I re-typed and deleted this first sentence multiple times. I also haven’t written a blog post in months- two reasons why I was hesitant to post this. But, in light of recent events at my school’s campus, I really see no better time than to talk to the internet about my experience as an extremely unhappy college freshman, and how that took a toll on not only my mental health, but also the way I view mental health as an extremely pressing issue on college campuses.
It’s something we hear about far too often- college students’ depression rates rising, feeling too much pressure because of work and being thrown into a new and scary “adult” world, and, in the worst of cases, self harming or committing suicide because of these pressures. (Side note: I never ever thought about or attempted self-harm or any dark thoughts of that kind, but I did experience a change in my personality and overall happiness, something that to this day never fails to frighten me when I revisit it in my head.)
On that note, I always find myself alluding to my upbringing and high school experiences in my blog posts, but there really is no better way for me to understand the changes I am going through, than comparing where I am now to where I used to be. Ever since I was a little kid, I always had a smile on my face. My mom always told me I was her “happy baby”, because I barely ever cried and, thanks to my parents’ hard work and unconditional love, I had the best childhood and upbringing I could have ever hoped for. Still today, I am so incredibly thankful to be where I am- at a school I love, studying a field that interests me, surrounded by new friends who I couldn’t imagine not being a part of my life. So, thanks Mom and Dad. Please don’t forget that.
A month or so into my freshman year, I realized I was unhappy. Before then I was distracted by the attempt to make friends and fall in love with Boston, but after endless efforts and frustration I admitted to myself that I had very few friends, I missed home, I missed my family, and I just didn’t want to be where I was. I called my mom in tears almost every other day during the semester. She would ask me what was wrong and my answer almost every time was, in some shape or form, “I’m lonely and unhappy.”
Loneliness: perhaps one of the darkest of emotions, in my opinion. That was exactly it: I was lonely. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy, but the loneliness was tricking my mind into thinking I was. If I was lonely, how could I be happy at the same time? It didn’t make sense to me. And it certainly didn’t make sense to my mom either- why was her happy baby so sad? I spent weekends and many weeknights at my sister’s apartment down the street. I barely went out on the weekends; I skipped dinner often because I didn’t want to sit in the dining hall alone. I went home for winter break ecstatic, because I got to be away for a month and pretend everything was fine. Maybe that would trick myself into thinking it actually was, I thought.
Second semester was a turning point for me. I joined a sorority and met some of my best friends, and some of the most incredible, inspiring women I’ve ever met. I wasn’t alone for the first time in what seemed like a long time. And while I could thank my sorority sisters in a million different ways because of that, I’ll save that for another day, or post.
I am now a month away from being a rising junior. I wish my freshman self knew to believe and trust everyone when they would say: “it gets better,” because it most certainly did. I love Boston, I love BU, I love my friends, and I really couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. The only thing that got me to this point, though, was time.
But what I went through that year still takes a toll on me sometimes. I still have moments where I think back on how I felt, and feel a sense of fear that I will re-visit it. The pressure of school and internship searching, and the anxiety-inducing question of, “what do you want to do after college?”, still gets to me every once and a while. Lucky for me, though, I have a strong support system of friends and family who helped me find my own way past the unhappiness. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t count my blessings, and for that, I am thankful. Some people aren’t as lucky.
Coming from someone who didn’t know what it felt like to be unhappy most of my life, mental health issues on college campuses are not an exaggeration, or result of a generation of “complainers”. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s okay to admit to not being okay and asking for help, even if you feel like you have no reason to. More importantly, be present. Be aware. If you hear someone crying in a bathroom stall over a bad grade, reach out. If you see someone eating in the dining hall alone, smile. Remember, things actually do get better. I kind of hate myself for saying it, because it can be one of the most frustrating things to hear (How? When?). Fine- I don’t know how, or when. But I do know that it will, and it will be SO worth sticking around for.