Opinion

The importance of mental health

Story by: Lindsey Bacigal, Saint Reporter

Following our return to campus, the question we always seem to ask each other is: “So, how was your break?” This year, I found myself in an awkward predicament when asked this question. On the one hand, I could smile and reply with the usual, “Oh, it was good, thanks,” or I could respond with the truth, which is much more complicated.

To really answer this question, I would have to begin with a bit of background on myself. For many years now I have been struggling with what I thought to be depression. I had never seen a psychiatrist or therapist because it was one of those things I thought I could handle. Whenever I felt down, I would just tell myself that it was a phase and to pull myself out of it. However, over the years the downs were happening more and more often and seemed to be increasingly out of my control. Combined with the stresses of school, work, and life, I frequently felt unhappy. Though I often put on a happy face in public, I also withdrew from friends and family, instead deciding to deal with these feelings on my own. This past holiday season, however, I hit my breaking point.

One day over winter break I just started crying about anything and everything, and it honestly felt like I would never stop. No matter what “happy” things I had going on in my life or things I had to look forward to, I just could not feel happy. I fell deeper and deeper into this abyss to the point where I went to the emergency room for help, and was eventually admitted to the stress unit at the hospital.

Upon my arrival in the stress unit, I was terrified. During my intake I began sobbing twice purely from fear. I just kept thinking that I had made a mistake. I didn’t think I belonged with all of those “other people” who were much worse off than me.  However, and this might sound quite odd, I actually had a great experience spending those five days, including my mom’s birthday and New Year’s Eve, in the stress unit. Just being able to talk to people who could understand exactly what I was going through was incredibly powerful. I never once felt a need to hide my feelings or thoughts. Also, I finally spoke with a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with clinical depression and a generalized anxiety disorder. Though this might seem like a bad thing, being able to put a name to my feelings made me feel so much better. In addition, I was able to be put on medication, which has been working well so far.

I tell this story because I don’t want other people to be afraid of getting help. So many people suffer in silence and it’s not healthy, believe me. I encourage anyone struggling with any mental illness to get the help they need, whether that’s therapy, medication, coping skills, or just talking to a friend. Find out what works best for you. It’s perfectly okay to feel down, but it’s not okay to bottle up those feelings forever. Though I once felt so alone, I now feel much better after getting the help I needed and knowing that there were so many other people going through the same thing. Though taking that first step can feel scary or uncomfortable, it can make a world of difference.

To receive help on campus, visit AQ Counseling, Health and Wellness Services in the lower level of Donnelly Center. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To receive immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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