If you're reading this, please know that you'll find your way back to yourself.
I've been struggling with depression since my freshman year of high school. It comes and goes, and in my youth I always thought that I could cure it with some medicine and therapy and be done with it. But after suffering from a major depressive episode during this past fall semester, I've realized that my depression is a part of me. It will come back. And that's okay.
As a UVA student, I pride myself on my accomplishments, and for a while my accomplishments seemed like the most important and defining factor of my life. However, when I was lying there in bed for 14 hours a day, unmoving, not eating, not attending class, my accomplishments quickly turned from something as big as landing an internship to something as small as getting out of bed and taking a shower. I became accomplished in an entirely new way; every step out of bed, every meal, and every social interaction, no matter how small, became an accomplishment and a victory.
I'd become so comfortable with who I was, and in one semester my brain decided to take me farther and farther away from her. I'd cry and have panic attacks in my closet and lock myself in there at night to be safe. I lost twenty pounds because my appetite was gone. As a tall, athletic woman, I felt my bones become weak and my muscles diminish. I lost all interest in music, which is the passion of my life. I was so far from who I was and who I had been, and each day I had to make the choice to fight my own brain and my own body and keep walking on, to keep following the trail back to myself.
I know that my depression will come back, but every time it does, I am reminded of how even the smallest steps in my life are accomplishments. And every little step that I've taken has led me back to who I am. It won't come in large leaps, and it won't happen all at once. But it will happen. You will find your way back to your home.
Virginia Speidel, University of Virginia, Class of 2019