I don’t know about you, but this semester has felt more emotionally straining than any other. Granted, the combination of having been in a pandemic for the past year and a half and now transitioning from online learning back to in-person education is stressful in itself. I’ve had so much more weight on me this semester; I co-lead the HCCLU writing and editing team, work part-time, and commute for my classes, all while trying to take care of myself and the people around me. As stressful as it can be to manage, that means I have everything I could want: I’m invited to read poetry throughout the county, involved on campus, surrounded by caring friends and family, and happily dating my best friend. My mental health should be thriving…right?
The truth is, it’s impossible to be happy or even mentally/emotionally stable all of the time. It’s important to be emotionally aware of ourselves and realize that moments of unhappiness, stress, and even anger are all part of human nature. I’ve personally been plagued a lot lately by imposter syndrome, which for me comes with self-doubt and questions like, “Do I deserve my accomplishments/happiness?”
Besides that, I’ve experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety since the semester started. Sometimes my heart would race for no reason and I couldn’t breathe as easily. Sometimes I’d fall into a self-deprecating spiral that made me cry or kept me in bed for over an hour at a time. Sometimes I’d struggle to sleep and only get an average of 5 hours of sleep, which made me feel lethargic days at a time. Sometimes I’d even find it hard to enjoy all the things I missed or wished for during the pandemic.
All of these things led me to seek out therapy, which I always knew was a beneficial service despite the stigma around it. The thing is, though, I’d never felt confident enough to actually do therapy, not even in high school when my mental health was at its worst. Back then, it was so bad that I felt disconnected from myself, from dropping all of my previous interests like playing guitar and writing stories to wondering what the point of life was. It felt near impossible to talk about my mental health, let alone ask my parents to help me find a therapist. This time around, though, I took the initiative and made a therapy appointment so I could finally talk about the mental and emotional strain I had – both past and present.
Now, I’m only about two months into therapy, but it’s definitely made me more aware of my negative thoughts and patterns. Without going too deep into detail, I’ve kinda been in denial about the actual stress I’m under, to the point that I sometimes displace in the form of irritability and distance with the people I care about. It’s also really easy for me to perpetuate my self-deprecating spiral, so my therapist suggested a few daily exercises to promote more self-love and positivity.
They may sound so simple and they won’t immediately improve my mental health as healing is always a long (but worthwhile) process, but they’ve made a huge difference. Reciting positive affirmations, for example, sets a positive foundation for my day. Although I’m still working on not giving into my negative thoughts, anytime they arise, one of my favorite phrases to snap me back to reality is “It’s time to concentrate on my happiness.” I also made it a habit to write what I’m looking forward to every day, even if it’s just driving to my favorite album or hanging out with friends. Of course, I still struggle, but therapy has helped me make more progress than I could probably make on my own. I already feel more energetic, positive, and hopeful in the span of two months. Imagine how much more progress can be made with more time!
Mental health can be a sensitive and difficult topic, but there’s always room for growth, no matter what you’ve felt or experienced. We’re really fortunate to have counseling and psychological services on campus; it’s so hard to find outside mental health services, both for money and accessibility reasons. Especially with the holiday season coming, there are so many different reasons someone might want to have therapy sessions. It’s a great way to talk about your issues, as small or big as they may seem, and to learn new ways to cope with and grow from struggle. I would definitely recommend you take advantage of counseling services if you’re a student at Cal Lu or any other school that offers it.