Mental Health in College: My Experience
College wasn’t the beginning of my struggles with mental health, but it undoubtedly played a large role in the troubles I faced. As a high school senior, the process of selecting a university and college major was a very stressful one, which was not alleviated by financial concerns. I’d received a decent grant and small scholarship upon my entrance into the University of Texas, but not nearly as much as I anticipated. Constantly applying for scholarships and not receiving them wasn’t good for my morale, but I still had hopes that my college experience would be worth it. As a freshman at the University of Texas, I struggled immensely with my sense of self. Leaving my tight-knit friendships to start new ones was not an easy task, and I kept falling into situations with people I had little in common with, often feeling like a mismatched outsider. I eventually began isolating myself and spending most of my time alone. Not knowing what I wanted to major in was one of the main sources of my stress and anxiety. Being at a school where everyone seemed so accomplished and driven affected my self-esteem as I felt I had no sense of direction in comparison. While I still have special moments from my time at UT, I felt the school wasn’t a good fit at the time, and I returned to Dallas to reassess my situation.
I was led to the University of Texas at Arlington because I was drawn to a major in Visual communications. I was excited and hopeful that I’d finally found something I felt I could excel in. While the program showed promise at first, other concerns with my environment and experiences on campus were proving that it may not be in the best space for me. My best friend, who I lived with and attended school with, was having similar problems. We were both struggling with our own doubts. She eventually stopped attending classes, and I made an appointment with campus ‘counseling and psychological services’ as I couldn’t shake constant anxiety, negative thought patterns and lack of focus. I was able to receive accommodations for classes for the remaining length of the semester and encouraged to meet with a specialist for a comprehensive evaluation.
While I didn’t follow the further recommendations for outside treatment, I did transfer out and take a break from on-campus course instructions. I discovered Texas State’s Digital Media Innovation major online, and thought it was perfect for me. Now that I’m full major status in this program, my mind hasn’t changed and I still enjoy this degree path. Unfortunately, I still struggle on and off with my mental health. Though I have met with campus counseling services on some occasions, other priorities have made it difficult for me to maintain consistency, as well as get officially diagnosed and treated. Mental health isn’t as stigmatized these days and is considered a priority, and while I wholeheartedly agree, not much can be done when life gets in the way. On a positive note, I’ve since taught myself self-care, and while I still fluctuate, I feel I have mentally matured enough to be able to manage my symptoms on my own for the time being. Also, being at Texas state, I’ve learned from interacting with students in this environment that not everyone has everything figured out, and that it’s ok. The current global pandemic we’re facing definitely makes managing mental health tricky for everyone, but knowing that we’re all in this together is a big source of comfort to me.