Depression poses unique challenges for student

By TIM STOVER/Montana State News

Sadness feels like having a big black dog with you at all times. It’s overwhelming and hard to escape. According to Suzanne Johnson, a student at Montana State University, that’s what depression feels like. She used the World Health Organization’s YouTube video entitled “I had a black dog, his name was depression,” to describe sadness – a   clinical sadness. When asked what happiness felt like, she didn’t have an answer, at least for a couple hours.

We spoke on campus in the sub while having a bite to eat. Johnson wore jeans and a gray sweatshirt paired with Princess Leia like buns in her hair. She seemed happy.

The question she had the hardest time answering, “What is happiness,” took her a few hours to provide a response to. In the end, she concluded on “Happiness is like all of space rushing into you and filling you up. You feel complete.”

Johnson said she didn’t make friends easily, but they kept popping up in our conversation. Like so many, her parents are divorced and were unhappy together, though Johnson doesn’t seem to be affected by it. The way she talks about her friends, with such fondness, reveals her love for those that are close to her now.

She has one specific friend who “also likes to not do stuff and just stay at home.” Johnson feels lucky that her friend’s husband is fairly introverted as well. They enjoy not doing anything together or doing things just from the comfort of home.

Regardless of our conversation and where it went, Johnson continued to mention friendship. Although a self-proclaimed “introvert” who likes to stay inside, she always seemed to mention a friend she is either studying with or enjoying the many excellent restaurants in Bozeman with.

As an introvert, Johnson mentioned her love for the written word.  As she is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, with a plethora of minors, she has taken multiple creative writing classes. They stem from her love of reading, “literally anything” but a special love for fantasy and Ken Scholes, particularly the book “Last Flight of the Goddess” which creeps into her studies on occasion.

Johnson’s love for the book “Last Flight of the Goddess” originates from what the book solely is, a love letter to Scholes’ wife. Johnson believes this book influences her writing the most. You can see some of the depression and hardship Johnson has faced in her life through her writing. Pain always comes across.

Scholes wasn’t her first love in the realm of authors, it all started with Steven Erikson, until she met him in person. Upon meeting Erikson at a writing conference and hearing him speak, Johnson decided that although she loved his books, the lack of personality she found in him resulted in a dislike towards him.

Regardless of what she’s feeling, Johnson has always found a solace in robots, everything came back to them. Robots seemed to have stemmed from a love of Japanese culture within the media imported from the country. One day, Johnson dreams to build robots, “Also, maybe go to space.”

As this dream intensifies, Johnson has decided that she wants to build robots that go into space and accompany them on those journeys. As she did not have specifics on how this dream could happen, Johnson has this set as a goal for herself. This is just one of her many goals in life.

Johnson’s passion for creating in-home service robots to assist the elderly in living longer alone before going into nursing homes is next on her list of goals. She hopes to have in home service robots for not just the elderly, for everyone. First it’s on to NASA to build space robots, then to build robots for the common home and the elderly.

Elderly became an ongoing trend as we talked. In the future, Johnson wants to achieve her goals and earn money from building and designing robots. With this money, she wants to purchase her grandparents homes and to take care of them. Johnson never once mentioned what she wanted to do with money for herself.

Control. Johnson finds comfort and control in the form of horror movies. In this admiration of horror movies, she “likes being scared but being able to turn it off.” Though Johnson has to enjoy horror movies alone, nevertheless, she still appreciates what they have to offer. This activity is a shade different from normal and joyful events with her friends.

Besides her friends, she has found a partner in life. Johnson has a steady boyfriend who she has been with for a few months past two years. When asked how it happened, “it just kind of became a relationship.” She said the two started as friends and then just developed into more some time later on. They dated for around nine months in high school and found each other a few years later, now in college.

She mentioned she was the pursuer of the relationship on both occasions. According to her blog, the two of them “… rarely have full fledged date nights anymore because we are both so busy with class and our regular lives that we usually just have dinner in the dining hall together and that’s that.”

Johnson’s aunt said that she was always “…always a sweet child that it comes as no surprise that she’s growing up so nicely.”

As an introvert “you have to make stuff happen.” And so she did. Despite having her big black dog with her at all times, she seems happy.

– edited by Michelle Burger

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