People have seen me begin this column with a tone of nervous excitement, shifting to sadness, confusion and sleep deprivation.
My journey as a grad student in the English and American Literature department has not been the easiest one, especially concerning my mental health. My experience as a grad student has awoken my anxiety and started a state of depression that I’m now battling on a daily basis. It didn’t seriously hit me until my second semester, scrambling to finish 20-page papers, balancing two internships and two jobs. And although I tried to lighten my load, I still had to find a part-time job this semester to help pay my bills and support myself.
All of this has made me question whether I am the only one who is experiencing this.
Well, the obvious answer is “no.” Many undergrads and grad students alike experience bouts of anxiety, fear, depression and other mental health matters. However, from the experiences that I’ve gathered from other grad students, I’m starting to feel that we have to hide our issues.
When I say that, I mean that our loads are greater than our four-year experiences as undergrads, and we have to balance so much more than our younger selves, i.e. work loads and grades, social lives (if chosen to have one), jobs and the list goes on. With all of these (potential) things that can fuel our mental health issues, I feel that we have to internalize our feelings further, all to show that we can balance this and place bigger flags in our academic careers.
But what if internalizing it doesn’t work? *cues Yuna’s “Lights & Camera”*
I feel like I’m the epitome of this question. Because my depression has risen, I have to fight harder to balance the above things. I also have to cope with something that makes it difficult to get out of bed most days, doubt myself every minute or break down whenever everything goes wrong.
I admit — not with pride, but with honesty — that my mental health matters. I fear that admitting this will make me look weak to my peers and professors, that they will judge me even further than how I feel they do. At the same time, me confessing this is the start of working to get through the rest of the program.
I can’t internalize and hide how I feel. For me, trying to suppress this didn’t work and took a huge toll on me that I’m still recovering from. I have to have that support system to get through the days, going from my working mother to my loving partner to the friends that I have on campus, and the bonds that I’m building with old friends. I’m even keeping a journal to vent when I can’t with others.
Although I fear what this program has to offer in the next few months, I won’t try to stand up tall and finish in stride. I will go along in this journey with humility and honesty and know that I will have to work harder on some days to not let my anxiety and depression defeat me.