When Everything’s Okay, But You’re Not

Everyone in my life has told me for years that college is the best time of your life. While that has been true in so many ways, there have also been so many ways that these past three years have been a huge struggle for me.

It’s also no secret that many college students struggle with depression, anxiety, and generally problems with dealing with stress. For me, however, these issues have taken a toll on me and affected my day-to-day life at times. Last February, I was driving home from school on a cloudy, wet afternoon when a sudden burst of panic came over me and I had a strong urge to crash my car. I remember sitting in my car sobbing and gulping for air. I was hoping that either someone would see me and ask if I was okay or that nobody would see me and I wouldn’t have to explain. For hours, I sat in my bed terrified of my own brain and what it had urged me to do.

I didn’t know it then, or maybe I didn’t want to realize it, but for a second I thought about taking my own life for the first time since I was bullied in middle school. I called my friend and told him how I was feeling. He helped me get the strength to call a therapist and finally talk about the things I had been holding on to for so long. For about five months, I was seeing my therapist regularly and I was making huge strides without having to be on medication.

Over the summer, I started a new job in hopes that I could make a bit more money and be able to stay in my apartment for the rest of my lease and finally feel independent. Stuff started to get harder when my car started to have issues and an $800 repair bill fell on my family. This forced me to stop commuting to Bar Harbor, where I was earning about $350 a week on top of my other job at a restaurant in town. From there I was left struggling to come up with my $500 a month rent and I felt so incredibly defeated and ashamed to have to move home and work there again. Was something wrong with me? Why did these things have to keep happening to me?

On July 4, I was hanging out with my friends and my boyfriend when I got a call from my dad. He very calmly told me that my grandmother on his side passed away that morning, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Although I did not have as close of a relationship to her as I would have liked, I was still devastated to have lost a family member. We quickly went back to his house so I could process my grief privately. I had to cancel my upcoming appointment with my therapist back up at school, and since then I have not seen her.

This semester has brought me so many amazing things. I have the honor of representing the Communications and Journalism Department at school along with 5 of my colleagues at the Maine Press Association Conference on October 19, I’m in a leadership role for Her Campus and hoping to step into a larger leadership role next year, and I’m going to Japan in a few months to study abroad with the love of my life. So why am I still so sad? Why can’t I just be happy about what I’ve accomplished and the future that is just beginning for me?

Last week, I felt myself feeling the same way I was in my car just a few short months ago, except this time I was alone in my small dorm room trying to work on an essay that I just couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of. This small stressor quickly spiraled into my stress about my student debt, saving enough money for my semester abroad, and making sure that my boyfriend and I will have a place to live together next year. I began to think about myself and if I truly deserve the good things that are happening to me. Shamefully, I began to question if I was worth keeping around.

I called my boyfriend who held me and assured me that I’m doing the best that I can, and that my best has gotten me far and earned me so many opportunities. He helped me get the courage to not only ask for more hours at my second job, but to call my therapist again and explain to her how I have been feeling. Unlike the first time I began seeing her, I have opened my mind to the possibility of taking medication to help me control my impulses and help me get better.

My experience with mental illness in college has taught me many things, but the most important thing is that I am not alone. The more I began to talk to my close friends about how I had been feeling, the more confident I was in asking for help and advocating for myself. I found ways to care for myself, my favorite being the gym after a long (or short) day of classes to release endorphins and increase my physical strength. Not only do I feel great physically after I work out, but I feel so much better mentally. I have found a place where I can go for a bit of time and remove myself from everything else that is happening in my life and that is something that I strongly pride myself on. I’m not writing this article for anyone to send me messages of concern, or to subtly tell my family that I’ve been going through a very scary thing. I’m writing this for the other person who goes through these same things, and who is scared to ask for help because they don’t want to be judged. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. “In life, you should try and save at least one person, and it’s okay if that person is you”.

RESOURCES FOR MENTAL HEALTH CRISES:

University of Maine Counseling Center: 1-207-581-1392

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Maine Crisis Hotline: 1-888-568-1112