Do you believe in chance? I do.
Do you believe in everything happening for a reason, as cliché as that sounds? I do.
What about doing the right thing, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it might make you? I sure do.
Today was one of those days.
I’m the type that typically works her butt off during the week, with a phone held to my face while typing away on the computer and squeezing in quick sips of coffee. If I’m not reaching out to sponsors or managing the fashion magazine at school, I am usually out interviewing sources for my stories, studying, applying for jobs, working, in class or simply feeding my hungry belly. Well, I do find time to send funny memes about being “extra,” wine and life to my family and friends somewhere in between.
If you were to ask anyone who knows me, they’ll probably tell you I’m some strong, badass, independent woman who don’t need no man… Sorry, Vince, it’s them, not me (xoxo). And they’ll probably tell you I mean business, which out of the things mentioned, I actually do mean business quite often.
I’m one of those students whom professors are weary of — the student that takes out their laptop and planner in the middle of their lecture just because an idea or an important detail popped into my head and I simply cannot concentrate on what they’re saying until I get my thoughts down on paper. It is also not unusual for me to stay glued to my seat for an extra five minutes post class because I simply have to finish sending an email.
And so again, today was one of those days. As frazzled students quickly ran out the door, I stayed behind, paying little to no attention to my surroundings. I took a second to look up from my computer and that’s when I saw one of the smartest, most engaging students in my class talk quietly with the professor.
She looked unusually clumsy today. Hair in a messy bun, an oversized sweatshirt, no makeup… It truly was uncommon for her to come to class not put together.
I could hear the quiver in her voice. She sounded like she was trying so hard to fight back tears. Like she felt ashamed.
A feeling I knew all too well…
I quickly put away my things and began following her out the door. I was so nervous. I had no idea how to do it.
Remember third grade? When your teacher assigned a day for you to bring something in for “show-n-tell?” Do you remember how nervous you felt when you got up to face the class, like your heart was about to jump out of your chest and run far, far away? How the thoughts “they’re going to think my toy is stupid” or “what if no one plays with me after I tell them about my stuffed animal” consumed your little brain, making you feel like you should be ashamed. All at the age of eight.
Man, I definitely do. I STILL feel that way at the age of 22 when I’m asked to pitch a startup idea or present to the class or tell my parents I broke something around the house. It’s in our nature to fear other people’s opinions and reactions, to fear truth and weakness.
Well, not today. Today is World Mental Health Day, and I hope what you’re about to read next will encourage you to quit falling prey to stigmas and to stand up for what is right.
I swallowed my pride and called after my classmate. She stopped in her tracks. I couldn’t let someone else go through what so many of us go through. It just wasn’t right.
I told her that while I have no idea who she is nor what is going on, I couldn’t help but hear bits and pieces about her struggles and wanted to tell her she is not alone.
Did you know that on average, 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem every year? That means that a large percentage of people you pass in the street, a friend, a co-worker, a family member or maybe even yourself have gone through or are currently going through a tough time.
My fellow Miamian is one of those numbers, and so am I.
I told my newfound friend that I know what it’s like struggling to get up in the morning or to hide from facing the music because you missed a deadline or failed to communicate with a boss. I know what it’s like to think that running away from your problems by staying in bed all day or cutting off communication from every loving person in your life will make those issues go away. I know what it’s like to have depressive thoughts or to feel so anxious that you throw up. I know what it’s like to feel like giving up and to feel like there is too much pressure being put on you so you will rebel and do the opposite, to give up on one of the greatest relationships you’ll ever have the privilege of being in. I know what it’s like to feel SO mad at God and wonder why He is punishing me with such struggle. I know what anger and hate feel like. I know all too well.
I also know how it feels to have amazing friends that help dress you and drag you out of bed. How it feels to own up to your shortcomings and your mistakes, and to admit that you can’t do something you initially promised to do. How it feels to realize who truly cares enough to force you to face the music and to hold your hand through the reality, and to know that the person I am dating is my biggest ally and my greatest friend. How it feels to reconcile with God and welcome him with the biggest open arms. And how it feels to discover who you truly are, what your purpose in life is and to admit to yourself that you’re a blunt, outspoken, direct, comical and realistic skeptic that is setting out to set the world on fire… All in a good way.
But all of that doesn’t matter anymore because the 5-month roller coaster of Hell I went through turned me into an honest, accountable, determined, appreciative, life-loving, God-fearing individual. The kind that runs after another upset individual and has the will to share her own struggles.
My conversation with Bertha* quickly turned into happy tears and boisterous giggles. She felt so appreciative that I was able to humble myself and tell her my story, and I felt so free of this monster. I finally felt like God was calling me to share my testimony in hopes of saving a life or inspiring others to reach out and help.
It’s important to note that today’s societal pressures are tremendous contributors to young adults feeling hopeless and insecure. We are told to get straight A’s while working through school to afford a quality education, volunteer, join 424347823 organizations, apply to hundreds of companies with a crafted email showing your extensive research to “stand out,” maintain friendships, dress to impress, look like Kylie Jenner, etc. We simply can’t do it all.
There is power in saying “no” and there is power in cutting off someone or something that isn’t helping you benefit and improve your life. Choose those who want to be on your team and who tell you things you don’t want to hear. Those people are of quality, and you will thank them in the long run for a little bit of tough love.
If you know of someone who is off of their game, please lend a hand. You sacrificing five minutes of your time can stop the spread of mental struggles, and you standing up to those who are making a joke out of mental health will leave a more lasting impact than you standing by on the sidelines.
If some of the things I described earlier resonate with you, please know just how loved you are. There are so many people out there who care about you, who want to see you succeed and be happy. Don’t feel ashamed to admit you are struggling or if you don’t know how to get out of the funk. And don’t EVER feel ashamed to seek help.
God placed you on this earth for a reason. He would never put you through something He thought you couldn’t handle.
Although I never in my life would have imagined I would go through what I did, I am so thankful for that long journey. I have found my identity and am proud to share that we all fall down sometimes.
You are SO much stronger than you think. Be the light at the end of the tunnel.
*Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual.