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Columbia Spectator Staff

A is for Anxiety, B is for Bad, and C is for Crack. A is for Anxiety, B is for Bad, and C is for Crack. A is for Anxiety, B is for Barnard, and C is for Columbia.

A is the first letter we are taught to read. A, an eternity of time I feel like I'm wasting staring off into space (or rather, at the walls of my newly renovated kitchen). An eternity spent contemplating my next dosage, my next meal, or my next assignment. A is the filler for empty spaces between empty words; it's the single draw of a breath. A is an Anonymous college senior wishing no longer to remain Anonymous. A is so damn tired that she wants to move on to the letter B, But she Can't. Because she Carries the Burden of Depression. And it's Breaking her Body Apart.

Looking back through my Facebook photos, you can say I've had a good life. I grew up as your classic high school overachiever—Science Olympiad, debate, Advanced Placement classes, whatever. I had a close group of friends and a tight-knit family. I was lucky enough to grow up in New York City and experience so much of the world. My heart always swooned with passion—for more knowledge, more adventures, and more love. But somewhere along this nearly perfect line of teenage accession, I came to a frightening stop.

I arrived at Barnard College during NSOP of 2010 with a sudden change of heart and four suitcases full of stuff. My little room came with my own study nook and a kindly roommate. Everything looked perfect, from a distance. I would go home to Queens on the weekends. I would stay out late making new friends, but most other times I would remain on my top bunk and quietly wish for the ceiling to come crashing down. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there was something rotten in the state of my adult independence.

There are moments in our lives when we feel pain and can bear it. There are moments in our lives when we are loved and cannot handle it. But between the love and pain lie the path of indifference and the dark room full of emptiness and despair. The moment when the sun rising becomes your greatest fear is when you need to step back, stop, and think. As an English major, I can compose a zillion metaphors for this terrible ailment, but all my ideas and internal screams simmer down to one thought: "IT'S OK. YOU ARE NOT ALONE."

Depression is a poisonous vacuum; it's a debilitating disease we take for granted. Break an arm or a leg, catch the flu, and what do friends and family do? They fight for you. But tell the same people that you're mentally broken and they might cast their eyes away. According to the World Health Organization, over 350 million people around the world live with depression. In the United States alone, 18- to 29- year- olds are 70 percent more likely to experience depression in their lifetimes compared to adults over 60, and nearly 16.5 percent of the adult population has it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression is teeming in our music, our literature, our cluttered bodies and bones—but when is it going to end? Tian Bu had had enough. Martha Corey-Ochoa had had enough. Tejraj Antooa had had enough. When will we turn enough into a saving grace for the rest of our living community?

My name is Nazia Jannat, and I suffer from depression. I am 21 years old, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a leader, a poet, and a survivor. Every morning that I live to see is a previous night I know I did not overdose. Every heartbeat reminds me that there's a pang of hope somewhere out there, and it's beating pretty fucking loud! Every face I encounter I greet with a mask of cheerfulness, and yes, I'm tired of lying! Ask me how I am, and I'll tell you I am not OK! And that's fine, as long as I'm being honest! It's so easy living under the cloak of depression that it's hard to take it off and swallow a breath of fresh air. I know it must be so for you, too.

We as Columbia students shouldn't have to remain in the dark; we're blessed to be surrounded by so much light and oftentimes, it can be blinding! Damn those billboards in Times Square! When will we take initiative and start being open to our friends, our families, our professors, and ourselves? Open is where I  want you to start, with fresh air filling your lungs. I pity those who remain ignorant, and I offer a helping hand to those who persist in fighting. Our battle against mental illness continues as long as depression is our greatest enemy. At Columbia, we need to start off with a new set of knowledge; we need to start off with the truth.

A is for And, B is for Breathe, C is for Calmly.   
A is for And, B is for Breathe, C is for Calmly.   
A is for And, B is for Breathe, C is for Calmly.

The author is Barnard College senior majoring in English.

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Depression anxiety mental health stress