Anxiety and depression are like an identity crisis — a cancer of the soul

“Pull yourself together,” I repeated this command to myself in the mirror as I splashed cold water on my face washing away escaped tears. It was supposed to be a happy family gathering and apparently my emotions hadn’t gotten the memo.

“Oh yeah I’m fine, it’s just allergies.”

But my lie was as translucent as the pain behind my families eyes because they knew there was nothing more they could do to help.

I’ve been battling extreme anxiety and depression from post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) since I was 8 years old. I was diagnosed after being taken under the loving care of my aunt and uncle. I take the prescribed meds, I see a therapist and I do all those things that are supposed to naturally help: eat well, exercise, create… etc. While these do help, I still have my bad days.

Those who don’t really know me think I have everything figured out —  mapped out career, great friends, super involved on campus, four jobs and all of this done with a smile on my face. Thirteen years has made me an expert at faking normalcy.

But it’s the people that do know me that can see what happens behind the cheeky grin. They know the “me” that I don’t want them to know because the “me” right now is not the me I always was.

Anxiety and depression are like an identity crisis —  a cancer of the soul. They take over your mind and then spread throughout your body affecting everything you do.

The best analogy to describe it is that you’re drowning in an ocean full of people. You’re doing everything you can to swim but you keep sinking deeper and deeper, all the while blaming yourself for your inability to move. Some dart past you screaming, “Swim faster!” because to them it’s second nature. Others try to help by giving you instruction, but lose patience as you sink even deeper. You decide to just accept your fate alone and question if it’s even worth trying to learn how to swim.

Fortunately for me, some patient swimmer (a counselor at the Saltzman Center on campus) grabbed my hand and led me to the surface where I caught my breath. I’m working on swimming now, but it’s good to know I can get to the surface for help if necessary.

For many, the story doesn’t always end that happily. Like any illness that is left untreated, fatalities may occur and often do. We see it almost everyday from our neighbors to beloved celebrities who just couldn’t swim in the ocean of life and gave up trying.

No matter what you may hope to believe, society is not very accepting of mental disorders and how much they control one’s life. People cringe at the word “mental” and automatically jump to the conclusion that people who have these issues are somehow less of a person.

I would argue the opposite. In my own life, the people I’ve come across with anxiety and depression are some of the wisest and most loving spirits. These people know what it’s like to experience pain and sadness — often times an undertone to their existence — and therefore are privy to the pain of others.

In some cases, there are people who come off hard hearted and appear distant to others. They are simply putting up a shield because they’ve been injured one too many times in one too many battles.

Why am I exposing myself to an entire student body or anyone who comes across my attempt to explain such a suffocating illness? Much of what gives me the hope to go through each day is the ever-loving support system I undeservedly have. And I want everyone to have that resource as well.

To those who are struggling: you are not fighting in vain. When loneliness and sadness overcome you, sometimes a simple acknowledgement that someone out there understands can make life a bit more bearable.

To those without these disorders: this isn’t to say you don’t suffer or have never felt similarly. Each person has their own demons. The purpose of this article is not to belittle or compare what anyone is going through to another. Rather, I want to explain these often suppressed and overlooked feelings and in doing so promote understanding.

Whether you chose to admit it in writing like some, ahem, or silently in your head: we all need encouragement, positivity and, most importantly, love. But how can we expect to receive that if we are not givers first?

Maybe Bill Withers was onto something; maybe we all just need somebody to help us carry on. This campus is looking a little wobbly to me. Let’s build up that support system so that we may in fact have someone to lean on.

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.


“The Polar Express” stops at Long Island School

Eight-year-old Madison Thorpe, of Islip, shows off her favorite stuffed animal during of viewing of "The Polar Express" during a holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.
Eight-year-old Madison Thorpe, of Islip, shows off her favorite stuffed animal during of viewing of “The Polar Express” during a holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.

Dressed in Monster High pajamas with her favorite stuffed animal, 8-year-old Madison Thorpe enjoyed the best day of second grade so far: Pajama Day.

She was among the more than 50 second-graders at Islip’s Commack Road Elementary School who eagerly gathered in the hallway Friday to listen to Chris Van Allsburg’s “The Polar Express.”

For more than a decade, the last day of class before winter break has been dedicated to celebrating the upcoming holiday. Students enjoy a “Polar Express” themed day that includes listening to the story, wearing pajamas and eating holiday treats.

“We got to listen to the story, watch the movie and eat cookies,” Madison said. “It was the best day.”

Students also wore bells that they rang during the reading of the story.

“My favorite part was when we all rang the bell,” said 8-year-old Shawn Ryan. “It was awesome!”

Donning flannel penguin pajamas, Elizabeth Johnson was one of five teachers who took part in the day’s festivities, giving a whole new take on casual Friday.

“All of the second-grade teachers came up with this idea over 10 years ago because we felt it was important to celebrate our real gifts of Christmas — the children,” said Johnson, who has taught second grade at the school for 25 years.

This year, to extend the tradition throughout the entire school, the students made a green-and-red paper train that lined the hallway walls. Students wrote their wishes on notebook paper and placed them on their homemade version of “The Polar Express.”

One wish from a student read, “If I had one wish it would to be a teacher because I want to teach everybody.”

“Seeing these wishes really connects the real holiday spirit for students,” said Johnson.

Principal Jeannette Feminella said the holidays are an especially important time to connect with students. She visited each classroom to celebrate the end of the year with the students.

“Isn’t it great to have a principal that actually knows the names of all her students?” Feminella asked. “Isn’t that how all schools are supposed to be?”

A student in Kerin Haak's second-grade class holds up "The Polar Express" book they read during the holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.
A student in Kerin Haak’s second-grade class holds up “The Polar Express” book they read during the holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.


CBS’s Dick Brennan gives colloquial perspective of being a journalist

Dick Brennan CBS Reporter visits a Hofstra Univeristy classroom to talk to prospective journalism students.

photo credit: Christal Roberts

Advice from Brennan:

“Don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications if you don’t know a story.”

“Always come prepared with camera and questions.”

“Make dumb connections. The business of ‘why not me’ is not relevant.”

“Half of life is just showing up.”

“Triple check everything. Two things: read out loud and read backwards. Check every dumb little fact.”

Students ask questions: 12:11pm-12:32pm

Q. “Number one piece of advice to students?” A. “Internships, internships, and internships. Dress better, remember names, and know who people are.”

Q. “What kind of stories did they put you on first before you broke out?” A. “The first three stories I covered were  Victoria Secret runways.”

Q. “What is something you wish someone would have told you about the field when you were our age?” A. “I don’t have this connection or that equipment etc. I wish someone would have told me it doesn’t matter.” 

Q. “What was your first internship?” A. “It was at WMCA radio station. It was the best job I’ve ever had.”

Q. What is the hardest part of broadcasting now? A. “The deadlines are tighter. More shows to be on. Expected to broadcast more.”

“Sometimes the best social media is just remembering a name.” Brennan refers to integration with social media as “invaluable” to the journalism field 12:09 pm.

“You want great journalism? Knock on one more door.” Brennan emphasizes the need for aggressive journalism to produce a good story. “Grab the story by the lapels and drag it by you” 12:05 pm.

Journalists have to handle tough stories. Brennan shows video of his coverage of LIPA’s failed restoration after Sandy as well as their no-show press conference 12:02 am.

Which elements are the most important to a news story? Brennan says it changes with every story. Sometimes it’s better to start with audio; other times the picture is the most important part 11:49 am.

“All people care about it story, story, story. They don’t care about the budget, they want a story.” A strong focus of a news story is the writing of it. Deadlines are now so you must think of what you want your story to be as you film the story 11: 44 am.

Brennan describes the ins and outs of creating a successful news package. “The hardest part of a piece is the beginning and the end. You need something powerful or humorous to keep you interested until the end.” Shows news package of Hurricane Sandy where he focused on a small child that had no heat or water in her apartment 11:40 am.

Conversation makes a switches to politics. Brennan uses media coverage of the debate to exemplify how every word and action of those in the public’s eye is under scrutiny 11:33 am.

Uses his interview with Denzel Washington to show how tough questions can render harsh remarks. “My job is to tell the story in a way that people can understand. I’m not partisan. I just want to challenge them and see what they say” 11:27 am.

Brennan talks about his experiences as a reporter. Shows his interview with Michael Moore and what happens behind the aired interview 11:21 am.

“I get a a minute and thirty normally. So having an hour and half to speak to you is crazy.” Reporter Dick Brennan introduces himself to Hofstra University students 11:18 am.


Hofstra University: A haven from Hurricane Sandy

Photo Credit: Long Island Report

It is a terrible feeling to know a disaster is happening around you and you can do nothing to stop it. It is an even worse feeling to watch that disaster transpire from your window. That is how I felt during the devastation of Hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast last week. As I sat in the comfort of  my dorm located on Long Island, New York my heart ached knowing that others just outside of my school’s boundaries were struggling for their lives.

Hofstra University was like a giant safety bubble amidst an island of destruction. Ninety percent of homes and businesses on Long Island lost power during the storm. LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority, predicted it would take up to 10 days for power to be restored. Hofstra had my power back within the hour of it being lost and even my wi-fi was back up a short time after.

I was concerned the rain that might seep through my windows due to the winds that reached 80 miles per hour. In retrospect, almost every house outside of campus faced water damage. Fifteen houses were reported as having been completely swept out to sea and over 100 were destroyed from fire.

I’ve never felt so helpless being in my protective haven on the same island where others were battling flooding, electrical fires, and falling trees. It felt like Hurricane Sandy was New York’s Hurricane Katrina. Fifty-five were reported dead after the storm hit, four of which died on Long Island. It’s numbing to think that if I had been just a few miles away that could have been me.

The concerns I overheard from fellow classmates or read on their social media streams proved to me how disconnected Hofstra was from the effects of the storm. Many complained about their boredom because Hofstra officials asked them to remain in their dorms. Others voiced disappointment at the lack of entertainment they thought the storm would provide. I even found myself starting to complain, but quickly stopped when I realized how many others were questioning when they might have a warm bed to sleep in.

Hurricane Sandy may not have destroyed my home, but the impact it left on my campus and my school “family” was hard to endure. As Hofstra finished the clean up, classes will once again resume and the storm will become a sad memory. But for many on Long Island outside of Hofstra’s gates, the storm is more than a memory; it’s a forced new beginning. Whether some must find a new home to live in, a new car to drive, or a new way to cope with the loss of a loved one, their lives will forever be changed.