Life is a rollercoaster. A series of ups and downs. An ebb and a flow. And for many of us, so is our personal mental health. And when you’re on one of those downwards slopes of a rollercoaster, it may be difficult to know where to turn or what to do.
I know because I went down perhaps my biggest drop during the fall of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. And I think a lot about that drop this time of year, with May being Mental Health Awareness Month.
I think there’s a stigma around realizing that you’re struggling, especially as a male like myself. I know that others around me — and even myself for a long period of time — feel like there’s some arbitrary standard we’re held to. That realizing you need help is some sign of weakness or slash of personal toughness. Maybe even something embarrassing. I’m here to tell you, no matter who you are, it certainly is not.
There was a time in my life where it hit me that I had to make a change for my own sake. If I didn’t free myself from the echo chambers of my own thoughts, things were never going to improve. I was at a point where I truly didn’t care whether or not others would view it as a sign of weakness. And in that, I still felt like I needed to talk to someone who was completely neutral in my life, unfortunately excluding my own friends and family.
The process was very straight-forward once I made the first, albeit very frightening, step into something I had never done before. I had blind optimism that what I was doing was going to help, as I felt the alternative — doing nothing — was simply not going to work. And I’m very happy to say that it did.
After going through some introductory sessions, I was paired with a therapist who I was able to meet with 100% of the time through Zoom, resolving any of my concerns about privacy. I was even able to use my health insurance to cover the cost.
Slowly, but surely, over the course of my entire sophomore year of college, I felt like our relationship got closer. And as our relationship strengthened, so did my mental health. We delved into things…insecurities, doubts, fears, trials, tribulations, and everything in between. Things that I likely would never have said out loud. I was out of the echo chamber in a big way, and thankfully with a trained professional who could offer tools and advice that I was able to use in my day-to-day life.
It’s been over a year since I started therapy, and I’m happy to say that I am both still seeing my therapist and in probably the best state, mental health-wise, I’ve ever been. I view therapy as a vital part of my overall health. In the same way I go to the gym, or run on the Greenbelt, or try to drink enough water, I diligently attend all of my therapy appointments.
And I write this story because I also now try to let others know how beneficial reaching out can be. Whether it be to a therapist, a close friend or family member, or anyone really, you do not have to go at whatever you’re struggling with alone. At the beginning of my personal mental health journey, I was embarrassed to admit I was going to therapy. Now I speak openly about how much it’s helped me. And in doing so, you would be shocked by how many people appreciate that openness and how many people are struggling with the same type of things. But many also don’t want to discuss it for the same fear of ridicule that I felt. We all have that power to open the door and help one another.
So I’ll leave you with a couple of things. Number one, even if you personally aren’t struggling right now, try to be kind and empathetic. My English teacher in the seventh grade was an absolutely extraordinary woman, and she used to end every single class with a phrase that I will never forget: “Everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind always.”
Number two, and this one goes out of special importance to my fellow gentlemen who may feel this way more often, admitting that you’re struggling does not make you weak.
Number three, no matter what is going on in your life right now, everything is going to be okay!
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