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First Years: It’s Okay Not to Feel Okay

Right from the get go, we’re told that university is going to be a huge transition—not only physically, but also emotionally. We all go from being large fish in a small pond to being small fish in an ocean.No matter how many times we hear how everything is going to change, we never truly realize just how much until we’re facing it head-on.


For many of us, this journey of change begins with a physical transition, either moving from a different country, a different city or town, or just from high school. While we all experience this physical change differently, no matter how big or small, it can be extremely stressful.

Going into my first year, I didn’t know what to expect of university life. I was born and raised in London, so I was familiar with the city and the university itself, but I didn’t know how I would do in the new environment. Although the university was close to home, it was still a whole new world to me. I knew it would be a huge change from high school, but I didn’t realize how different it would be until I was drowning in it.

I started off the year just like any other first year—I attended O-Week. Or, at least, I tried to. I was, and still am to some degree, an introvert; the idea of ‘putting myself out there’ and making new friends kind of terrified me. I was socially awkward and didn’t really know how to act around new people, to say the least. In all honesty, I cared way too much about what people thought. I hoped having my best friend from high school with me would make me more comfortable, but as she began to click with new people I just became more of an outsider. In only a couple of days, we had gone our separate ways.


I only attended two days of O-Week; I didn’t make any new friends, and I had lost one of my closest.. In short, university wasn’t starting off too great. But I tried to remain positive and look forward to my classes, even if I was going to experience all of it on my own. I hoped that once I came across people who had the same interests as me, things would simply work out. I’d have the experience that everyone had on TV, right?

This wasn’t the case. In fact, I don’t think I made more than four friends all year long. Not to mention my boyfriend of two years broke up with me, and my Mom (who’s practically my best friend) was living in Michigan at the time—so I felt very alone. Nothing seemed to go the way I had planned, and no matter how hard I tried to make it better, everything only turned for the worst. I was not okay.

For many weeks I contemplated dropping out of school—maybe I wasn’t ready for it yet. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be in university. Everyone else seemed to be doing great… So why was I so broken?

It wasn’t until I was in a really dark place that I realized I had lost sight of myself. I had worked so hard my entire high school career to get to where I was. University was something my Mom and I always talked about; it was an inevitable part of my future, something that my mom worked so hard for me to have. Yet here I was, giving up so easily.

That’s when I made the decision to get help. I took advantage of the resources at the university, and made an appointment with a personal counsellor. I was also assessed by a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with depression. Did you know that, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, there is an estimated 10-20% of Canadian youth that are affected by a mental illness or disorder? Furthermore, suicide is the leading cause of death amongst 15-24-year-old Canadians. This goes to show that there are more people than we think that are not okay, yet may not even realize or acknowledge it.


First years, I am here to tell you that it’s okay to not feel okay. If you are feeling alone, know that it is normal to feel this way—you have experienced a massive adjustment in your life, and sometimes, we need a little help to make it easier. But just know, because you feel down, it does not necessarily mean that you have a mental illness; maybe you just need someone to talk to, or need help finding the right path, and that’s okay, too. The university offers so many different resources for a reason, and that’s to help its students succeed and live a happy life. When I was first diagnosed with a mental illness, I was terrified of what people would think of me—but I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone. In fact, most of the people I know suffer from some kind of mental illness, even if they seem like they’re fine.

It’s important to remember to be kind to each other; you never know what the person next to you is dealing with. We all have our own battles and we all handle them differently. Sometimes we need help, and that’s okay. Things will get better—you just have to believe it and find the right resources to make it happen. It all starts with you.



 

Chapter Advisor for Her Campus and Junior Editor/Writer for Her Campus at Western. You can typically find me in the world of English literature.
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