College is rough. Every year, incoming first-years leap from the relative safety of their childhood into the wild wild west of “Stressed and Depressed: The Movie,” starring you, yours truly, and just about every other card-carrying member of the collegiate system. No one had any idea what we were getting into; high school prepares you for the classes, but nobody tells you about the terrifying riptide that is everything else you’re about to encounter and the way it pulls you under before you can take a breath.
Suddenly you find yourself with more freedom than you’ve ever had, and somehow a whole lot less wisdom than you thought you left high school with. If you’re not already grinding to keep your GPA afloat and your parents happy, you’re stressing about friendships or relationships and how everyone else seems to have already met their best friends or their soulmates while you’re still spending Saturdays alone. Some days your Netflix account is the only familiar smiling face you might see. College is a breeding ground for loneliness and social anxiety, stress over grades that could very well dictate the rest of your life, and causes you to wonder if you are even on the right path.
“Not all who wander are lost,” but wandering through tens of thousands of dollars a year is kind of a different matter. Some days it feels like invisible stones are being stacked on your back until you don’t know how to do anything but melt through the floor.
Why don’t we talk about it?
We’re all in this together. Have you ever met a college student? Most of your fellow students, even if they’re not going through the same issues, can empathize. Mental health has enough stigmas as is—so let’s be a little more vocal about things that none of us really have answers to. If anything, college is a heavy dose of reality. And there’s no way to really avoid getting the wind knocked out of you when it hits.
But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless. This is the part of the movie where I stand on a chair and ask who’s with me. If you want to help yourself, and everyone around you, speak up a little. Seek out help. The counseling center is a free and a marvelous resource for all students. No matter how big or small the issue, it’s okay to feel afraid; it’s okay to seek out help, and it’s okay to talk to your friends about it. Because chances are, even if they don’t have advice, they might just offer a, “Yeah, it do be like that sometimes.” At the end of the day, mental health is a confusing beast with countless heads, so sometimes the simplest way to feel a little better is at least to feel a little less alone.
“You’ll find yourself in college,” they’ll tell you. Maybe that’s true, but I’d argue that it needs to be more specific. A more accurate statement might be: You’ll lose yourself in college — maybe for a long time. And that’s okay. Because it will give you time to pick up the pieces and rearrange them in an even better way. So help your friends, and they’ll help you. After all, in the words of the millennial icon, Troy Bolton: “We’re all in this together.”