Emotion ManagementMental Health

Lessons on Mental Health, Writing, and Healing: What I Learned my Sophomore Year of College

filipino girl at uc berkeley zellerbach hall

This was a 2014 submission for a Mental Health Perceptions Page that was started by a friend of mine in the Berkeley Dance Community. It was originally titled “475nm: Perceptions on Depression” and was later renamed to “475nm: Perceptions on Mental Health” to be a more all encompassing term.

If you want to reach the original post, click here. The facebook page is no longer accepting submissions.*

I use writing as an escape from this world. Whenever I feel utterly consumed by the struggles that life continuously throws at me, I go inside my bag and grab a journal to write in. I always have a journal on me, and if not, I have paper. No paper? Then I have my phone and its pre-installed notepad app. Sometimes writing isn’t enough though, so I seek out the words of someone else to shed light into my life. Personal stories, quotes, articles, writing inside bathroom stalls, poems.. hm, poems. Have you ever thought of how beautiful poetry is? It wasn’t everyone’s favorite part of high school English, but it was mine. I found poetry to be a blessing brought down by heaven. Whenever I’ve found myself in times of despair and complete depression, poetry has helped my mind untangle the knots it’s put itself in. Here’s one that I’ve read recently:

‘I am good for awhile
I’ll talk more, laugh more
Sleep and eat normally
But then something happens
Like a switch turns off somewhere
And all I am left with is the darkness of my mind
But each time it seems like I sink
Deeper and deeper
And I am scared…
Terrified that one day I won’t make it back up
I feel like I’m gasping for air
Screaming for help
But everyone just looks at me
With confused faces
Wondering what I am struggling over
When they’re all doing just fine
And it makes me feel crazy

What the hell is wrong with me?’

-m.h

Oh darling, I can answer the question that ends this poem. Its answer is ” nothing,”
because…

Nothing is wrong with you.

Nothing is wrong with anyone here, back at home, around the world, off on distant planets.. and nothing is wrong with you.

Part of my ongoing struggle here at Berkeley is the feeling of inadequacy in comparison to my peers. I came from a place where the academic rigor wasn’t enough to prepare me for this unknown world I delved into a year ago. My brain wasn’t filled with files and cabinets of knowledge, nor did I come here with any past leadership positions, valedictorian/salutatorian standing, or nation wide scholarship awardee status. I’m just Eril: a quiet, introverted girl, who kept to herself but dreamed of a better world and sought to help those around her.

My passion to make a difference, to discover myself, and to help others in the process is what drives me to keep moving forward. I’m consistently trying to figure my life out while simultaneously helping others, but it’s just so difficult to do that when you can’t even help yourself sometimes. And when you find yourself in that type of situation, you feel useless, pathetic, and unworthy of living. Things are also difficult when you feel the pressure of needing to know what you want to do with your life or else you’re practically wasting time. I feel like a disappointment when I don’t know what I’m doing, because it makes me feel like the efforts and sacrifices my family has put down for me are going to waste. I stubbornly refuse to seek help because I can already feel the sea of tears about to break out if I try to speak. Since people are unaware of how depressed I can get, they find it surprising and quite worrisome that I’m going through this. But it happens. You feel that nothing is okay. You start apologizing for your feelings, trying to compensate and reason out why your emotions are irrational and not needed to be brought up. You bring up all your failures and ignore the accomplishments you’ve made thus far. You bring yourself down because you’ve drowned and for some reason, you’re too weak to swim back up. You feel lost, hurt, broken and incapable of being fixed, when in reality, you should be keeping in mind that everything will be okay.

I’ve been trying to overcome my introverted nature ever since I got to college, but even as I continuously tried joining different organizations on campus, it’s been hard to truly define my community and find a sense of belonging. Because of this, I felt alone and depressed easily. I felt like I had no one I could go to for my problems, and that no one would understand. More so, I felt like no one cared and that I was a burden. As my time here progressed, I found myself in stickier situations, ones that made me feel worse about life and at one point made me want to stop living. It’s one thing when one bad situation comes up, but when multiple arise and are placed on the plate in front of you, your stomach and mind already feel sick before consuming it all.

Obviously, there is more to a person than what you see from their exterior. People see me smiling, but little do they know the millions of thoughts that go on through my head. Nothing is linear. My thoughts are always entangled, whether or not they are relevant to each other. They say that the happiest people are the ones that have been through so much, that they’ll do anything in hopes no one else will have to endure what they had to. In a way, I can agree, but at the same time I know there are people who are naturally happy despite the unfortunate parts of their life. Regardless of peoples’ circumstances, I know that all bad things will pass because there is always sunshine after a storm. With the amount of journal entries I’ve written in my life, pieces of literature I’ve read, and people I’ve communicated with, I’ve found that it’s definitely okay to not be okay. The feelings we as humans have are beautiful and heartwarming, and its what makes us human. We don’t need to apologize for crying, for being angry, for being happy, for being confused, etc. Because we’re perfectly imperfect, as cliche as it sounds.

So I hope for anyone who finds themselves asking, ‘What the hell is wrong with me?’ you’ll have the strength to be content with the answer ‘nothing,’ because my dear, nothing is wrong with you.

If you want to read my 2 year update after this first submission was published, click here.

-Eril, UC Berkeley

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