“I waste at least an hour every day lying in bed. Then I waste time pacing. I waste time thinking. I waste time being quiet and not saying anything because I’m afraid I’ll stutter,” said Ned Vizzini in one of his most successful novels “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.”
Some of you Maryville College students may have read it during your angsty teen days, maybe not. I did. At the time, I was a 16-year-old dealing with 16-year-old problems. I had signs of depression, but I was okay. More than anything, when I was 16, this book encouraged me to support those in my life who had bigger issues with depression than I did. Now, however, the major themes of depression and suicide in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” apply to my life more than I ever thought they might.
What’s more interesting though, is that these issues played a major role in Ned Vizzini’s own life. Not only was “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” loosely based on his own experiences, but so were the awkward and anti-social leads of each of his other young adult novels. In addition to writing novels aimed at young adults, Vizzini traveled to colleges and high schools doing public speaking about depression, mental health and overcoming these issues.
This all sounds inspirational and uplifting, right? It was. Vizzini was like a beacon of light coming from a distant lighthouse at the end of a sea of depression.
In December of 2013, that light went out.
After dedicating his life to helping others through their battles with depression, he gave up on his own and committed suicide. So what does that mean for the rest of us? Who knows. What I do know, however, is that many of us in college are dealing with depression, anxiety and stress. College is hard, and MC is demanding. We all know this, but we’re all still here. So it must be worth it, right?
Ned Vizzini wrote books about high school students whose stories weren’t being heard by the adults in their lives.
We aren’t those high school students anymore. We don’t have to be heard by the adults in our lives because we are the adults in our lives. We go to class, we go to work and we do what we can to be the best we can be. We’re ambitious, and we’re strong. As we progress in our adult lives, we’re left alone to face the issues deep within us. Sometimes, for some of us, these issues are dark and hard to face. For those of you who are more like me, these issues are equally difficult to talk about with others as they are to face.
This is the part of the article where I’m supposed to tell you that if you’re struggling and you’re feeling lonely, you should find someone to talk to. I can’t do that, though, because I would be a complete hypocrite. Part of going to college is making new friends and finding your role among the people you share company with. For those of us who are introverted and slightly anti-social, making friends isn’t that easy. We don’t like parties, and we don’t start conversations with strangers. Before we know it, freshman year has flown by and we’re alone. Being alone is scary when you are faced with issues like depression.
Sadly, when you’re dealing with these issues, Vizzini’s ultimate decision to end his life seems entirely justifiable. Vizzini was the beacon of inspiration at the end of my sea of depression. Since I was 16, I’ve referred to “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” each time I’ve been crying, alone and doing my best not to do anything stupid. Vizzini’s testimonies of hope honestly meant a lot to me throughout my adolescent years, and when he killed himself, I momentarily lost that hope.
In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter what happened to Vizzini. What matters is what happens to us, and although it didn’t work out so well for Vizzini in the end, his advice is solid:
All we can do is keep at it and hope it gets better because while life can’t be cured, it can be managed.
I encourage those of you with issues related to depression, anxiety, stress, etc. to look for beacons of hope at the end of your sea. I can’t guarantee you an ultimate end to your misery, but I can promise you that there is more to experience beyond what you’re experiencing right now. There are options, and you will survive. For those of you struggling to find friends at MC, I have no advice because I’ve only got a handful myself, but I recommend those guys in the counseling office. They really know their stuff.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is this: Vizzini let me down when he jumped from that building. Don’t you let me down too.