The emerging blogger series is aimed at community building through giving mental health bloggers who are early in their blogging evolution the opportunity to have their work seen by a wider audience. It’s also a way to introduce you as a reader to some newer members of our community.
This post is by In My Head With Simon.
Making Peace with Where You Are
A Letter to Students who battle Mental Illnesses
To Those Who Battle with Mental Illness:
I am a planner. I plan my diet. I plan my agenda for the day. I meticulously planned my academic journey and my future career. But as everyone knows, life does not always go according to plan. It throws these hurdles in your path for you to jump over. Sometimes it even slices right through your plan, redirecting the course of your life. For me, this hurdle is depression and anxiety.
Mental illnesses can silently slither into your life. It starts with signs so small you don’t notice it’s there at first. By the time it becomes more obvious, you’re dangling on the edge of a precipice. This is how my first encounter with depression felt. It threw a wrench in my academic plans. It forced me to take a two-year break from college and re-evaluate my plans. I questioned whether I could even go back to college, whether I was strong enough to endure the stresses that come with it. When I finally decided to give college another try, I chose a small university with a warm, sunny climate, similar to my home country.
I went abroad in 2013 and was expected to graduate in 2017. But during my first year I had my first major depressive episode. I had to grapple with the fact that my plans had changed. I constantly compared myself with my friends whose academic journeys were seemingly on track. My friends, who by the time I re-entered college, already had their bachelor’s degrees. I would look at my peers’ posts about graduating on social media. I felt as if I was behind.
It took me years to make peace with how my plans were altered. I constantly blamed myself for not being strong enough. But it’s not about strength. Mental illnesses can make performing basic tasks difficult. So imagine how difficult it makes performing more complicated tasks, like studying and completing assignments. It takes remarkable strength to go to university with a mental illness.
There’s a common saying, “It doesn’t matter how you start; it’s how you finish.” I know that may sound cliché to some of you. But it’s true. I’ve been told this a million times by my family. However, it took awhile for me to internalise this message.
One thing that helped me was reading the autobiographies of Michelle Obama, Trevor Noah and Barack Obama (which I am currently reading). I related to Michelle Obama in her need to always have a plan and not wanting to deviate from that plan. However, just like my life did not go according to my plan, hers did not either (albeit for very different reasons). Her coming to understand that it’s good to take the unbeaten track and venture off course helped me tremendously to come to terms with the way my life turned out. Mind you, I read this book a year ago, a few months before I graduated from university. Shortly after graduating from university, I read Trevor Noah’s ‘Born a Crime’ and Barack Obama’s ‘Dreams from My Father’. Unlike Michelle Obama, Trevor Noah and Barack Obama were not fixated on sticking to a predetermined path. Both of them came from adverse circumstances yet managed to be successful people in spite of their circumstances. Their experiences helped me to see the derailment of my plans in a new light.
With this new insight, I began to see depression as the adverse circumstance in my life. Although I am still learning this, I find that it is important to make peace with where you are. It does not define me and so it will not determine my future. It is true that mental illness does not define a person. Neither does your successes nor your failures- whether you have a college degree or don’t have one. Instead, you are defined by a myriad of things: the totality of your experiences, culture, values, beliefs and character, just to name a few.
It’s okay if you have to put your plans on hold because of a mental illness. It’s okay if you graduate from university a few months or a few years later than you’d hoped. And it is okay if you don’t graduate from university.
I hope this letter helps you to make peace with where you are in your journey. I hope it encourages you to keep trying to achieve your goals. Yes, it’s difficult to be a university student. But, it’s even more difficult to be a university student battling with a mental illness.
I hope this letter gives you solace.
Hope this helps,
In My Head with Simon
Visit In My Head With Simon at https://inmyheadwithsimon.wordpress.com/
Thanks so much for participating!
You can find a listing of all of the series posts in the emerging blogger directory.
Do you want to be the next emerging blogger?
- you have a personal (rather than business-oriented) blog that’s focused primarily on mental health/illness
- you’re a new(ish) blogger, with WordPress following <100 preferred
Interested? If you fit the criteria above:
- email me at mentalhealthathome (at) gmail (dot) com
- let me know the topic you’d like to write about and include your blog name/URL
- don’t think of this as having to “pitch” an idea – I’m just trying to make sure people actually fit the criteria and spirit of the series