I never thought this would happen to myself.

Everything was triggered by a not-well-done presentation (which later I found out I got an A). I struggled, feeling hopeless, and couldn’t carry on. I went to see counselors almost two times a week. My family and my best friends came on campus; my advisor and my doctor never failed to pick up my phone calls when they were disturbed at 2:00 am.

Thanks to my friends, family, and people who cared about me, luckily, depression finally left at the end of last semester. But there are people who never get a chance to see the bright world I see now.

I feel obligated to write down something, not only as a self-reflection, but also for everyone who has suffered. I hope my advice is helpful for people who share similar experience as myself.

1. Put yourself as a priority


I know it sounds hard when you have lots of work to do. It’s unavoidable to stay up late or have a really intense schedule in this case. I had an average GPA 3.85 in my sophomore year, as a social science major. I stayed up until 3:00 am a lot to write up papers and sacrificed countless weekends for work - my only goal was to get things done. I blamed myself every time I couldn’t reach my high standard. This kind of anxiety accumulation eventually led to my mental devastation. Looking back to last year, instead of putting my own well-being as the priority, finishing work was always the No.1 task. Though I’m not encouraging people to lower down their high standards/expectations here, sometimes we just need to follow our bodies’ instructions. When you’re tired, it is ok to take a nap. During weekends, it is ok to relax for a bit (ex. going out with friends or having a movie night). Don’t be over-nervous all the time and put yourself, your physical and mental health ahead of work.

2. Counselors and medications are not everything


No doubt, counselors and medications are effective as treatments, but they’re not everything. Though counselors can give you advice, you can never rely on them to help yourself out. They can help you to feel better, but they can’t be your problem solver. You have to figure out the problems yourself and find out the solution that works best for you based on your own evaluations. Medication is the same. It can only help you relieve your symptoms of mental illness. You have to rely on yourself to find out the causes and appropriate treatments of what you are suffering.

3. When you can’t change yourself, try another environment


A lot of times, mental illness gives us a feeling of being trapped. When we can’t make changes to ourselves, an option is to have a fresh new start in another place, for example, transferring schools. The reason why this works is because an important trigger of mental illness is the environment. There might be something that you don't like about where you are right now. If that’s the case, be brave and move to somewhere else, if possible.