The transitionary point between high school and college has been something I’ve continuously sought to understand and acclimate to, even as a second-semester college freshman. Throughout the duration of the summer prior to my first semester, I did fervid research on what items to bring, nearest locations for food, and what venues surrounded the area. I mentally constructed an itinerary for what I was to complete that year: finish a chapbook, be more sociable, get a boyfriend, and other ambitious, often minuscule goals. However, that research grounded me in all but one thing: Mental health. Before beginning my year at college, I somehow immersed myself in the fallacy that both my depression and anxiety would be slight in their appearance.
Because the stem of my mental illnesses lies in the environment I was in back at home, I thought that moving to the large expanse of Boston, with an entirely new circle of people and vicinities, would remedy my condition. It was a long stretch, so to say, but now that I think of it retrospectively, I think I enveloped myself in that given mindset as a sort of coping mechanism.
The idea of college, to me, was akin to a utopia: I turned eighteen, held a clammy grasp on independence, and sheathed myself in the craft of writing. I had so perfectly imagined and reimagined these moments that to encounter anything that strayed even remotely away from my own naivety immediately made me uncomfortable and questionable.
While acknowledging that my mental health would not improve by the mere miracle of going to college, I still addressed it with a sense of finality. A punctuated, firm promise to myself that I would never succumb to another depressive episode or panic attack again. A declaration to reclaim my own undoing. And that was the biggest fault I’ve made so far.
This winter has been something to come to grips with. In a sense, I feel unrefined. I’ve had the opportunity, for which I am enormously grateful, of meeting, sharing joy, and learning from various people during my time in college. I’ve joined organizations and have gained experience that would otherwise not be easily accessible to me back home. However, I still trudge into my dorm building with the same pit nestled in my stomach. I still feel a level of inadequacy, creative decline, and detachment. I want to seek measures that will propel me forward but am simultaneously fatigued and uninspired. I’ve been so focused on incentivizing academics, resume building, and joining organizations not only to serve as distractions but because I want to convince myself that I am achieving my daily fulfillment of productivity and feats. Essentially, I am overcommitting so as to prove to myself—and others—of my own validity.
Rather than reclaiming my own undoing for the betterment of myself, I am only expanding it, and I think most of that sentiment is rooted in my own denial of how my mental health was still deteriorating despite the experiences I’ve gained in college so far. Moreover, I failed to face the brutalization of my own self-neglect, and that, in turn, led to me spiraling into an increasingly worse depression.
This prompted me to seek proper treatment and urge other students to encounter the same revelation for themselves. It’s strenuous to have to put yourself in check and realize that oftentimes you have to force yourself to be the impetus for progress. Balancing the rigor of college life is definitely something that initially set me on rough terrain, but I am slowly willing myself to fall out of this slump and gain both my vitality and autonomy back, which I hope will shed more awareness on the waning effects of mental illness.