FALMOUTH — High school graduation can be a time of great joy for students, marking the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
But for senior Cole Walsh, it also marks the end of a debilitating period.
During his sophomore year, Walsh began to lose motivation to do school work, see friends or do anything. He lost weight, and had no appetite. His grades started to slip.
“I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t very open about it,” Walsh said. He thought it was a phase which would pass. But it didn’t pass and things got worse, Walsh said, which set off a spiral into a “very dark time.”
He would hide his feelings from his friends, and when they asked about the signs he was showing, he would find an excuse to satisfy them. He tried to deal with his emotions alone, as his self worth plummeted.
Everything culminated one night in January 2013. He came home after a trying day, and physically broke down on his living room floor.
“I remember not being able to get up and recognizing the fact that something’s wrong, something has to give, I need help,” he said. “And that’s the moment I knew that things weren’t right.”
Walsh, 18, was eventually diagnosed with depression, and began seeing a therapist and taking medication. He said he can’t point to a single event or trigger that caused his depression.
“It wasn’t an event that happened that caused it, it was more like a predisposition almost,” he said.
Walsh’s experience with depression is far from over. He said it’s something he has to deal with everyday, but it’s something he says he is better equipped to deal with today. It also inspired him to do his senior project on depression, and to tell other kids “it’s OK to not be OK.”
His presentation outlined steps for other students feeling the same way he did to seek help, including opening up to teachers and peers, and finding a safe place. Walsh said his safe place was the school theater, where he dedicated a lot of time. When he was there, he said, he could focus on putting on the show.
“It’s not that I wasn’t feeling what I was feeling, but I could deal with it because I had such a safe environment and it took finding that safe environment outside of the theater to really heal,” he said.
Walsh said his lowest low during his period of undiagnosed depression was when he did poorly on a geometry test that he knew he should have done better on. It set off a period of feeling incompetent, and ultimately concluded with his physical breakdown.
But since his diagnosis, Walsh said his greatest achievement has been getting into college, something he wasn’t sure he would be able to do because his grades had slipped.
He’ll attend Colby College in the fall, where he plans to study psychology.
“What this experience has really done for me is illustrate for me how I want to help people who are going through what I went through,” Walsh said.
Cole Walsh, 18, is a senior at Falmouth High School. He was diagnosed with depression in 2013 after trying to deal with it on his own for six months. He will attend Colby College in the fall, where he plans to study psychology.
Falmouth High School commencement is at Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St. in Portland, at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 7. There are 176 students in the Class of 2015.