University for many is the first-time individuals come to terms with their mental health. I think this is one of the first generations where talking about mental health is not only okay but encouraged. Until university I wasn’t able to understand or accept that I am someone who sometimes struggles with mental health, I believe all of us struggle to a degree. University was the first time I had to build and find my support system, unfortunately, there is no one here that is checking in on you or making sure you’re okay. I never realized how hard asking for help was or admitting to someone that maybe your bad mood is more than just a bad mood. I found very quickly that in university you can create your persona, be the person you always wanted to be. When you first meet people, you only meet the best version of themselves, we all just project the best parts of ourselves to attract others, it takes a while to really understand someone. I quickly began to recognize that the person I am likes to project an ideal of “perfect” even though that is an impossible thing to achieve, that’s the way I liked to live. From my school, work, to my relationships I never wanted anyone to think I didn’t always have my shit together. I think a lot of people have similar thoughts as I did, and sometimes still do, it’s very hard to allow someone to break down your walls and understand who you are. Unfortunately, even today it stills feels like there is a stigma around mental health, but the fact is that there is way more people who are also struggling than you know.
One of my biggest realizations and breakthroughs in my own mental health throughout my university experience was understanding and acknowledging social media for what it is, fake. I had my wake up call when a friend of mine sought me out for help, she was struggling with really bad depression and needed support I was surprised and taken back, based on her social media persona she looked like she was living her best life. Her photos were flawless, and she looked truly happy with where her life was at. This experience made me reflect on my social media persona, it was funny that as I scrolled through my personal page it was filled with bikini pics, fake laughs, and a spam of photos from each vacation I went on. My page makes me look confident, brave and carefree, three things I am not. My last post was a photo from Halloween, my friend and I dressed like playboy bunnies and we looked ready to go out. That day, in reality, I cried in my room, on the phone with my mom about how I am not okay, and I need to come home. I forced myself into a shower and then put myself into my costume. I smiled for photos and then dropped my friend off to pre-drink somewhere else. I crawled into my bed and I didn’t leave it for 2 days. It’s crazy how mental health can look like a girl dressing as a playboy bunny, just as much as it looks like someone begging for help.
Another photo that really bugged me was a bikini photo I posted from the summer, due to a period in my life where my anxiety was at an all-time high, I had lost a significant amount of weight. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling very thin, I threw on a bikini and geared up my phone’s self-timer, posing by my outdoor shower. After I got one, I liked, I posted on Instagram and then went and crawled into bed, calling in sick to work. I used a negative side effect of my mental health to take a photo, and the worst of all is all of my friends envied my weight loss, not a single person checked in on me. I portray a life I want people to see, as we all do, almost to a point where social media is more damaging to my mental health than positive.
University is the place where I started to understand mental health, it is also the place I began to understand my own mental health. In today’s time, when people come to me about their mental health, I always think of positive things. They are so brave; they are making the right steps to support themselves. In the same regard, I am someone who for so long denied my own mental health, I used to tell people I have anxious moments, but I don’t have anxiety. For myself labeling what was going on, that was too hard for me, and I don’t think I’m alone in that aspect. University is a lot more than just a school system, it’s a culture, environment and huge step in many adolescents’ lives. I believe these few years are the first-time many millennials come to terms and take the time to understand what is going with their own bodies and mental state. I see a lot of people thrive; others seem to hit rock bottom. I am in my final year of school, I would have thought my last year would be my easiest, the time I was most secure, I was wrong. So far, my final year of school has been one of my most challenging, with many large life changes coming my way, I have really struggled to be okay. At first, I kept it all in, I cried in the shower and tried to bury myself with work and school, that did not work. I finally took a break, I went home, I cut some toxic people from my life and I told my trusted allies that I needed some help.
These past few years was the first time I have ever admitted to struggling with mental health, this is also the first time I have advocated and stood up to end the stigma with mental health. The greatest lesson I have learned throughout my experience is that it is okay to not be okay. No one is 100% every minute of every day, sometimes a girl who looks like they have their life together is struggling the most. I have struggled a lot these past few months, I had to break my image of being perfect, but I learned a lot about myself and my mental health. Most importantly talk to your friends, check-in with yourself and help end the stigma about mental health, be a part of the conversations.
The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.