Discovering The Power of Vulnerability As A College Student

Discovering The Power of Vulnerability As A College Student

Because it's impossible to selectively numb your emotions.

Before you continue reading, stop, call your university's on-campus student psychological services and book an appointment to see a therapist.

I know what you're thinking: "I don't need a therapist. I'm perfectly fine. Besides, there's no way in hell I'm going to sit in a chair and cry to a stranger for an hour while they jot down notes about my problems."

But therapy and counseling are so much more than a chance to vent to some rando with a master's degree. It's an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself, understand how you're feeling, why you feel the way you feel, cope with those emotions, and improve yourself from the inside out. I'm a testament to that.

At my university, we have CAPS, (Counseling And Psychological Services). I have been attending FGCU for three years and never once thought about visiting CAPS, until last semester. A friend who had begun going suggested it to me. She said that even if you think you're fine, you never know what emotions you're burying in your subconscious. It couldn't hurt to explore your mind a little more, you know? So one day after class when I was free I decided to stop in.

What they don't tell you about therapy is that it won't work unless you're willing to work. Your therapist doesn't have a magic wand that they wave and suddenly "fix" you and all your problems. They're simply there to listen, occasionally ask questions, and nudge you in the direction of whatever end-goal you set for yourself. It's your job to take whatever you see fit from your session and apply it to your life.

My therapist was a young woman, and very sweet. I remember my first visit being extremely awkward. I sat down in her dimly lit office on this big comfy sofa. She sat across from me and asked me one question, "What do you hope to accomplish here?"

I honestly didn't know. It wasn't like I had gone through any sort of trauma or abuse. I wasn't clinically depressed or suicidal. I wasn't an addict or hearing voices in the back of my head. I was simply a college girl who struggled with the things that most college girls did: self-esteem, stress, mild anxiety. But those weren't things I necessarily wanted to have a conversation about.

One thing that I hadn't known but quickly learned about myself is that I am really...well...cold. I can be guarded and detached and dismissive. I ball myself up really tight in an effort to protect my already damaged ego. Often times when my therapist would ask me questions about things I felt insecure about or my trust issues with men or people that have hurt me in the past I replied with laughter. Not nervous laughter. Just hysterical laughter. It was strange. But it was easier than letting it show on my face that I held a lot of pain regarding those subject matters. Whenever I felt a swell in my chest or tears burning behind my eyelids I cracked a joke or made an off-handed sarcastic comment and smiled. Finally, my therapist asked me why I kept making light of my negative experiences. I told her I wasn't sure. But she did.

I'm afraid of being vulnerable.

If you think about it, most of our generation has the same fear. We live in the age of social media and so we're completely desensitized to tons of horrible things. Not to mention that it's become cool to not care. People are constantly posting memes online about how they "DGAF" about anything or anyone. Hashtags like #NoNewFriends go viral, encouraging everyone to be just as detached from human connection.

We naturally want to block any emotion that will give more people the chance to hurt us. We sacrifice our vulnerability in hopes that we won't ever have to feel that pain again. But I realized that all that does over time is create a shell of a person, since you're not able to deprive your mind of one element without affecting the rest. You cannot be whole without allowing yourself to feel ALL of your feelings.

At the end of the last session, I had with my therapist she gave me a link to a TedTalks video to watch. The speaker was a woman named Brene Brown. She talked about how she was in a constant fist fight with her vulnerability, trying to make it go away. I subconsciously do the same thing every day. I kind of suck my shameful or fearful emotions up like a vacuum and keep them hidden. Being soft and being sensitive is lame, I remind myself. But there's nothing lame about acknowledging that you are hurting.

The most memorable thing from that TedTalks was when Brene emphasized that we can’t selectively numb our emotions. We can’t numb one emotion without stifling our joy or happiness. It was a revelation for me. It explained the reason why for a long time, and still to this day, I struggle with happiness.

We equate being emotional to being weak. We equate being vulnerable to being powerless. But there is so much power in owning your vulnerability. There is so much beauty in opening yourself up to someone completely and unapologetically. Being an expressive, emotional being isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's how you balance those emotions is what is important.

Our experiences, of course, shape our attitude about the world. But they don't have to negatively affect relationships with yourself and others in the future.

Cover Image Credit: 123rf

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

From an outside perspective, suicidal thoughts are rarely looked into deeper than the surface level. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is that people live in between those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead.

You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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