I think something a lot of people don’t talk about in college is mental illness. The struggles of balancing all the things you need to get done in such a short amount of time, trying to figure out a social life along with a job or class or whatever matters to you. Everybody struggles but no one says anything.
But here I am to tell you that I am struggling.
When it comes to my mental health up to this point, I’d always viewed it as black and white.
The first 2 ½ years of high school were the worst of my life. I didn’t know why, but every day I was sad. I woke up sad, I went to school sad and ended the day crying in bed because I knew it was all going to start over again. I would get panic attacks about the smallest and stupidest things and all I could ever think about was how pointless life was and how nothing made me happy.
I never went to school, always trying to call in sick or make excuses. If I was forced to go to school though, I would show up late as often as possible. I was tardy 48 times over the course of my first semester sophomore year and absent 29 times, which is extremely aggressive.
I had severe depression and was a completely different person than the one the people in my life know now. It got so bad that my parents eventually sent me to a therapist because they were worried what was going to happen if nothing happened.
Though I dreaded my biweekly appointments, thinking it was such bullshit, what would you know? I got better. I don’t even remember what I talked to that lady about for a year straight but it changed something inside me and I suddenly felt cured.
I went from the worst days of my life to some of my best and it sounds stupid, but I thought depression and anxiety would never be able to touch me again. I’d done my time, I’d managed to grow as a person through my struggles and now I was free.
But lately, I’ve been noticing this weight that has been slowly crushing me ever since sophomore year started. Some days I’ll wake up and not feel like myself at all. Thinking of going to class gives me stress so then I decide not to go to class which in turn, gives me more stress and then the vicious cycle continues. And the saddest part of all? Things that used to make me so happy are starting to feel like nothing anymore.
I was planning on studying abroad and now the thought of that barely sparks an ounce of excitement inside of me. That breaks my heart.
I didn’t even really notice any of this was happening until I suddenly had a panic attack at work the other day, when I started thinking about the fact that I’m wasting my life in classes I hate, trying to balance a job, homework, going out and having fun with friends and dealing with the ever looming fact that I somehow have lost all the motivation that I ever had. I’m too easy on myself. So easy that it gets to the point of not even caring about my future.
I lost my motivation for myself and I’m not quite sure how to get it back.
But between my high school and college self though, there is a distinct difference. The difference between what is going on in my life now compared to my high school years is that I’m finally asking for help.
Begrudgingly of course, but ya know.
I never really like to talk about when I struggle mentally. I don’t like feeling weak and I don’t like putting myself in vulnerable positions. That’s why it took me almost three years until I got help the first time around. Strength means everything to me and when I feel like its slipping, I break down even more.
But when I was walking home from work the other day, bawling my eyes out about how much stuff I had to get done and how my future is probably going to end up with me living on the streets, I decided to tell someone how I was feeling.
Part of me wanted to keep moping by myself for the entire day, while the other part of me knew that wasn’t the healthiest option.
So my best friend picked me up from the side of the road, told me we could go anywhere I wanted, then ended up driving us an hour to Indianapolis just to go eat at Skyline Chili. It was a small gesture but it meant the world to me.
I often find that when I don’t want to be around people, that’s when I need them the most.
Another best friend of mine mentioned something I thought was really important too. She took me on a drive because drives have always made me really happy. She had been struggling lately with anxiety too and she told me that even though it can be hard to find happiness in the things you used to love, you can’t stop trying.
Some days the only motivation I feel is to lay in bed and do nothing because I am so stressed by all the deadlines and things I’m juggling at one time. But I can’t do that. It’s important to remember to keep doing the things that make me happy. I need to keep taking long drives with the windows down and music blasted; I need to keep going to the cutouts at Lake Monroe and exploring random parts of Bloomington; I need to keep writing and reading and hanging out with people who make me happiest. You can’t give up on yourself, even though it is a lot easier to succumb to your sadness.
College is freaking hard. It’s fun and I’m thankful for everything it has brought me, but it’s hard.
I thought my life was falling apart before my eyes. But it’s not. Everyone has bad days, everyone has roadblocks they have to overcome. Life isn’t black and white.
But just because you’re sad, doesn’t mean you can’t be happy again. I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves to be happy and that everyone can be happy if you just look in the right place. I don’t care who you are or how you’ve treated me, life isn’t easy for everyone. Despite what type of person you are, in my opinion, no one deserves to be unhappy forever.
So I’ll end with the fact that as I am writing this right now, I feel perfectly fine. I’m happy with my day so far, I’ve gone to all my classes and my roommates took me to my favorite coffee shop in order to get all my homework done. But I know in the future, there will probably come another day where I feel sad and stressed and overwhelmed. It might not be any time soon, but it’s inevitable.
Despite knowing this, I still feel thankful. I’m thankful I have people in my life who are willing to help me on my off days; thankful for people who are willing to motivate me when I can’t motivate myself. Asking for help when it comes to mental illness will probably always make me uncomfortable, that’s just the type of person I am. But pushing through the discomfort and consistently reminding myself that getting help and opening up doesn’t make you weak, always leads to a better outcome than if I were to take on all my struggles by myself.