This week, The Tide will publish a series of three stories from and about Wheaton students regarding their experience with mental health. The goal of the series is to bring light and conversation to a topic that is often associated with shame. We hope that these pieces will demonstrate the hurt and potential for healing experienced by many students on Wheaton’s campus. If you would like to add your own story to this series, click here.
When I was asked to share my story in Wheaton Tide, though appreciated, I was quite concerned, as telling my story won’t give anyone who’s dealing with depression a practical solution or help. However, after much thought and prayer, I decided to write it with a hope that people who deal with such issues would recognize that there is nothing wrong with them after reading this article. Maybe I should introduce myself a bit and summarize how I came about the issue.
I’m Robin Kong, an international student from South Korea. This year marks my eighth year of studying in the States without my family in the country. I’m currently a graduating junior, an applied mathematics major, an ESFJ, and, on top of those, a mental depression patient. For the first nineteen years of my life, I had not fully comprehended what it meant to be a depression patient, as I was not associated with it. Whenever my friends came up to me and asked for my prayers regarding their mental health issues, though I gladly prayed for them, a part of my heart did not quite understand what “being depressed” felt like.
The summer break between my freshman and sophomore year of college was life-changing in the most negative way. Everyone in my family and my close friend circle was dealing with some of the heaviest struggles of their lives. I went back to spend my summer with them, in the midst of such situations, not knowing what was going on, nor how they would affect me. It didn’t take me too long to realize that the family and friends I loved had no longer become a safe place for me. There was tension. There was a lack of conversation. There were internal and external conflicts. But mostly, there was misunderstanding. Being surrounded by people who thought that I had changed over eight years of my American experience, and that I was the source of conflicts, as well as being confined myself in my room for four months with no one to turn to, were new experiences that I would rather not experience again. Every morning I had hoped to leave the place, but I felt trapped in Korea, as if I had nowhere else to go. The only thing I held on to during such hard times was the fact that I was going back to Wheaton. Only four months and I was out of Korea.
After coming back to Wheaton, a funny thing happened. I had not realized that during the break I fantasized every element of Wheaton College. I did not expect a college anymore. I expected heaven. It wasn’t. I could not find joy in anything during the first semester of my sophomore year. Classes, friends, professors, extracurricular activities, clubs, and even my spiritual life had become uninteresting. I was hurt by being lonely, hurt by people trying to help, hurt by not doing anything, hurt by trying to do everything, hurt by not reading the Scripture, and hurt by being in an empty room with just the Bible, trying and trying to understand what His purpose of putting me into this was. My Spiritual life, academic life, and relationship life were all ‘failing’.
I tried multiple different things to get my life back to normal. Reaching out to my friends, my RA and my RD resulted insincere but impractical conversations, advice, and prayers. Visiting the Counseling Center was worse; after the first visit in late October of 2014, which required a good amount of courage and effort from my end in the first place, they were supposed to call me to schedule our regular meeting time. Yet, up to this day, I still haven’t gotten that call from them. Things were definitely getting worse.
December 10th, 2014, a Wednesday, I woke up and suddenly felt a massive amount of fear and a negative thought: “this could be my last day alive”. As if I was meant to do so, I walked up to the top floor of Traber Hall and stared at the ground from the window. Come to think of it, I definitely could have jumped. Feeling the urge to take my own life, I stayed there for about an hour. What stopped me from doing so I can’t logically explain, but, as a result, there was a moment of hesitation, and I ended up not committing suicide.
Coming back from the top floor of Traber Hall, very upset, I screamed to God and asked for reasons. Why did IIhav to be the one with depression out of thousands of people who were ‘normal’? Why did I I have to be associated with one of my main vulnerabilities, loneliness, through depression? Why did he have to let me attempt to take my life and leave me in the darkness? Instead of answers, I learned – or, He taught me – two things over time: first, things I had depended on the most – friends, family, art,music, mathematics, community, and others – were comforts that I could rely on and that I was immensely thankful for, but they were not something that could save me from being depressed; second, people who struggle with mental health issues, like me, are not lesser or more incapable than others.
I want to encourage people who are more exposed to anxiety and depression – who are fighting a fight that is seemingly endless and is difficult to continue day by day – and let them know that they are brave. Truly, amazingly brave. We struggle to find the reason why we end up in this situation, but we keep going on, fighting and opening up our lives to find the light. Sometimes we stumble; we get panic attacks and feel like death sounds comforting. However, we still strive to remain in the light, take care of ourselves as well as others, try to seek God’s message amongst the darkness, and hope for the future. Though no one can tell us when our race is over, and though often times we think that we should have not even started, we run the race to find happiness. That isn’t false hope. That is inspirational courage.
So here’s the final message to you all from a fellow brother-in-Christ who struggles: you have done great; we have made it together and we will make it together. I love you so much.