Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash “Yes” “No” “Maybe” Three words that I am proud to have in the English dictionary. Three words that I am happy that I have the ability to use, being aware that there are many who are unable to use those words for a variety of reasons. When spending time with a mixed cultural couple, I was able to learn that the French do not have a good word for ‘may...
After seeing the trauma that others have gone through, it can be hard to be forthcoming about your own problems. Even after going through trauma yourself, it can be hard to ask for help. We’re constantly telling ourselves it could’ve been worse, especially college students. We see our peers in clubs, excelling academically, and adulting in a way that we haven’t imagined, making us feel like we’re the sore thumbs within our respective groups; like we’re some kind of imposter. Imposter Syndrome—the idea that one doubts their success and feels they do not truly belong at a place, such as a university—is real and can wreak havoc on our mental health.
As someone who often finds themselves feeling like an imposter, I understand it can be hard to listen to your friends and family when they say you belong somewhere. Of course, they’re going to say it because they love you. However, I’m someone who believes in fate and one day when I was feeling down, fate led me to a quote on Facebook. Yes, that’s silly, but why else would I have seen it if I wasn’t supposed to see it? Does that make sense? Anyway, it said you shouldn’t compare how much one person has on their plate to another. One person may have a paper plate. The other person’s plate may be a little sturdier. We all handle obstacles differently and we shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help carrying everything on our plates.
As a sexual assault survivor, I have often found it difficult to ask for help with problems that weren’t directly associated with my assault. I felt this way because I thought none of my problems were near as “traumatic” as the assault. Once I believed the direct problems that stemmed from that situation were gone, I thought I was cured, happy, and healthy. There was nothing left to do but wallow in my peace. However, after enrolling in Northwestern, one of the first things that were advertised to me was our counseling services. Fate? They told all students to come in any time we wanted. At any time, we could talk to someone or simply sit in bean bag chairs, sipping tea and taking a breather on our own, if that’s what we’d like. It was a safe space. I had never seen the idea of mental health be so destigmatized that it almost felt silly to me.
The truth is that mental health on college campuses are skyrocketing. More students are coming forth and asking for help because colleges are doing everything they can to destigmatize mental health. Asking questions about mental health in high school or lower grades can be scary because counseling services can be a little more complicated: you need parental permission and it can be difficult to arrange times to get the help that fit for you and your schedule. However, colleges work with you to make sure that your counseling needs will not affect your academic and career goals; in fact, colleges work with you to make sure they can benefit you in a way that will enhance your academic and career lifestyle.
Seeking out accommodations can ultimately make your life easier. I decided to return to counseling after a bad break up my freshman year. I had been so happy with him that when I had to learn to live without him again, it was difficult. I was stressed so I wasn’t sleeping well. In order to refocus my attention, I would take a break from studying to eat a pound of shrimp and watch Netflix. While it helped with getting my mind off things, I began gaining weight and feeling unhappy with my appearance. I didn’t think anything of it. I was still 18 and your teenage years are known for bad breakups. All college students are stressed and sleep-deprived. All freshmen are catching freshman-15. If they can handle it, so can I. But why should I? Why should you?
People want to help you. Colleges often have programs to help pay for 100% or at least a partial amount of psychological services. Take advantage of that while you can. And listen to the signs! You don’t need some big traumatic event to happen to get counseling. Every week, I walk into my counselor’s office with the words “Girl, lemme tell you” as I dive into the stress of my week and I always feel the weight lift off my shoulders. Drop the mentality of it could’ve been worse. So, what if they have more on their plate? Start thinking damn, my plate is getting a little heavy and then drop a little bit of that food into your counselor’s lap. Don’t worry about the stain! They’re getting paid for that.