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Story Time: Freshman Year Blues & Love

There wasn’t a single person I knew the first day of college. No one from my high school or town had enrolled at Michigan State and, like most incoming freshmen, I was both fearful and excited as to what this new chapter in life could mean for me. Initially, there was this feeling of freedom that came along with being a stranger to everyone. Not one person had the slightest inclination into the details of my life, nor I of theirs. There was this sense of opportunity, to grow off the newness that college presented to me— the people, the living environment, the classes, the material being taught. I always had passionate opinions on most things political, on all things women empowerment, and I felt then, what I still feel now— that I want to make positive change in the world. So, wide-eyed and hopeful, I chose a field of study that I thought best fit this mold and off I went. As classes commenced and new faces emerged, so did this pressure to communicate and really convince people of the desires within me. I was fearful that others wouldn’t get to know my heart and instead judge me based on my appearance or who they thought I might be.

My class discussions required a certain level of political correctness and awareness, as they should, since we were talking about social issues that had, and still have, disproportionate effects on marginalized groups of people. The material was stimulating for me and it challenged the way I internalized my place in society, and yet, because of its clout, I found myself so in my head about voicing my thoughts and revelations on the material at hand. I felt as if I wasn’t as smart as some of the other kids around me, and that if I talked my social anxiety about public speaking would show through in my cracked voice or in the rosiness of my cheeks. My point is that college, or really any initial life transition can be, and in my case was, really overwhelming — even if you don’t realize the weight of it right away. For me, I began feeling these “first year blues” second semester.

As I returned back to school after Christmas break school and life began to hit me like a freight train, it began to show through in most areas of my life. I got mono, I injured my knee running, I had an ear infection that just would not go away, but mostly I was having a hard time making friends and romantic connections with men. This left me feeling hollow: the weight of rejection and my own perception of having to convince others that I was worthy to befriend or pursue was just damn tiring and left me experiencing a level of depression I hadn’t ever before. I was vulnerable and I just lost all will to care about most things— my grades began to suffer, which just made me dislike myself even more than I did, and the way I identified with myself just increasingly changed more for the negative. The effort and attitude I gave out into the world really set me up to fail, and the hardest part was that I was fully aware of my fall. I would sit in my dorm room and tell myself that I needed to make positive changes in my life and put myself out there more if I wanted to start to feel better. But honestly, the thing is, with depression it doesn’t always matter how aware you are of your feelings—sometimes you’re just too tired to do anything about it. The relationships that I did form that semester, both platonic and romantic, reflected my state. Because I was desperate to feel good again, I began to affiliate myself with a person who was endearing in moments, but overall, did not bring me up in a positive way. The momentary highs and the low lows of the relationship left me focusing on something other than myself. The state of the relationship was never stable so it redirected my energy into making the connection work, even though it wasn’t healthy or good — or even really fun. What I needed to realize that I had not yet learned, but would (oh boy would I) was that the people you surround yourself with is a direct reflection of how you’re feeling as a person — not who you are. I felt a sort of internal chaos, so I was drawn towards chaos subconsciously. I was searching outward for affirmation which only ever left me feeling disappointed. In reality, the only person who can give you validation is yourself.  

What I needed was to go see a therapist and to surround myself with family and friends who already loved and celebrated me. However, it’s not always that simple — I also needed to discover an outlet, my outlet. This is very important while battling internal demons. Finding activities that brought a smile to my face and made me feel like I had a sense of purpose was essential to my ability to bounce back. For me, that was running, yoga and focusing on my spirituality.  

Reflecting back now, I know that it’s OK to not judge myself for that time period of my life, and that it’s also okay to be brazen in my decisions—even the ones that didn’t work out super well for me, because I learned and grew from the heartache and from the dark state I was in. Everyone wants to feel accepted and content in their life, and as a result we can sometimes find ourselves on a pathway that is inadvertently attempting to fit the wrong types of people into spaces they are just incapable of filling. Be patient and kind to yourself. If you’re struggling, then go get help to find that self-love that is so necessary in order to have a fulfilling life journey. With time and work, I know I will find peace with all weights that pull me down, and so can you— for hope is limitless and abundant.

Below are some Depression Hotlines. In addition, if you are looking for an in-person therapist you can always go to the Psycology Today website and type in your location and specialize your search to what form of therapy you’re seeking.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273‑TALK (8255)

Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990

National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 1-800-656-4673

The Trevor Project (866) 488-7386

Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line, Text DBSA to 741741

National Hopeline Network, 1-800-442-4673

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline, (800) 950-NAMI (6264)

 

Erika is a junior studying international relations in James Madison College at Michigan State University. She lived overseas as a young girl, in São Paulo, Brazil, but spent most of her adolescent years in her hometown of Oswego, IL. A small Chicago suburb southwest of the city. She loves a good Ariana Grande song, hot yoga, running, and traveling as much as time allows. She hopes her articles empower others to go out and claim their own voice, as forces for positive change.
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