It’s OK to Not Be OK

You are valid — in both your pains and pleasures, happiness and sadness.

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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.

It’s OK to not be OK with your mental health. You may think you’re an exception, and that you’re a failure — but everyone slips up sometimes, and there are times when things don’t seem to get better. Don’t assume that because people say “Things will get better,” they therefore will. Sometimes the rut sticks and the black dog hounds at you like a stray dog barking down the train aisle. At other times you want to get out of it yet somehow manage to miss the last train. You feel stranded and hopeless, and then you start to question and hate on yourself. Why me? Surely it’s not me. Surely the me and the I must have come apart by some bizarre miracle.

But you deserve, and you are better than this. You are not a perfect person. You may even be a good person — you’ve made mistakes, you’re going to make more mistakes, and you’re not good. You haven’t done good. You’re immoral and morally flawed, or a victim of akrasia, or have failed to live up to your expectations. Yet none of these bar you from being valid. You are valid — in both your pains and pleasures, happiness and sadness. A valid human being, deserving of respect.

I am wary of analogies that try to compare the struggle against depression to a fight. I, myself, don’t want to fight. There are many times when I want to stop fighting. It hurts to fight, because fighting takes energy, takes effort, and takes your authentic self away from your rehabilitated self. I’m not a fighter, and we shouldn’t ask or demand of others the mental sacrifice and costs involved in fighting an enemy that is so enveloping and suffocating in its presence. But I think you and I are comrades, comrades who may sometimes refuse to fight, and that’s perfectly OK. Just walking on a muddy path, trying to find a way out. But collectively lost.

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More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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