Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Growing up, I always struggled finding a solid group of girls to be friends with. I can remember in elementary and middle school, I’d be bouncing around from friend group to friend group, trying to find a place for myself but I just never fit in. I was either too late to join or was missing a certain quality that bound the group together as a whole. And I’m not saying I didn’t have friends, because that’s not true at all. I had plenty of friends. But I never had one cohesive group of girls to call my “squad” up until my junior year of high school.

This group of girls changed my life. They are the reason I get up in the morning. They are the reason I feel safe and secure with myself. They are the reason I feel like I have a place in the world. They are my sun, moon, and stars. I’ve never taken the time to reflect on how important each and every one of these girls are to me and how fortunate I am to have such strong, brave, independent and supportive women in my life.

2018 was easily the toughest year for me. It all started in January with sorority rush which ultimately didn’t work out for me. I felt like I was reliving my early childhood years all over again, yearning to belong in a group but not being wanted. Getting rejected from sororities took a blow to my self esteem. I doubted my abilities as a friend and who I was as a person. About a month later, I was assaulted. The assault rocked me. I was and still am traumatized from the event but I am seeking help. And yet, my story doesn’t end there. Of course on top of all of this, I had to deal with heartbreak… twice… from the same guy. He knew of my struggles with the sorority rush and the assault and was supportive in my times of need but that didn’t stop him from leaving me to get back together with his ex before summer started. A few months later, I let him back into my life and we were happy again up until we weren’t. He dumped me about three weeks into school, telling me he couldn’t handle a relationship. Well, it turned out he could handle a relationship, just not with me. He got a new girlfriend less than a month after breaking up with me for the second time.

These events are only a portion of the trauma my nineteen year old self had to endure, but this article isn’t about my sob story. It’s about the unconditional love and support I received from my girls after every single one of these events. I am so blessed to have a group that provides me with an overflowing amount of comfort and involvement in my life. These girls have been there for me through the good, the bad, and the ugly. They know my deepest, darkest secrets and don’t judge. They offer advice that is both productive and supportive to my needs. They have never made me feel like I was on the outside. With them, I feel like I’m a part of something that I can guarantee will last a lifetime.

For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to realize how fortunate I am to have a support system like this. Not many people can say that they have four people who would never back away when things get tough. I’ve run the course of many friendships in my life and lost a lot of friends after terrifying events like my assault. While losing friends after a trauma like that is heartbreaking, it helped me see who my constants are in life and I’m better for it.

I have every reason to dwell on all the bad in my life. So many awful things happened to me this year and I feel like one bad thing just happens right after the next and I simply can’t catch a break. But then for a second, I think back to what I do have. And what I have is uncommon, unique and unbelievably special. My girls taught me so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I am more than my trauma. I am better and too good for any guy that breaks down my confidence. Because of them, I want to push myself to become the stronger, more confident and independent woman that they see in me. And with the new year in full swing, I want my girls to know (you know who you are) that I am so thankful that they’re a part of my journey and that they encourage me to be the best version of myself that I can be.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis