November 26, 2021
Ithaca, NY | 31°F

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What is your experience with mental health?

College will mess with your mental health so much. I started therapy when I was in high school due to personal issues and that was my sophomore year. I continued until senior year, when I chose to end therapy for myself when coming into college. And boy was I wrong. In my first semester, I found myself always crying and wanting to go home every weekend or thinking about transferring. I just felt like I could not do it and felt like I did not belong. A lot of that was imposter syndrome. 

My first semester I was slapped with so many emotions — homesickness, seasonal depression and anxiety. But I kept pushing without going back to therapy even though I knew I needed it. I struggled with asking for help. As a student of color in a predominantly white school and space, it always feels like there is no room for messing up, no room for any mistakes and just no room to ask for help. And when talking to our parents, it’s always, ‘What are you sad or depressed or anxious about? You have food on the table and a roof over your head.’ This really means you have no real struggles you should be grateful for everything you do have. And when your parents make you feel like nothing is wrong with you and your mental health, you kind of start believing that. But the truth is mental health is so important; the same way we emphasize taking care of our bodies by feeding ourselves and drinking water, we should emphasize mental health and ways to take care of our mental health. No one talks about how hard college is and how there are days where you do not want to get out of bed or go to class or do anything. No one talks about how some people end up leaving college depressed. 

It begins to feel like a game of survival instead of living. And for most if not ALL students of color, we start to choose school before our mental health because we feel as if choosing our mental health is us failing. 

At this point in the semester, many college students are mentally exhausted and feel as if they cannot keep going and push through anything. It is not only school. We have lives outside of this that affect us and mentally mess with us: family, relationships, friends, trauma. Everything. 

Some institutions do not prioritize the mental health of their students and if they do, it’s ‘Take a mental break day whenever you need to but do not forget about your assignments.’ What kind of mental break is that? I decided to go back to therapy during the pandemic, which was my sophomore year of college, because I constantly felt myself in a hole and had no way of escaping it. So, I chose to prioritize my mental health and my well-being. I notice that many students fail to prioritize their mental health because they don’t know what that’s like and are always in survival mode. They find ways to avoid taking care of themselves, and as someone who does this, it is so harmful. Returning to therapy has helped me so much it has helped me feel safe and seen. I am still struggling tremendously with my anxiety and it turns out I get anxiety in my vagina, which is vaginismus and something I discovered during therapy. Some things I have done to take care of myself are being around people who love me and support me but always make me laugh painting, music and even doing things I never imagined. College students need a constant reminder of school will always be there, you can always get that degree, you and your needs matter. People should take care of themselves in whatever ways that means (as long as it isn’t harmful). Shoutout to people working to prioritize their mental health. Shoutout to people indulging in self-care. Shoutout to people taking breaks. Shoutout to people in therapy. Shoutout to people who are looking into therapy. And to anyone who has been struggling with their mental health, this is your sign to take care of yourself.

Gisela Rosa can be reached at grosa@ithaca.edu