Undocumented and Depressed
Dreamers Adrift > Undocublog
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.
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.