People now, more than ever, have been diagnosed with mental health conditions. But even those who are not diagnosed with any particular issue can still exhibit symptoms. In our daily lives, situations present themselves that cause different stress levels in our body. In college alone, there’s a variety of potential stress areas: academics, social relationships, extracurricular clubs, family… and they all contribute to one’s mental state.
Despite this, people seem to think that the general college student must be having the time of their lives all the time. That’s unrealistic and impossible. College has many challenges and they will mentally drain you and emotionally exhaust you. Therefore, it’s perfectly OK not to have a good day all the time. It’s fine. It’s normal. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. Everyone goes through high and lows and not all times can be absolutely perfect. So don’t push your feelings back, but rather experience them.
Going through a particular rough semester is a common situation. It gets to a point that you're not capable of balancing everything on your own. You might be feeling overwhelmed. You might be feeling anxious. You might be feeling intimidated. You don’t know what to do.
In those moments, it’s scary to reach out, to admit that you’re not feeling very good, that something feels off and wrong, and that maybe you’re not sure why you are feeling that particular way. But reaching out is the first step and also the bravest, to help yourself.
Most campuses offer some type of support service for these situations. Don’t be afraid to reach out and use them. Depending on your particular circumstances, they might not be qualified enough to offer you 100% the support you need, but if, and only if, they are able to help to a certain extent, that will make it all worth it.
Last semester, I was having a rough time with balancing college life. Prioritizing between academics, sports, relationships, extracurricular clubs….it all just became too much. I had days I didn’t want to do anything at all. I was at my limit. Then, emails about a stress management clinic on campus reached me. I considered it. I had never gone to therapy before.
Finally, in one of my lowest days, where my emotions were a roller-coaster and I was in a weird state between crying and trying to stop crying, I emailed them to set up an appointment. I started the very next week. Soon, once a week, I was going through sessions, and they helped me identify my situation. I understood when I had changed, what that change had done to me and how to change my perception where I wanted it to be with exercises and strategies. While I had somehow had become dependent on people’s opinion, now I had realized that was not me.
My counselor helped me balance myself again. I took control of things and stopped feeling at the mercy of the outside world. In about a month and a half, when the program ended, I realized I was happy I decided to go. I was feeling great about life again.
I was hesitant about sharing I was attending these sessions at the time. I didn’t know how my family would take it. I was unsure about how people would start to look at me. I was anxious about looking different in my friends’ eyes. And yet, even as all these thoughts passed through me, I decided to take things head on and be open about it.I shared with three close friends, received encouragement, yet underlying their positive sounding comments, “Wow, you’re so brave, I don’t know if I could do it,” lay the same doubts that I had before telling them. It served as encouragement for them to seek help too. I’m glad I was able to give them the little push they needed by sharing.
Most times, when we think we’re all alone, we tend to be surrounded by people who think the same as us and that are just as afraid as we are to show it. Having the courage to voice those feelings aloud for the first time might be the solution to find a tighter support group than what you ever expected to have.
But there are also going to be things that suck. After all, some people still have stigmas and make assumptions about going to therapy and seeking counseling. I had to have a conversation with a person who I had identified in my sessions as one of the sources of negative energy in my life and who I was bound to be around for significant amounts of times. I did not really want to share about myself with that person in particular because of their personality. Yet, some issues had to be discussed and as I explained the situation and the reason why I had decided to seek counseling, this person interrupted me and declared confidently, “Oh, so you’re depressed.”
I was not diagnosed with anything in particular, other than high stress levels, during my sessions. If my situation leaned towards being a mental health issue though, I was told I would be notified and gone through a different counseling process than the one I did go through.
Still, her response made me angry. No one had the right to tell me what I was or wasn’t feeling, nor had that person the qualifications to diagnose me. By that point, I was tired of having to deal with putting up with people’s assumptions and expectations about me. Yet, to avoid further trouble and confrontations, I shrugged it off and ignored what was said. In my mind, it wasn’t worth the trouble to explain to someone with that particular personality why they were mistaken.
People are going to see what they want to see, think what they want to think, and judge, no matter what. But, how I feel about myself, that’s a matter that is entirely up to me and no one else.