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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer


I wonder what death feels like.

The thought crosses my mind for the hundredth time. Maybe I am on the way to my ethics class in CoMo, or finishing a shift in Loftus or even eating at halftime of a football game. It never seems to matter. The idea is never far from my mind.

One of the weirdest things about living with depression is that you start to assume everyone else feels this way. That everyone else has days where even watching Netflix feels like it takes too much effort. Days where cooking sounds as difficult as climbing Mount Everest. Or entire weeks that go by without reading for fun or playing Xbox because something in your brain simply will not allow you to engage in the things that make you happy.

I wonder what death feels like.

Even the most minor setback inspires this tired refrain. Maybe I got a B on a paper that felt like A- material at worst. Or perhaps my roommates left the trash cans for me to bring in from the curb. It never seems to matter. All coping skills and notions of perseverance are long gone. Or maybe they never existed in the first place.

There is also the constant battle to convince myself to want to get better. I debate skipping my appointment at the University Counseling Center on my way there. I fill a prescription for medication then bury the bottle in a drawer with broken pencils and a four-function calculator. I convince myself that I probably deserve to feel this way, so there is no point in trying to feel good about myself in the first place.

Many people think depression means being sad all the time. That is decidedly not true. It mostly means feeling nothing. It means having a hard time reaching any sort of emotional high or low. I might be dancing at Newf’s, watching cartoons, or shooting hoops for my hall in North Dome, and appear happy on the outside. Similarly, I could be listening to “Marvin’s Room,” reading rejection notices from job applications, or failing Calculus B and appear sad. Those feelings burn bright and fast, like a sparkler on the Fourth of July, before they fade, and I am back to numbness. Through it all, the only constant is an echo of morbid curiosity.

I wonder what death feels like.

I forget how many people know I have depression at this point. My parents. I think one of my brothers does. Some of my friends, both from high school and Notre Dame. At least one ex-girlfriend. For some reason, mental illness always struck me as decidedly private and shameful. Logically, this makes no sense. If I broke my arm, developed skin cancer or caught pneumonia, I would never think twice before explaining my situation to professors and bosses, friends and family, even social media. But with depression, when I miss class because the idea of getting out of bed feels truly overwhelming, my professors are left to assume I overslept. My bosses chalk up days where I lack effort to laziness or distractions. When I cancel plans and ignore texts so I can sit in my room and watch “The Office” again, my loved ones wonder if I am rude, uncaring or simply a bad friend.

Now, anyone who searches “Ben Testani” can find out I have depression. That is simultaneously terrifying and comforting. It terrifies me because so many people still do not understand what depression actually means, especially for men. It does not mean I am going to kill myself anytime soon, or even at all. It does not mean I am dangerous, stupid or useless. In fact, I made it this far with depression. I did not even seek treatment for the first time until I was almost 20, because I did not want to understand what was going on with my mind. The public declaration comforts me, because anyone who reads this will understand why I am the way that I am, and they may have a little better idea of why others with depression the way are they are as well. I do not hate you even if I cancelled our dinner plans. I still love playing “Haloeven though I have not logged on in two weeks. And I want to get better. I want to feel the highs and lows again. Most of all, I am tired of pondering the same issue over and over. I am tired of wondering.

I do not want to know what death feels like.

Ben Testani is a senior studying international economics, Arabic and Spanish. He comes to Notre Dame via Central New York and while currently residing off-campus, will always be a proud Alumni Dawg. He welcomes feedback at or @BenTestani on Twitter. 

The University Counseling Center (UCC) offers free confidential mental health services to all Notre Dame students. To access the UCC, stop by the third floor of St. Liam Hall during Drop-In hours Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. to be seen by a counselor. After business hours, on-call counselors are available 24/7 by calling the UCC 574-631-7336 and pressing “0.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.