In The Bell Jar

Sitting in a Starbucks, laughing and reminiscing on old times, is Marie Azares. At first glance it may appear that she is a happy person, but she struggles with depression. Azares, 19, just completed her freshmen year at UC Irvine. She is taking a break from college to focus on her mental health, describing her first year as a difficult time due to the transition from high school to college, causing her to feel “lost”.

“I majored in something I did not like. I was getting pressured to be a nurse, or a doctor, or a biologist and I did not want to be those things. I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said, admitting she felt pressured from her parents who expected her to live up to high standards.

Azares felt like she was inferior to her peers, yet she also experienced constant pressure from her professors to be at the top of her class. She admitted to spending hours crying on the staircase of her dorm, suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. “I felt numb,” she said, “I did not find pleasure in things after a while. I would go out with my friends, my boyfriend and my family and did not feel pleasure. I did not love anyone, I did not love myself.”

Azares tried to excuse her feelings as stress or seasonal depression, never considering major depression as a possibility. She began to push people out of her life, feeling like she “did not deserve them,” and even lost interest in eating. Then, she began to wonder what it would be like if she wasn’t around anymore.

On May 4, 2017, Azares made her first attempt at suicide by jumping off a parking structure at her university. Her boyfriend, Cameron, stopped her before she could jump.

“I ran out the door. I ran all over. I ran up the parking structure. I was so close to jumping, when he grabbed me and carried me away because I was fighting back. He carried me away from the parking structure and watched me,” she said.

Two days later, Azares made a second suicide attempt by overdosing on pills.

After that attempt, her friends notified her parents. They took her to the emergency room. She was placed under a "5150 hold," which is medically referred to as “suicide watch.” She was taken to a psychiatric center, where she stated she thought she would “die without her phone,” but later admits time without it benefited her.

“I realized that social media had an impact on my depression. I felt like I did not belong there. Once everyone started to share their stories, I realized that these were my people. They all feel the same way,” she said.

Azares was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and eating disorders. On Sep. 10, 2017, she posted her story on Twitter:

"I couldn’t make friends and also became antisocial. I felt my roommates hated me at times & that my bf would leave me bc I was like this." (via Azares's twitter).

Azares is taking time to mentally heal and notes that she still has good and bad days. Her recovery process includes therapy, where she learns psychologically why she does certain things; arts and crafts, which helps her focus on the art instead of things around her; and interior design, as she enjoys shopping for new decor for her room. Azares also plans to create a lifestyle YouTube channel, using it as a platform to raise awareness of depression. She hopes to open a non-profit organization someday to help people going through similar situations.

Depression is a silent, growing epidemic that affects more than 16.1 million Americans over the age of 18, according to The National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms of depression include introversion, loss of sleep, loss of interest in daily activities and suicidal thoughts.

“We are not crazy. It is not just mood. There is a difference between being depressed and going through depression. Depression is a chronic pain that stays for a while,” Azares said.