I want to take a moment to reflect and bring awareness to Mental Health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is crucial at every point in your life. Understanding and being open to talking about our feelings and emotions can help others understand their symptoms and break their stigma. It includes psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It can affect the way we handle stress, normal daily activities, and choices we make, to name a few. I never took my mental health seriously until my Junior year of college. I always thought it was frowned upon to ask for help and express your struggles. To cry, to feel like a burden to others and tell them what was going on, I thought I would put my struggles on others and thought I could handle everything myself. I thought it was good to be independent and not lean on others. I was in a competitive lifestyle environment at an elite academic and athletic school. We are trained to hide our feelings and push away any pain we may have. I heard “fake it til you make it” used so many times that I convinced myself I could hide these feelings and began to lose myself and what I enjoyed. Being at the University of Michigan, we had many resources readily available. Once I started using them, I began to feel more comfortable asking for help.
Throughout my college career, I struggled with feeling at ease and if it was in the best place for me.. Day after Day, I dreaded going to training and class and continued to sleep more and more. I did not know what was going on, and I convinced myself I was tired because of the hard training and that everyone felt the same way. It was not until one day I broke down. I let everything out and probably not on the best person. But I couldn’t control it. This was a lot of pain that had built up, just released for a moment. I ended up calling an old coach to explain what was going on and get advice and a different perspective. I looked up to him more than anyone else because he believed in me and my abilities to be successful. Thankfully he was familiar with what I was going through, and we could openly converse about it. There are not many people I open up to, so sharing this was a big step for me. I was looking for an answer from him, but instead, he made me reflect on what was going on.
Going into my first counseling session, I was nervous. I had all these things I wanted to talk about because expressing myself is hard for me. You can not get many answers from me unless you ask a specific question. I had prepared for this moment, and once I got in, it was nothing I expected. I did not even talk about what I had planned and used up the whole time, which I was surprised because I did not think it would take more than twenty minutes. After the session, I was relieved. I felt pressure taken off my chest, but that was only the beginning. I needed to treat myself with love and compassion, so I had a few homework assignments to work on every day. I began the evening with three things I did well throughout the day. I was relearning how to be my biggest cheerleader again.
Being a student-athlete and finding balance is hard. I hope that if you or someone you know is struggling, you find comfort in seeking help. Talking to someone and doing work for yourself is the best way to release the pressure that has been built up over time. Make sure to check in on your friends, even those you think are doing well. Lastly, time heals everything; it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you start opening up; there is no time limit on when you begin to feel better; just know it is a process and be ready to embrace it.