These last few days, my mental health has not been the greatest. I've been crying on and off, my head is a jumble of emotions, and I'm not present in the moment when interacting with friends or even dancing. I have no energy, and no motivation (more so than usual at this point in the semester). My friends asked me what was wrong, but it's hard for me to convey into words what I was feeling.

I'm the friend who checks in on everyone, I'm the friend who cheers you up when you're sad.

But for a long time, no one ever checked in on me. I got really good at faking smiles, and smiling through my tears, saying "I'm fine guys, I'll be fine." And left it at that.

I was taught to be strong, I was raised by a redneck dad and an old school sophisticated mama. My mama showed her emotions all the time, but I learned from my dad — I never showed my emotions when I was upset. I kept them down because other people were breaking down and I had to be the strong one. I've only seen my dad cry maybe a total of five times in my 21 years on this earth. The most recent being when we lost his mom, my granny, in 2016, I got home from school, I cried the whole way home, but the minute I got home and saw dad crying. I shoved my feelings down and put on a brave face for my family. Even when I was little, when I cried, I tried to calm myself down quickly.

I hated and still hate crying in front of other people, that vulnerability is something I've never been comfortable with.

When I graduated high school not showing what I was feeling became worse, especially when I started college and began a new relationship.

College is stressful, everyone can agree with that, you're adjusting to living on your own for the first time, meeting new people, etc. Or if you are like me, you went to community college first to adjust to everything that comes with college. The workload was definitely different, it was heavier, more in-depth with thinking about a problem or a text you have read. For me, it was math and science that was my Achilles heel, I had no problem with my history or English classes but I couldn't focus when it came to numbers, and things such as biology. I struggled, I failed math three times, took it over the summer and finally made it up, same with biology. It wasn't pretty, and I thought about quitting a lot. I made it through, and I was really proud of myself, but there was still something eating away at me during that time.

My previous relationship did not have the best environment for mental health stability. For a while everything was fine, but after a few months, all his problems became my problems. Not our problems, but just my problems, and it overwhelmed me. I put on a smile though, my smile, and my happy attitude was my armor against people asking me if everything was alright in our relationship. Even now, nine months later, I still struggle to open up to my friends about how I'm feeling. It became a reflex to keep my own problems to myself so that I could focus on him and help him solve his own problems.

I keep a smile on my face and an upbeat personality to keep others from questioning if I'm OK.

I tell them "no I'm OK, how are you though? Everything going OK?" maybe it's a defense mechanism, wanting to worry about other people rather than worry about myself. Not facing my own internal problems is a big part of why vulnerability scares me — I'd rather put on a brave front than deal with my own inner turmoil. I stress out ninety percent of the time, and always manage to get things done, I tell my friends "I'll be fine, I just have to be dramatic first," which is true. But lately, I've had more trouble getting myself out of those dark spaces on my own.

I stay up so late wondering, and worrying about my future, my present, and my past, things that I can't even change. I couldn't tell you when the last time I got a full eight hours of sleep was, just this week I didn't even have the motivation to get up and go to my classes. I enjoy my classes, I love seeing my friends, discussing things in class, but lately, it feels like a chore. Briefly, even dancing seemed like a chore, my motivation was shot, but those people and that music started to help my headspace the minute I walked into the studio. I have my bad days, but always, always check on your friends who are always smiling. We struggle too, uplifting others is what helps us, but sometimes we need that extra reassurance that it's OK for us to break down every once and awhile.

I'm a lucky girl to have such amazing people in my life (y'all know who you are), here's the future, may it be filled with love, life, and possibilities.