Many people struggle with their mental health at least once in their lives. Due to the current state of the world, staying mentally healthy is proving to be a difficult task. So, when my mental health began to degrade recently, it was as if I had been expecting it.
Starting a first semester at college is an extremely stressful ordeal. Having to take care of yourself for the first time, moving away from loved ones and taking on many new responsibilities all contribute to this.
I have never been one to struggle with school work, but since this is my first semester at college and am therefore taking all college level-classes, the learning curve was difficult. I panicked at the beginning of the semester. All of high school leading up to college had given a glance at how difficult it would be, but the idea of failing for the first time in my life was absolutely terrifying.
Because of the pandemic, starting a new life on campus was a challenge. Making new friends and joining student organizations feels almost impossible. The lack of social connection proved to be terrible for my mental health. Despite being an introvert, social interaction showed itself to be a necessity for me.
So, when all of the stress of moving, schoolwork and a lack of social connection hit me, it hit hard, as I am sure it did for many of my fellow freshmen. At first, I was struggling with mild anxiety. As my mental health continued to spiral downward, I began sleeping for long amounts of time or not sleeping at all. I then began skipping meals, procrastinating in my classes and slowly growing more depressed.
It was at this point that I knew I needed help. Admitting that to myself was arguably the most difficult part of this entire process. I had never been to a professional about my mental health before, so the idea of reaching out was intimidating.
Despite my fears, I reached out to the Counseling Center at Missouri State and set up an appointment. Of course, because of the pandemic, all of the counseling sessions are via Zoom, but I knew getting help was vital, so this did not bother me. The counseling center is consistently busy, so I set up my appointment for two weeks after I called.
During the waiting time, my mental health continued to decline. However, I kept myself going by reminding myself of my appointment. The day before my appointment, I received an email with a form attached that would allow me to go over my basic mental health concerns. This was a good way to prepare for my appointment, as I was allowed to select the severity of my individual concerns as well as the severity of my overall mental health condition.
The next day, I had my first session with a counselor. My counselor kindly explained the very first session, or “intake,” is more of the typical counseling session, where the past is explored and explained. This was one of the most difficult yet rewarding things ever for me. Baring my soul for a total stranger to see turned a switch in my mind. Yes, it was difficult, but I would not change my decision. Having that first session was one of the kindest things I have ever done for myself.
Afterward, I knew I needed to spread my good news. Sure, I was cleaning myself up from crying during the entire session, but the relief I experienced was immeasurable. I want everyone to experience what I did.
So, to anyone experiencing mental health struggles, especially my fellow freshmen, I urge you to ask yourself if you need to take that first step. During this time of confusion, the most important thing you can do for yourself is taking care of your mental health. It is incredibly easy for it to get out of hand. Please, do not let that be the case.
If you are a first semester freshman like myself, do not let the pandemic stop you from making yourself at home. I know it is difficult, but once you find your place, it is so rewarding. No matter how lonely you feel, there is always someone there for you. So reach out and live your new life with no regrets.