Well-Being//

Behind My Smile

Finding a career, while struggling with depression

Jena Ardell/ Getty Images
Jena Ardell/ Getty Images

I never knew I had depression. It’s not something that comes up in a blood test, or can be seen in an MRI. There is no cure, surgery, or magic pill that can take it all away. People who knew me throughout the many stages of my life would say I was a happy and positive person. But our dispositions don’t always portray what is happening inside.

I moved to New York alone at 22, full of life, and ready or new experiences. I had a dream to finish my college degree and become a sketch writer for SNL. I made friends with everyone in my dormitory, and I was always down for a night out on the town. I was immediately known for being loud, cheerful, and telling funny stories. Looking back now it started that first year I moved here. Slowly, I began going out less and less, opting instead for take-out in my bed, and Netflix binge-watching. My friends began inviting me out less because I always declined. The fact that I was no longer living at home made me feel more like I could do whatever I wanted without judgment. Then I rarely went out at all, unless it was with my new boyfriend. Usually, we would just hang out at his apartment watching movies, and drinking with his friends. Even though my social life began to dwindle, my academics stayed on track. I kept up relationships with friends at home and called my family often.

My senior year I moved into an apartment with some friends, and although it was stressful, I hoped I would enjoy it. The friends I had moved in with began to develop their own routines, and while I saw them at school, I rarely saw them anywhere else. One roommate spent maybe five nights in our place the whole year, and instead mainly stayed at her boyfriend’s. The other was a nanny and would work around the clock. I began to feel lonely, and as a result, ate more. I began working in a restaurant and helped my professor research a novel. I tried hard to go through the steps I would need to be happy eventually, but felt that I just needed that degree. I hoped with my experiences, and a college degree, finding a job would be easy! This piece of paper from a University was the golden ticket to a stable adult life, right? My grandmother had a masters degree, and she always instilled that finishing your education was necessary. When I finished college, I was overweight. I was not exactly fat, but I did not look like myself. My confidence was already at an all-time low. Then a friend from home reached out and expressed her “concern”, even though I had told her I was worried about my weight. I started feeling helpless, and out of control. Instead of focusing on finding a new career right out of college, I was stressed about finding a new place. I begged my boyfriend to get a place with me. I begged because I was desperate for some stability and love. We had only been dating two years, and he was hesitant. I thought if I had a place to live and I could get settled, then I could begin my career search. We found a place that fit our needs, and budget, and I finally felt on the right track! Then it got worse.

My career search turned into a nightmare. Applications took forever to fill out, and my resume was not up to par. My low self-confidence made it hard for me to express my strengths in a cover letter. I had always been known for my exceptional work, for being strong enough to keep up with the boys, as well as for being exceptionally efficient. I was getting no responses and began to feel frustrated. I sought help from a counselor at my university, and she told me everything I was doing wrong, without any advice on how to improve. She sent me out the door with a booklet about writing a resume and cover letter. I used the booklet and some online resources to construct a better resume. I also tried to use examples of my hard work in my cover letters, but still had no luck. I never wanted to go out because I had no money, and I had nothing to discuss with friends. Every time we went out, someone would be talking about their raise, or promotion, or engagement. I felt like I had nothing good to say, and it was easier to avoid the humiliation by staying home. I was becoming more emotional and irritated, and my boyfriend could not understand what was happening to me. He wanted the amazing, full of life girl he fell in love with. But I did not know where she was.

A year after graduating, I took a job as a receptionist at a law firm. The salary was a little low, but because of my desperation, I did not try to negotiate. The firm provided me with some excellent experiences but was ultimately not somewhere I could stay. I was not making enough money to make ends meet. I tried to get another job, but my employer did not want me leaving early. I took up the career search once more, my resume now armed with my recent receptionist position. I began hearing back from more companies, but often never made it past the phone interview. I tried to sound like my upbeat and passionate self, but after so much rejection it wasn’t easy.

If you are struggling with depression, know that you are not alone and know that you can get through anything. I have mild depression, and it is extremely common. I encourage others to talk about their mental health, and I hope my story helps you.  It’s a daily struggle, waking up, and not having a purpose. I do my best to stick with a routine. I try to work out daily, even if it’s just a little walk. I focus on doing activities that bring me joy, like reading and cooking. My boyfriend and I have learned to communicate better, and he takes my mental health seriously. My mother is a big source of daily encouragement and always tells me to pursue my dreams. Even though I still do not have a career, I am persevering. I hope to one day bring joy and laughter to the lives of others through my writing. I hope if I keep trying I can get there. That’s the one thing I try not to let my depression take away: my hope.

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