, but at the same time, my depression remains real. It is a testament to the struggle of human nature — how we, how I, am looking where to hang my hat.

Maybe I’ll never have the clarity I think I need. Maybe life doesn’t plan to pen a letter to me, explaining everything I want to know. But as my depression suffocates me with deep-seated questions, I have learned one thing.

I am still here.

I will still keep looking.

I will see the years after 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, etc.

Depression in your early 20s can make you question the purpose of life, because suddenly the world we believed in, may, in fact, be a figment of our past imagination. But depression has also caused me to realize the world is more real than ever — and maybe that’s just enough to help me finish my sculpture.

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Zach Shaw

A bit of a writer. I like to think I’m somewhat funny. Lover of fried chicken (baked chicken can go die). I get caught up in thoughts.