Undocumented and Depressed

Dreamers Adrift > Undocublog

By Minhaz

Depression is a disorder that is often linked to experienced anxiety. While there are many “light at the end of the tunnel” aspects to our undocumented lives, there are also many things in that life that cause us to be anxious. And this can lead to all sorts of mental quirks. Although, each undocumented person seems to face unique and different struggles. Some with more privileges than others.

Let’s get something clear: depression is not simply feeling sad. It’s an unconscious inability to see things clearly. If you’ve ever been drunk or done any kinds of drugs or visited the dentist, you know that a chemically altered mind can mean experiencing the world in a way in which, “normal” observers might see you as doing something silly, but in your mind, everything you’re doing seems like the right thing to do at that moment. Depression is just that, your mind is in an altered chemical state.

I can reminisce about bad decisions made while drunk and feel second hand embarrassment for my past self. But what happens when you have those same kinds of reflections about you’re sober self? How scary is it to think that, even when you’ve avoided alcohol or drugs, you can never truly be in control of your mind’s state?

Those who have depression sometimes also experience a mild form of mania to go along with it, also known as manic-depressive or “bi-polar” at which times you feel super energetic and get shit done, Adderall style. It’s possibly a result of the chemical imbalance, a polarizing effect of having lots of a certain chemical in your brain (mania) followed by deep periods of lacking that chemical or vice-versa for other chemicals. It’s a roller coaster ride that affects important things like our relationships, our self-perception and our performance.

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Hungover from life

My Story

For me, depression severely affected my ability to do well in school. I was privileged enough to not have to work during school. But my depression meant an inability to focus, ruminating over negative thoughts and abandoning the urgency to do schoolwork in favor of countering the negative thoughts with a fragile ecosystem of distractions. Not trying to make excuses but it’s just an explanation as to why someone with opportunities up the ass would fail to grasp at them especially since their parents gave up so much to come here and give them those opportunities.

My anxiety had a lot of culprits but not least of them was a completely uncertain future. Be it the day where I was almost deported, to before that when I simply had no hope of independence, to no hope of a future at all. In my last semester of community college, I gave up, thinking I had no way to pay to transfer to a university. I was saved and got a loan that has put me deeply in debt. Then at university, the idea of ever going to graduate school was a far-cry, further deepening me into a helpless state of pessimism.

In my life, I have learned that blind optimism is necessary to make it in this world. You can’t be afraid to take chances even if you think you’ll fail. But being depressed meant every failure hurt twice as bad and makes us sensative to even the most mundane failures. It meant sending me into internal trials and debates about my merits as a human being. Suicide. Far extremes for something not worth it.

Since I took out that loan, I knew I had no choices: I had to take as many classes as possible and I could never drop a class I was doing poorly in, because I had to finish my major in 2 years, no exceptions, or I wouldn’t graduate. This meant I was taking far too many classes in an already difficult major. So I took some C’s and D’s to go along with my A’s and B’s. I didn’t care about my GPA, I just needed that sweet, sweet ultimately meaningless college degree.

Overworked, depressed and no access to care didn’t help. Then in my final quarter, I found out our school provided psychiatric help with our student health care. I decided to visit the psychologist, was diagnosed mildly bipolar (whatever that means) and took medication for a couple of months before school ended, and with it, my access to care.

Being spared from deportation doesn’t end our problems. What lies in front of us is the ruins of our lives, of how much our undocumented status has affected us or steered us away from our DREAMS (financially and health-wise.)

These days, I’ve accepted that I need loans to go to school. I look to graduate school and professional training to carve out some sort of a career. However, the mark for life that is my GPA limits my opportunities. I have the opportunity to raise it by taking classes again at a community college, but even that is tough when you’re working full-time and trying to pay rent and student loans. And still without care, I have once again found myself committed to bad habits I thought I had remedied through meditation and better personal habits. Paranoia, cynicism about people, anger. It scares me because, during those moments, all of the negative thoughts seem completely right.

Minhaz is the creator of Undocublog. He likes to write nonsensical bullshit and watch sappy movies. He also likes to gamble.

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6 Responses to “Undocumented and Depressed”
  1. Angelica says:

    So glad you wrote this, I have been in a similar situation myself. My fourth year at college, I went through a serious, serious depression that was triggered by a very stressful situation that resulted from my undocumented status. I failed classes for the first time ever, and the classes I did pass were mostly with Cs. I just didn’t care about anything that year because I was so depressed, and I kept looking for distractions to keep my mind off of the stressful situation, so no work was getting done. Anyway, by the end of that school year, I was feeling better, and then saw what I had done to myself. I had ruined my school career. I had to take a 5th year to finish up all my requirements since I had failed a couple that 4th year. Luckily, I did well enough my first 3 years that my GPA was still decent, but it definitely wasn’t anything special, either. I finally got my degree in June 2011, but even now I wish that I had had the sense to either take that year (or at least the one particularly bad quarter) off, or somehow just be able to to do my work anyway. But that’s what depression can do to a person.

  2. Yovany Diaz says:

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s truly is an eye-opener for the immigrant community in college.
    Yes, Its a miracle were there to began with but instead of full-filled joy and accomplisment, we feel backed to the connor. The connor where we feel deadlines and so much stress because shit is on you.. Most of this shit comes from being undocumented.I admit I graduated from High school in 2010, and although I look forward till the day I come in the college halls I fear that my status will keep holding me back.

  3. Daniel says:

    I am glad there are similar situations like mine, I am also a Dreamer working for this college degree, i graduated high school last year and ever since then i have been under deep depression, I even have a bald spot that the doctor says is caused by my stress and depression, reality hits you so hard in the face. college classes are full and i cannot find work due to my immigration status, i have been in America sinceI was 6 months old, I know no other place, this is my home but i am not enjoying this college life. I am literally pulling change out of my pockets to pay for college classes at full price, I do not have the luxury of FAFSA. my friends do not know of my immigration status. I am still in the shadows, Depressed, weak, hopeless.

    • Minhaz says:

      You’re not hopeless, that’s just the depression talking; and I mean that literally. That was the point of this piece, no? To point out that depression can alter how our mind works. And we have to battle that by acknowledging it and then just putting our heads down and keep going. Sounds cheesy but it works most of the time! I know ultimately we need care, but for now, we have to find special and alternate ways to battle through it and it can make us better people through the experience. All we can hope is that it doesn’t affect our external world too negatively in the process.

  4. Melissa says:

    Thank you for this, and for those who have commented. I am about to enter my last year for a bachelor’s degree and though I’ve forced myself to battle depression (and it has taken some time), the uncertainty still looms ahead. My third year was both the best and the worst because I was dealing with coming out for the first time to a close friend and came out for a few more friends as well but while it was relieving to have them know, it also made me see for once the state of my situation which created hopelessness and loneliness in me for a while. I was never diagnosed with anything, but still.
    Right now, as you say, we have to find other ways to deal with it. It got to the point where it was even tiring to feel this way every day so now I’m doing what I can to fight those feelings, the self-destructive ones, by doing things that I can and trying to reach out to other students like myself so they know they are at least not alone. Because even that helps, I hope.

  5. Bit says:

    I’ve cut myself bfeore. I did it a couple of times after and always felt like an idiot afterwards. I’ve been through depressed stages since i was 12 and just felt like no body cared or understood who i was. I am now 15 and this year has been rough, with death, my friend trying to kill herself, my parents splitting up and more troubles. It’s just everynight I go to bed and cry myself to sleep. I cant really talk to people about it because I feel as though I’m not worth it or its not important

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