I had the privilege of attending a lecture given by Stacy Pershall, a woman plagued by several mental illnesses. She battled an eating disorder and borderline personality disorder for a majority of her life. Her lecture was about living and coping with her conditions and how she finally found a treatment that worked for her. Stacy Pershall has been an advocate for maintaining mental well-being for over 20 years. Ever since I saw her speak at an Active Minds presentation, I became inspired to become an advocate for mental health as well.
I have always been the type of person to put myself last. I’ve cared too much about what others think and have trouble saying “no” to people, especially friends and acquaintances. Because of this, I tend to overexert myself and rarely ever have any “me” time. I also discovered that I’m constantly worried about disappointing other people: my parents, my friends, my professors. In short, I am living my life for other people. I’m letting the reactions of my peers dictate how I lead my life instead of doing what makes me happy.
Even though I decided a change was necessary, I was unsure of how to approach the whole situation. I turned to trusted friends and family for help. They advised me to begin with baby steps: at the end of each day, make a list of three things that you enjoyed. This helps you put your troubles into perspective and reminds you of what you truly cherish in life.
Next, I started doing things that made me happy. I went on walks, travelled to concerts, drank a lot of coffee and listened to a lot of music. It sounds so simple, but in the tumultuous times of college, we often put things that we find pleasure in last on our priority list.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I decided to revamp my mental well-being, but I can honestly say I’ve never been happier. Even random strangers on the street comment on how cheerful I seem. I feel a lot better too. I’m doing better in school, I’m managing my time better and I feel all-around “lighter.” I’m also valuing my relationships with people who actually matter to me, as opposed to trying to please everyone.
Sometimes in the mess of college we forget about the big picture. We’re so caught up in arbitrary assignments, deadlines and meetings that we lose track of what is important in life. At the end of the day, you need to make yourself happy first. Some college students struggle with this concept, myself included. I would like to remind them that it’s okay to not be okay and that there many on-campus (and off-campus) resources available to utilize. After all, if you keep neglecting your mental health, it will hurt you in the long run.