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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: My Journey With Mental Health

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hawaii chapter.

This article is not meant to provide mental health advice in lieu of a licensed professional. Please seek the help of a licensed therapist for mental health concerns. In times of crisis please call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Prevention Hotline at 988

Mental health has become a bit of a hot-button topic. Although we have become more comfortable speaking about mental health awareness, there is still a stigma around suffering from mental illness. Struggles may be invalidated by lovely, stunningly unpoetic lines such as  “you just need to exercise more” or “suck it up”. Alternatively, the mental health recovery journey is overtly romanticized and painted as a rosy process with zero setbacks. I’m here to call bullshit on that and discuss a more realistic journey: my own. 

When you first see a therapist, they always ask (if you’re suffering from mental health concerns as opposed to a general maintenance appointment) when your symptoms first started. In my case, I had experienced depression and anxiety since my early teens, but had generally been high functioning. I ignored my symptoms until they eventually compounded into a horrific depressive episode during the spring of my freshman year. My grades took a nosedive that semester, and I was practically nonfunctional. I couldn’t sleep well and pulled regular all-nighters. My bed was where I stayed most days. I had little or no motivation to do anything. I was saved by my parents realizing how badly I was doing when they went to help me move out of the dorms. 

The beginning of my recovery process took the whole summer. I went into cognitive behavioral therapy and ended up trying a few different medications before I found one that worked for me. I learned new strategies to combat my anxiety, such as how to give myself the freedom to feel my emotions and properly manage them. I created to do lists in order to get my life back on track and manage daily tasks. 

I’ve taken a fantastic upturn since then. I made new friends in the fall semester and found an incredibly exciting new niche to study (and pursue a career in). I got a new job working for fantastic people who were accommodating of my school hours. I came out to my parents, choosing not to anticipate the worst, and received a surprising amount of support! This semester, I’ve enrolled in multiple extracurriculars and am now a candidate for a few different opportunities that will help boost my career and graduate school opportunities. I reframed my relationship with exercise, learning how to enjoy getting myself moving instead of viewing it as a punishment for my body. I started eating healthier foods, and got myself on the process of weaning off my antidepressants. 

However, it’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows on the other side of recovery. I still doubt myself constantly. I feel stressed out with my packed schedule. I sometimes worry whether I’m smart enough to navigate academia. My love life is almost as messy as Meredith Grey’s. I have learned to take a step back to take care of myself and effectively pull myself together. I listen to Stevie Nicks and ABBA to push myself through the bad days. Sometimes my negative thoughts are ghostly, haunting me during ungodly hours. But: my setbacks do not define me. When I stumble on my path to mental health recovery, it no longer feels earth-shattering. It’s definitely a hard to swallow piece of advice (and may feel untrue in your current situation), but I can tell you this: You’ve gotten this far, so you can get through this. You are stronger than you will ever know. 

Ava Dalton

Hawaii '25

“I am tough, but I’m no cookie” -Lana Winters (American Horror Story:Asylum) Ava is a Psychology major at UH Manoa. When she’s not writing or working on her upcoming novel, she’s listening to Fleetwood Mac (proud Stevie Nicks stan), reading new books, or rewatching her favorite shows for the millionth time