‘I believe in you:’ mental health encouragement
Danielle Campbell – Copy-Editor
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to light. One of those challenges is mental health. From personal experience, filling your schedule with work can do a lot to help you forget you are struggling. I have been doing this for years; keeping active to forget how inadequate my life has been in other areas.
I have recently been diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder with anxious distress and post-traumatic stress disorder. One thing the pandemic taught me was if I was going to get the help I needed, I was going to have to do it myself.
Telling people to meditate, journal, or say affirmations is not going to cure those with deeper mental health problems. We all dip and rise mentally but there are many, like me, that have struggled their entire lives and not known why.
I have had depression for as long as I can remember. I remember having suicidal ideations as a small child. I did not know why I was this way, but for fear of being called crazy I avoided any professional help. The first therapist I saw was after being granted a medical leave for depression from a disastrous spring semester of my sophomore year of college.
I stopped going to all of my classes and would lock myself in my dorm room for days. I would either stop eating or binge eat after being so hungry from not eating. I won a prize for attending the most campus events as a sophomore while being so depressed I could not attend classes. I would roam the city (I was in New York) at night and just wander around not knowing what was wrong with me or why.
I went for help at the school counseling office, they were full, so I referred to off-campus counseling. I was too afraid to take the extra step, so I ignored the fact I needed help. It was not until the end of the semester when I went back to the counseling office, and they admitted they dropped the ball and gave me a medical leave.
The first therapist I saw was an older white woman with a dog. I was still terrified of dogs then. I never opened up too deeply, so the most I got out of that experience was my first job at a grocery store and I was no longer terrified of dogs.
Mental health struggles take many forms and shapes. So many of us fall by the wayside. As a black woman, I knew my struggles offered me a stigma in my community that could only be solved by “a deeper faith”. I am not “healed”, but I have stories and a wealth of knowledge and advice for others struggling like me.
One thing I would let other students know is that you are never alone no matter how isolated your mind makes you feel. Many of the people around you will not understand your struggle, but they do care. They may need to learn to have compassion and empathy for themselves before they can have any for you.
Never stop trying to find what works for you. I have downloaded apps, piles of unused journals, therapy, joined self-love groups and I still struggle every day. I still fill my schedule to avoid severe emotions from rendering me completely incapable of doing what I need to, to live.
We all have varying degrees of mental health that will continue to ebb and flow for the rest of our lives. High points do not last forever but neither do low points. Reach out to campus counseling or find a therapist off-campus. It is always the first step that is the hardest, but I believe in you.