A. Le

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I struggled with an eating disorder from the beginning of high school until the end of my freshman year of college, and I was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression during my first year of college. I struggled a lot in my first year trying to learn to take care of myself, manage classes, learning to juggle new responsibilities, pretty much similar struggles to every first-year student at a university. Having this added struggle of trying to maintain my mental health made it hard for me to focus academically, take care of relationships, and honestly just function as a human. It’s really hard to focus on school when this is constantly in the back of my mind. There are some days when I literally want to stay in bed and avoid all interaction and responsibilities because I’m just so tired of having to deal with everything. It’s also hard to balance my life and relationships, because I tend to internalize a lot of my problems, I tend to push people away, including people I’m closest to and love. It’s hard and sometimes it does take a toll on some of my relationships, especially because not many people know that I struggle with this. It’s also difficult in regards to my work life, because it’s hard to ask your employer for a day off to recover your mental health. I feel like it’s not something common or encouraged, so i go to work feeling really down and it affects my performance negatively because I’m not 100% okay and can’t put my best work forward.

The hardest part by far is admitting that my mental health is lacking. The society we’re in today puts pressure on having a “perfect” life, and a lot of people put on a facade, pretending that everything is okay when it might not be. It’s become increasingly harder for me to fake my smile and pretend everything’s fine when really I could have cried at least 3 times in one day before a work meeting I had to go to, or class, but I have to be okay or else people will question it and judge me. I’m also in a position where i do a lot; I’m involved in student government, a sorority, I work, I’m in a full course load -- I feel this pressure from others that I should always have it together because i do so much, but sometimes I don’t , and I don’t know if I’m letting myself down or those around me.

I handled these things by seeking professional help. I took a step back from everything I was doing. Most importantly, I found strength in myself and learned to fight back. I’ve always had this fear of letting my mental health take over the person I am, essentially becoming my struggle. I’ve also realized that it never completely goes away; pretty recently, I felt my symptoms coming back, so I decided to see my counselor again, who I actually hadn’t seen in like a year. Honestly, I’ve struggled a lot with self-confidence throughout my life, and I think my defining moment was realizing that I was strong and confident enough to seek help, to overcome what I was going through, because I didn’t want it to stop me from being the best person I could be.

After counseling, developing better self-care habits, and overall finding things that made me happy (my sorority, my involvement in student government, my bunny, my family, etc.), I found myself in a way better place than when I started. I realized that I was in charge of my own happiness, and if I wanted to be happy, I could be happy. One specific thing I do to help me handle it is be nice to everybody. Literally, everybody. Whether it be the stranger I held the door for on my way to class or my best friend of 14 years, I’ve found that making other people happy makes me happy. I always strive to put my best foot forward and be there for others, because sometimes you never know how important that interaction could be to them.

Throughout my times of struggle, my friends and family have been SO supportive through everything. They’ve encouraged me to keep going to counseling even when I was refusing to because I didn’t want to get help, but they helped me to see the benefit of it and how much it would help me. They’ve also just listened to me rant and cry for countless hours, and never have I heard them complain or tell me to stop. All I’ve gotten is endless love and support from them and I cannot be more thankful. Someone else who has also been super helpful is my bunny Gerald. I adopted him last year actually, during one of the worst times -- having him helped me to learn to take care of a pet, and I’ve developed this unconditional love for him that nobody understands except for me. I love having him to cuddle with and really help me cope on my worst days.

The reason why I felt I couldn’t share this on social media was because I knew I would be judged for it, or that honestly nobody would care. I think the society we live in is terrible; nothing seems real anymore. We live in a world where people only post the good parts about their life, so often that sometimes we forget there are bad times. I’m not saying all social media is bad, I’m a strong believer in posting whatever you want, whenever you want, and especially if it makes you feel good! With that, it’s sometimes hard when you’re going through something and see all these pictures of people doing cool things and being happy, it’s easy to forget that we all struggle sometimes. People aren’t prone to posting things about struggling or whenever you’re going through a tough time, because you’re always expected to have it all together. Life is portrayed to be easy, but really it’s not like that at all. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we struggle. But through it all, we’re still smiling. That’s the message that should be put across to the world; that through the good and bad, you can always find a way to get through it and smile.

I feel like recently there has been a lot of awareness for mental health, and if I were to share this I like to think I’d get positive reactions from my family and friends. However, with that, there will always be negative reactions. I think a lot of people might see it as a grab for attention, or worse, pity. I actually wrote an article on my blog about my struggle with an eating disorder throughout high school and the beginning of college (here’s the link in case you’re interested!: https://adrienalinerush19.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/stay-strong-stay-focused-stay-confident/ )

I received SO MUCH love from some of my closest friends and family, and even from people I wasn’t as close with, which I thought was amazing. Some of these people were new coworkers I’d just met, girls in my sorority I wasn’t as close with, or even someone who I’d had one class with a while back and just decided to text me. What she wrote really touched me; she had this impression of me being put together and never having to struggle, and she told me she struggled with a lot of the same things, and that reading my post really made her feel better that someone else related to her as well. It’s reactions like that that encourage me to be strong and help others.

To someone experiencing the same thing as me: You are not alone. The people who care about you the most will be there for you in your time of need, and you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid of what they’ll think of you, because they would never think any less of you. And if people think less of you or change their view of you and judge you, then they’re not worth your time.

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Asia Croson