Being struck with mental health issues was like being hit in the head with a bat. It happened fast. Somehow the bad feelings cemented themselves in my brain, and I did not know what they were much less how to rid myself of them.
The bad feelings grew up, becoming monsters that made home in my head. They’d usually sleep, their snores giving off a constant but manageable noise. In the chaotic moments when they were awake, they’d shake me so bad that I couldn’t function. Couldn’t sleep or eat or sometimes even move.
Two prevailing ideas were conflicting in my mind. One side insisted that I was alright, just being dramatic and stressed out. The other, quieter idea was that I needed help. Coming from a South-Asian immigrant community, where mental health issues are willfully ignored, the former idea was bound to win. My education before university rendered me unable to access the appropriate resources in that I had no idea they applied to or were available to me.
To move forward, I had to become my own best advocate. I had no idea what was going on with me medically – that I probably needed a doctor or a therapist, or that I should take a break from school for a bit. The solutions to my mental health problems were not obvious, however my process of procuring help and creating a support system provided me with the resources to do well in school.
Acting as my own advocate while being sick was difficult. I came to understand the important differences between mental illness and what is otherwise considered physical illness. For example, while a cold may gradually improve after time and medication from the doctor, my mental health requires constant and consistent upkeep. Taking care of myself is a deliberate and calculated effort which I am able to undertake because of the resources I have at my disposal.
The first step I took was to seek help from people I trust. From there, I figured out what professionals I should be seeking for treatment. This varies for everyone, but a good place to start could be seeking help from a family doctor. There are a number of options available to students on campus, but I find that building a support system requires support from my personal life. I reached out to my friends. An integral part of friendship involves taking care of one another. I have two friends that I can rely on completely. I think the key is to foster a relationship based on mutual trust and accountability.
Another actionable thing I practice is getting out of bed and doing my makeup every morning. It’s a routine that keeps me grounded and allows me to present a clean version of myself. The bigger benefit is that it makes me feel prepared for the day.
Doing better with mental issues requires a series of consistent steps. That process may be different for everyone. The point is to start.