Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
“Are you okay? You don’t have your sunny disposition today,” a co-worker observed.
When prodded further for information, I shrugged my shoulders and willed the tears that began welling up in my eyes to go away.
In earnest, my head was pounding and I hadn’t been able to keep a solid meal down for a few days but I still wouldn’t be considered “sick,” if I made my way into the health clinic.
Do I dump onto every passerby who happens to ask me how I’m doing?
Of course not, so for now, “I’m sick.”
As I gear up for the last few weeks of my undergraduate career, I find myself increasingly irritable.
Between headaches and severe nausea, no sleep, and the constant texts from loved ones asking me why the sudden radio silence, I feel high-strung. Well, more so than usual.
The nature of my situation is this: I anticipate going home after graduation and serving at a local restaurant. I’ll take a few months to mentally distance myself from the last three years and I might even go outside every so often. But I know that as soon as the leaves begin to fall come September, I’ll find myself itching to have routine that doesn’t involve asking how someone would like their burger cooked. (I’m not knocking food service. A job is a job, but serving food to the same town since the age of 15 takes a large toll on a girl.)
So when the sun has peeked out from behind the clouds and I watch my classmates and friends frolic in the quad, talking about their plans of travel, internship, or grad school, my stomach begins to ache.
After three years of a valued education, the past few days have been packed with thoughts like “I’m so dumb,” “I’m not going to get accepted to any of the opportunities I applied for,” “my plan won’t work.”
But how do I tell my peers or professors I’m experiencing stress without getting the run of the mill cliche.
“Everything works out, you’ll see.”
Telling people “I’m sick,” avoids having to hear your response that I most likely already anticipated before you even opened your mouth.
It’s not ideal and it’s not the healthiest solution to the problem but society has yet to create language to properly address an individual’s mental well-being.
I could tell you I’m apprehensive for the future, but that’s not completely accurate. I could tell you I’m sad to be a small fish entering a large pond, but that’s not everything.
Clarification of language revolving around how we are feeling is difficult and some times it’s easier to shrug it off and keep people off of your back.
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