From Distance to Perseverance

May 8th, 2019

After the depression started when he was young, Vidal learned to push down and ignore his feelings by focusing on others. Today, he’s able to process emotions and hopes that his experiences will be an encouragement to others.

NAME — Vidal Odigie

AGE — 23

OCCUPATION — Civil Engineer

HOMETOWN — Memphis, TN

FUN FACT — Vidal is really big into anime

How would you define yourself?

“I’m an outgoing introvert. I’m personable and good with talking to people but at the same time would also rather be a recluse and do my own thing. It’s a weird paradox.”

What is your experience with mental illness?

“It probably all started when I was a teen, but I didn’t realize it then. My parents were talking about divorce. I was always making sure my sister was okay through that whole process so I didn’t really focus on myself. My coping mechanism was doing things for other people so that I wouldn’t have to process what was happening.

I was in a year-long relationship, and we grew apart with the distance of college. That’s when my depression became more rampant. It was more of a seasonal struggle at that point. Instead of doing anything about it, I just wallowed in it for most of 2014 and 2015.

I finally decided to go to counseling my senior year of college, which was completely mind-opening and changing. I ended up terminating my sessions later but made a promise to my counselor that I’d check in on myself through some form of weekly self-care — mainly art and music. I haven’t been the best at doing it weekly, but I definitely do it on a monthly basis.”

Have you ever gone to counseling? If so, what was your experience like and what would you tell others about counseling?

“I had 2 counseling sessions when I was 7. I was told that I was fine because the bullying I experienced was just ‘kids being kids.’ More recently, though, counseling was an odd experience because I had just come out of my seasonal depression. When I started, I was feeling really good and didn’t open up for the first 8 weeks. Now, I’m very open about mental health and my past experiences since I’ve detached myself from them.

Counseling works differently at different times for different people. Many go into it expecting immediate results. I didn’t have my first serious session until about 10 weeks in. The important thing is to keep talking and talking and talking. Through that, you’ll begin to handle things differently after talking through them.

If you’ve had a bad experience with a counseling, don’t let fear be the end of it and keep you from going back. In counseling, you often times try to solve a problem and then realize you have more issues to work through. This past winter was the first time I didn’t feel depression for weeks at a time after working through a bunch of it and taking those baby steps with my counselor. It’s helpful to understand the signs of depression. For me, it was lack of sleep, self-deprecating humor, feeling ‘out of it’ or distant, and simply just feeling mentally exhausted all the time.”

Why are you passionate about mental health awareness?

“Besides my own struggles with mental health, I’ve seen a lot of others around me deal with it. My friend once thought it was an insult that I thought she should go to counseling. I want people to be aware that mental health is something that needs to be addressed. There’s no shame. Even if you’re older, it’s helpful to identify what’s going on. You shouldn’t cower and say ‘that’s just how it is.’ So many people live with it yet don’t do anything about it. Others don’t know what they’re going through until they go to counseling.”

Even though you struggle with mental illness, that doesn't define you. What would you want others to know about yourself?

“I tend to give off a very hard exterior, but I genuinely am the softest person. I love hard and I love big. I may not always show it, but I truly do care. I’m really just a big softie.”

Would you say your experience with mental illness as a male is different than that of others?

“It’s strange since we’re in a cultural transition of men being viewed as lower, like they’re trash. I like to think that if I can identify my own personal problems, then I can be an example for other males. You’re not alone. Guys just want to say that things are fine and that they’ll ‘get over it.’

My mom always affirmed that it was okay to be open and have feelings. My dad is from Africa, though, and grew up in a culture that told him being a man meant to stand up and be bold. He felt the pressure growing up to feel that way and not express emotions. But he’s always advocated for being aware of what we’re feeling and not being stuck up about it.”

What do you want to change about mental health and awareness of it?

“I want mental health to be brought up early, especially in teenage years and developmental years because that’s where habits and ideas sink in. Attack that earlier on and acknowledge what you’re feeling. Talk with family and/or a counselor. You don’t need to hide those things. Be open.”

What do you want others to know about mental illness?

“Acknowledging that you have an issue or problem is okay. People don’t usually want to, but don’t simply say ‘it is what it is.’ Address it and then do something. Don’t just accept it.”

My name is Vidal, and I am not defined by my struggle with mental health.

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Over 17 millions adults experience depressive episodes, with 64% of them also encountering serious impairments with depression.

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