Breakups are common in college, but for Isaac Montoya, a 25-year-old Pierce College student, the end of a relationship was the beginning of a struggle with depression.
While in high school, a young woman he was dating broke up with him abruptly. “She admitted to me that she was using me to get back at her ex,” says Montoya.
He was fine at first, but having to see her every day at school began to take a toll. He couldn’t stop thinking about her and his sadness over the breakup wouldn’t go away; he’d head straight home after school every day and isolate himself in his room.
“I lost interest [in everything else] because I was so focused on why she broke up with me and why she hurt me,” he says.
At least 20 percent of American teenagers experience depression before they reach the age of 18, but 80 percent of those who suffer from mental disorders don’t seek treatment, according to a 2010 study by the RAND Corporation. The signs are often ignored as many parents are unaware of what depression looks like.
Many teenagers and young adults are unable to fully communicate how they feel, and their symptoms may be passed off as part of growing up.
Montoya went to his father and asked, “Why do I feel so depressed?” Montoya says his father responded by saying that he was simply “going through changes,” and that what he was feeling was just part of being a teenager.
When he was 19, another girlfriend broke up with Montoya. “I was angry, I was frustrated, and I was hurt,” Montoya says. “It was like plants, just growing, increasing every day. The depression got worse and worse and it didn’t go away.” His second bout with depression lasted six months.
Once again, he completely lost interest in everyday activities. He didn’t want to eat or be around his friends.
Montoya’s mother told him it was time to move on.
“She told me, ‘You can’t obsess over it. If you obsess over it you are just going to go crazy and it‘s going to get worse,’” Montoya says.
When he was 23, he reconnected with the woman he’d been seeing when he was 19.
After they’d been going out for a little while, she told Montoya that she was also casually seeing another man. He once again fell into a depression, and told family and friends that he was thinking about killing himself.
He once again turned to his mother, who took a “tough love” approach.
“It got to the point where she said, ‘You need to stop. You took your time to grieve but now it’s time to move on,’” Montoya says. “She said, ‘If you keep digging into this you are probably going to end up homeless or somewhere else on your own where you don’t want to be.’”
Battling depression over a span of eight years has given Montoya a new outlook.
“Talk to people, walk places and don’t be in the house all the time,” Montoya says. “Be with friends, hang out. If you have a job, work. Do something with yourself and go have a good time.”