It's Okay To Not Be Okay
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Politics and Activism

It's Okay To Not Be Okay

Accept how you feel and move forward.

It's Okay To Not Be Okay
Kelly Miler

“College is the best four years of your life!” 

“You’re in your glory days.” 

“Wait until you see how difficult it is in the real world.” 

These are just some of the ways that college is described: as this glorious utopia of higher education and knowledge, mixed with little responsibility and a lot of fun. The archetypal college student has the unique opportunity of existing in a world of suspended reality, where freedom of choice meets regulated educational structure — and sometimes, parental financial support.    

Nostalgia-ridden adults look back on college with grass-is-always-greener mentality, while high school students anticipate it as a mecca of partying and unsupervised excitement, where every night is a sleepover with your best friends. All of these ideologies put pressure on the college student to love college wholeheartedly, or at least act like it. 

In today’s social media culture, it can often feel like a competition for who has the best life; no one is posting Instagrams of their lowest test grade or tweeting about how alone they feel. 

In light of approaching final exams mixed with the numerous tragic events that occurred this semester, I’m here to say: it’s okay to not be okay.          

Rather than cite statistics on the topic of student mental health and wellbeing, I thought I’d share a personal anecdote of a time when I wasn’t okay. 

Around two weeks ago, I was lying in bed at my sorority house, trying and failing to fall asleep. My mind was producing a million thoughts per minute and none of them were pretty. Against my will, every negative concept was running through my brain: I thought about my past mistakes, my slipping grades, my unstable future, and, on a broader level, everything that seemed to be going wrong in our school and the world.

To distract my brain, which felt like a train running wildly off of its tracks, I tried to watch New Girl, but that somehow made me feel worse. I felt displaced from my body and completely confused. It was well beyond my normal symptoms of insomnia. I was terrified. 

Finally, around 5:30 a.m., I heard my roommate move in her bed, and I could tell she was awake. Five minutes later, we were both sitting on my bed, talking about everything and nothing, and the world didn’t seem so bleak anymore. My life didn’t seem like a ticking time bomb. I felt normal — or, at least normal enough to fall asleep. I admitted I wasn’t okay, and that release in and of itself was therapeutic.     

The point is that college doesn’t have to be a competition of who has the most fun and gets the best grades. “Work hard, play hard” was supposed to be a clever ditty about University of Virginia’s balanced attitudes towards school and life — not a requirement. You’re allowed to feel alone, scared, angry, displaced, out of control, depressed, anxious, uncomfortable, weird, confused, misunderstood, or any other vein of negative emotion. The important part is the destigmatization of these feelings, and admitting them.  

I’m lucky. Not everyone has a roommate they can wake up in the early dawn to talk about their problems. If every student could establish a trustworthy confidant — whether it be a fellow student, a friend from elsewhere, a relative, or professional — maybe our “community of trust” could learn to legitimately trust one another. Hiding feelings to avoid judgment, pity, or ridicule only leads to internalized pain and hatred.

Look. Admitting you feel miserable doesn’t mean you hate college or are doing college “wrong.” Seeking professional help through CAPS or an outside therapeutic service does not mean you are “crazy.” These are antiquated constructs that we, as a community, can tear down. Sometimes you feel most alone when you’re surrounded by others, and that doesn’t mean you’ve gone insane.           

This semester has been even more of an emotional roller coaster than most. We don’t have to smile and pretend it is all okay all the time. If getting dressed up nice and going out makes you feel better, then by all means, go for it. If you need time to sit in your sweatpants and watch movies alone, that’s valid too. 

Coping is never easy or straightforward; but I’m just here to say that needing to cope doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. Our hearts may break, but they are mendable. In the words of Bern William, “Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” 

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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