(Editor’s note: This story is the fourth part of a multi-part series “Mind Wars,” examining the struggles of the mental illness, depression, that began with Issue #7 and concludes in Issue #12. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by: NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in-Chief
Depression can be a battle that many people face alone.
It can be a battle that someone deals with at a younger age and ends up being a part of them forever.
Dakota Ewart, a Lance Corporal 0311 rifleman Marine who is currently deployed in Kuwait, says that deployment has been the recent cause of his depression since he is away from his family and loved ones.
Ewart says that he was diagnosed with depression when he was younger.
“It’s kind of hard for me to remember, obviously because I was younger,” says Ewart. “But when I talked to my mom, she used to tell me about it a lot. My parents got divorced when I was 7, and my mom also got diagnosed with cancer around the same time. So you can say it wasn’t a good time.”
Ewart recalls the time when he was younger when he had to take Strattera (a type of medication) for his ADHD which gave kids from ages 5 to 15 symptoms of depression as side effects.
“I would come home from school every day just hating life,” explains Ewart. “I wasn’t happy, and I was always angry. I wouldn’t eat, and I told my mom every day from school that I wanted to die. I don’t know if I meant it. But I voiced my opinion to my mom very frequently that I just didn’t want to be alive.”
According to Ewart, when he got older, the depression ceased because his loved ones and his friends helped him with the battle.
“Talking to my dad helps with the situation,” Ewart says. “My dad remarried, and so did my mom. My dad and my step mom had three kids together. So, they’re my half brothers, and I love those guys to death. I know the divorces are bad. But now I have three little brothers, and I’m looking on the bright side of everything that has happened. There are two ways to look at it, and I choose to look on the bright side.”
While being deployed, Ewart says that he feels the depression takes a toll sometimes. But it does not happen as frequently as when he was younger.
“There are times now that I’ve felt that I’m depressed, like I did when I was younger,” says Ewart. “But it’s not constant. I don’t take medication. But there are times that I feel depressed because I’m away from home and being away from my girlfriend. It can be something as simple as my girlfriend is at work and she can’t talk. That will ruin my day. It’s something very simple. But for me, it’s like someone telling me that my grandparents passed away. It’s just a severe overreaction, and it’s an unnecessary reaction to something simple.”
According to a 2010 U.S Department of Defense Medical Surveillance Report, more than 27 percent of deployed service members suffer from symptoms of depression.
According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), one in five military members who are currently deployed report symptoms of PTSD, major depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Ewart explains that he knows the difference between being sad and depressed, because he feels like he’s not himself.
“For me, I’m a very positive guy,” explains Ewart. “I’m always joking around, and then I’ll get bad news and I’ll be bummed. That’s the sadness. When it comes to the depression side of things, I kind of close off. I get quiet and on edge.”
Ewart continues, “I’m always upbeat. But when that depression hits, I lock up socially. I don’t want to talk, and I don’t want to talk about it, whereas if I’m sad, I’ll vent. But when I’m depressed, I lock it up and I don’t want to talk.”
Ewart says he deals with his depression caused by being away from his significant others by keeping a journal, writing down his thoughts and feelings.
“I was given a journal by my girlfriend three months into deployment, and it’s for when you can’t sleep,” explains Ewart. “I write in it usually if it’s things I don’t want to bother people with. I just want to vent to myself. So, I can look back in my notes and say, ‘This is how I felt, and this is how I got over it.’”
Ewart says that the best way for him or for anyone who is battling with depression is the care and support he gets from his loved ones.
“Talking to people that care about me is the best way for me,” explains Ewart. “There are so many positives to life. When you’re in the negative, you have to take a step back and just say this is happening, and there are a million and one things that are going on, and it could be a lot worse. It might be hard, but it’s not going to last forever.”