As many know today is World Mental Health Day and in honor of that I’ve decided to talk about my own mental health struggle and why mental health is so important to me.
After doing pretty well my freshman year in college; sophomore year hit me like a brick wall. I was talking more classes, working two work-study jobs and frankly burning myself out but I was so concerned with being the best I could, and uphold my own standard of perfection that I didn’t care that I was deteriorating in the process. I was sleeping very little — eating maybe 2 meals a day but usually only one and tired all the time. But the more I felt like I was out of control the more I told myself everything was fine.
Now, having anxiety over school work was not out of the normal for me. I always wanted straight As and not doing well never sat well with me. But being at Penn definitely exacerbated it for me and I didn’t know how to cope effectively. The cycle was vicious: anxiety over doing well would build up leading to a crippling inability to do anything, procrastination would feed negative self talk that I was wasting the opportunity in front of me; constant negative self talk would seep into depression where nothing would get done; all leading back to more anxiety about my ability to do things the best.
Now I am lucky, I have a family that loves and supports me but they couldn’t do much because really I didn’t want them to know. I remember distinctly leaving home after winter break in the middle of the day because I was so unhappy to be going back to school that I cried for 10 minutes just trying to get myself out the door. I didn’t want them to see what was going on because I knew it’s not who I was and definitely wasn’t who I wanted to be.
My breaking point was early on in that second semester, I had an anxiety attack that felt like the world itself was crumbling around me and I couldn’t inhale. At that point I knew I needed to get help. I’m not sure how I managed to call at the right time but despite my universities generally long wait time I was able to get into our counseling center that same week.
In the weeks and months that followed my therapist was able to talk with me through many of the anxieties I had. We were able to come up with new and find old coping mechanisms that would work during those moments of crippling anxiety and negative self thought. I truly credit my therapist for not only the ability to finish sophomore year but my ability to stay at Penn and graduate in general.
My battle since then has consists of good days and bad days. Anxieties over test scores have shifted to other things, negative thoughts about doing enough and doing better float in and out. But this time I’m better equipped to deal with them and for that I thank my therapist.
Mental health battles happen and you cannot tell by looking at a person what they may be dealing with. I know how slippery the slope can be and how exhausting fighting with your own mind is. So on this world mental health day be good to yourself, be good to others, and to those who continue to fight the hardest fight of mental health — you are so strong and so worth this fight.