Featured Illustration: Caitlin B.
How are you doing?
Most of us never think about our mental health until it hits us that we are sinking deeper into the bottomless pit of our emotions. Before the advent of social media and the mental health movement, we assumed the constriction of our hearts, sweat in our palms, unwillingness to get up from the bed, and shortness of breath was normal. It comes and goes. We are more aware now as people are dealing with issues related to their mental health, but still, most of us exclude ourselves by saying, “it’s not my issue.” We do not have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any diagnosed disorder, so we don’t need to concern ourselves with our mental health.
I used to think the same until I got to college. In college, I began to deal with more pressures and triggers to my mental health: I must keep my grades up so I can get a good job and help my parents. I need to find out what I truly love, so I am not the miserable person in the corporate world that everyone talks about. I need to be TikTok famous or an Instagram influencer so I can make money off doing the least work, or so it seems. I must be successful, so I don’t become 30 and wonder where all the time went. More words that caused my heart to constrict further, daily. You probably have the same thoughts, because these days we are mostly seeing the same lives and being influenced by the same concepts.
Still, we do not care much about our mental health. Why worry if I am not ‘sick’?
There are three common triggers that dampen our mental health: “they”, “right”, and “headspace”.
The ‘they’ trigger is one we all connect to. It is when we ask, “what would they think of me?” We worry so much about what others would say behind our backs. Would they say I am nagging, dumb, doing too much, pushing too hard? Would they view me differently — I have always been the nerd, been cool — would I lose that name? Would I lose my friends and support system? We have heard all too many times the statement, “Do not care what others think or say about you”, yet we still care. Why? Why don’t we internalize this statement, change out our internal narrative? Instead of asking, “what would they think of me”, perhaps we should ask ourselves a different question: Who are they? Who are the ‘other people’ that have gotten us so tied up in a twist? Why do I care about their opinion? Because if we are truly honest, and really want to point it out, we can’t really say who they are.
The ‘they’ trigger leads into the ‘headspace’ trigger. This is when we get into our heads, and we think about every result that could come from our decisions. We plan out every scenario — if this happens, then this would happen, then this would happen. Other times, we plan out conversations, If she says yes, then I would give her this planned out reason, if she says no, I would say this instead. If she says maybe, I would dish out this other argument. We sit in our thoughts, and spend hours planning, only to encounter the situation we did not think of. Then we panic, because it is not according to the handbook, we do not know the right way.
Finally, we have the ‘right’ trigger. We search and scourge the ends of the earth for the ‘right’ decision, ‘right’ choice, ‘right’ action. What is the one ‘right’ path to become an actress, the one ‘right’ way to become a doctor, get into that top school? What is the ‘right’ choice? What has been done, and is proven to not fail? We are always searching for one way to do something in an attempt to avoid failure at all costs. As a result of this search, we unhealthily stress ourselves in the journey to find the right method, though we have heard it said multiple times, that there is no one way to do anything.
I don’t blame us, I blame society’s obsession with the perfect Instagram model, perfect activist, perfect actress, perfect leader. We cling to the perfect, and then rip them apart the moment we notice a flaw. We have taken flaws and turned them into problems that need to be buried, playing the pretense game as we close our eyes to our reflection.
We live in a world where the slogan is, “look for happiness.” We ask, “how can I be the happiest person in the world, and live the happiest life?” The 4.3 million self-help books sold in 2019, the 343,000 trainers, and the 5 million diet books are sufficient proof of this search.
Quarantine has added to the struggle — we are stuck at home with no escape. Our thoughts are everywhere, and most people look like they are having a blast on TikTok with their crop tops and buzzing homes. Despite the resources, such as crisis hotlines, non-profits, and safe spaces available for us to improve our mental health, most of us still deal with shaking hands and a constricting heart, with some refusing to acknowledge this truth.
We are all dealing with loss right now; loss of a dream vacation trip, loss of internships, loss of friends, family, lives, and jobs. We are grieving. However, we need to allow ourselves to grieve. Allow yourself to cry about not being able to walk the stage at graduation. Allow yourself to be sad that you have not seen your friends in two months. Feel every emotion and feel them consciously, ready to move on from it when the time comes.
No matter the emotional state we are in — happy, sad, or nervous — it is important for us to acknowledge each emotion we feel. When we find ourselves being pulled in, it is important that we:
Feel our emotions consciously.
And ask ourselves: How am I, really?
. . .
Mental Health Resources:
United States of America
Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger or go to the nearest emergency room.
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454
The Lifeline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects callers to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have hearing loss can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.
Text “HELLO” to 741741
The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that connects veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a trained responder. The service is available to all veterans, even if they are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA healthcare. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have hearing loss can call 1-800-799-4889.
Call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
The disaster distress helpline provides immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. The helpline is free, multilingual, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Visit @shewriteswoman or Call Fauziyya at +234 703 820 5947.