Sierra Levin: More Than Sadness

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Photography and Text by Sierra Levin


Meet Graham. Graham was your average college student. He went to class, he had a job, and his relationship was better than ever. Life seemed great and from the outside no one would have suspected anything was wrong. On the inside, Graham was suffocating.

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Graham suffered from Major Depressive Disorder. Major Depressive Disorder (noun) : “a mood disorder having a clinical course involving one or more episodes of serious psychological depression lasting two or more weeks each … and are characterized by a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities … difficulties in thinking or making decisions, loss of self-esteem or feelings of guilt, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.” (Merriam Webster)

Some days were better than others and Graham had not self-harmed, thought about killing himself or abused drugs or alcohol in a long time. His girlfriend Sara was his support system. She meant everything to him and she frequently texted him reassuring messages to help keep his spirits high. He thought like he was the luckiest man on Earth to be dating a girl like Sara. Graham felt strongly that life would be pointless without her.

Then one day, everything changed when out of nowhere Sara told Graham that she could no longer be with him. His unstable mental health was simply too much for her to handle. She felt as though she was more his therapist than his girlfriend, and she had found someone else. In addition, Graham found out that Sara had been cheating on him. How could this happen? How could something he thought was so amazing go so wrong? He was more than heartbroken – he was completely shattered.

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Graham’s life had continued to spiral downward faster than he could handle. His symptoms were at their worst and he was struggling severely. He started failing his classes. He couldn’t focus, he had no appetite, and he had no energy to even get himself out of bed anymore. His friends were uneducated about the relentlessness of depression, and thought he would be able to pull himself together eventually, just like they did when they were upset. They were wrong. Not because Graham wasn’t strong enough, but because depression is more than just sadness. Graham’s depression was eating away at his spirit. The days dragged on and turned into weeks that felt like months. Graham’s medications seemed to taunt him with their symptom-relieving abilities. He felt like a burden to his parents with his mental illness and medical bills. Graham had no will to live anymore. His existence seemed meaningless.

“What is the point of living? I’m better off dead.”


This story and the characters portrayed are both completely fictional. If, however, you feel connected to this story and have been experiencing similar symptoms, please reach out and get help. You are not alone. You can reach the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UPenn by calling (215) 898-7021. If you or anyone you know is expressing suicidal thoughts, or need guidance for either yourself or someone you know, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255, or the Penn Student run hotline (RAP line) at 215-573-2727.

Want to know more? CAPS at UPenn offers a variety of workshops on how to manage stress, detect and help other students in distress, as well as suicide prevention, crisis intervention and more. You can also become certified in Mental Health First Aid with the Healthy Minds Philly free training. Be a friend, get educated, and save a life.



Photography and Text by Sierra Levin, Copyright 2015.


About The Author: Sierra Levin is a senior enrolled in the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2016.

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