When Reality Sinks In

As of last week, we've been living in Paris for exactly a month! It's been a lot of fun, as you may have caught a glimpse in my previous posts. I've met so many interesting people, I've experienced so many wonderful moments, and I’ve eaten some very (very) delicious things. I love blogging about all of that (and don't worry, I will continue to do so), but this week, before I get into the fun stuff, I wanted to touch on something different: mental health. I don't normally open up so publicly, but I think this is an important thing to talk about.

As glorious and beautiful Paris is, life isn't always so perfect. On the sunniest days, you have to stay at home and do the dishes or homework. Or you eat a really overpriced crêpe (which had way too much salt, by the way). Or you're catcalled and harassed at least eight times by creepy men on your way home from a night out with friends. Or you lose your favorite scarf. Or you conveniently forget all of your French in a politics class taught only in French. Or a professor tells you that your English writing skills need to improve (??!?) and you have an existential crisis/panic attack in the middle of your 3 hour lecture which you did not do any of the reading for because you had the flu and physically could not function.

This all happened to me in the last two weeks. And they're all totally normal, day to day things that happen to everyone. But when you've been living in a state of chaos for the past month (out of routine, skipping homework, going out on school nights, eating unhealthily, skipping yoga) and you have invested zero time for yourself, everything shitty suddenly becomes amplified and your emotions go sort of haywire.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I am depressed, as if I'm truly drowning in misery and sadness and I can't seem to figure out why. I don't know where it comes from. I felt that way last Monday morning: just exhausted even after 10 hours of sleep. I felt worthless, and anxious about my classes. I had a 20 minute oral presentation (in French) due the next week which I hadn't even started, and somehow that one assignment became the literal bane of my existence. Just thinking about it gave me physical stress and I loathed myself with every fiber of my being for staying in that class. I went to the library to do research and found that all the recommended books from my professor were in French. All of the words became a blur of symbols. I realized how much time it would take me to do this project. Time I didn't have, because I had so much other stuff to do. So much stuff that had to be done that I couldn't seem to complete. Then, I panicked. (Sorry to the people who were sitting near me in the library and had to hear me hyperventilating and sniffling). I was terrified, I didn't know where any of this extreme stress was coming from.

I managed to calm down after reaching out to my brother for help. I decided to just go home and do yoga, which I hadn't done in weeks and could feel my body missing it. It felt absolutely wonderful. I could literally feel the pent up emotions escape my body with every flow and bend and twist.

I think it was in that moment that I realized how long it had been since I took out some time for myself. Not my homework, not Paris. Just for me. It felt like every time I tried to relax and be with myself I was always thinking about what else I had to get done, what else I had to experience. How dare I spend my precious time in Paris just lying in bed? Quite often we are caught in this fear of missing out, a fear of not making the most of where we are. So there's always this guilt that comes with doing absolutely nothing. And when we tire ourselves out from being so busy and giving away so much of our energy all the time, we end up feeling mentally and spiritually exhausted, as well as emotionally sensitive and unstable.

Long story short, I decided to do two things. First, I decided to just sleep until whenever I wanted to for a couple days. Relax. Breathe. I didn’t let myself stress about what was going on around me; I focused only on making sure I was okay. As a result, I was able to spend the entire day on Saturday and Sunday focused on my work and getting everything done. Secondly, I decided to get help. I contacted NYU Paris’s school psychologist and arranged to meet with her to talk about what I was going through.

Quite often, people are too embarrassed or proud to get help for mental health issues. You’re not being dramatic, you’re not crazy, you’re not weak. I promise, reaching out for help is one of the strongest and kindest things you can do for yourself.

It's so important to pause amidst this amazing, rapid experience of study abroad or just life itself. Put yourself first. Journal, meditate, stare at the ceiling, clean your room, take a hot bath. If you're anything like me, you might even start stressing about all the things you want to do with yourself. But remember, breathing is enough as well. All the cool things to experience out there aren't going anywhere. You need to make sure you are present and centered with yourself in order to be able to fully experience it all. And as for classes that are giving you stress, stop taking them so seriously. Stop seeing them as scary obstacles. Instead, try to embrace them as experiences that will help you grow. Even when life is sh*** and difficult, it’s beautiful and wonderful too.