Mental health is just as, if not more, important as physical health. In 2019, people are becoming more open and aware of the mental struggles that weigh some people down throughout their daily lives. However, others hold beliefs that seeing a therapist makes a person “crazy” and even “a psycho.” I can assure you that this is far from the truth. I am an advocate for therapy and antidepressants. Like a physical ailment, mental disorders must be treated and not ignored. If your appendix burst, would you ignore it and say, “I’m fine, I just need to sleep it off,” or “somebody else has it worse?” Everyone goes through different things, and each one is valid.

When I was in junior high, I struggled with my self-image and had extremely low self-esteem. I thought I weighed too much compared to my sisters and friends, so I starved myself. It was very unhealthy, and I had a myriad of dark thoughts at the time. For the record, do not go about losing weight this way. I was unable to focus in school and came close to passing out at softball practice on more than one occasion. Thankfully, I got through those hard times and I can report that my eating habits are now normal. I also dealt with the typical drama of mean high schoolers, losing friends, family issues, and the pressures of doing well in school and sports. When I was 13, I felt like my world was crumbling. I was depressed, but I never saw a therapist. I didn’t report to anyone my feelings of anguish until many years later.

I just finished my first year of college and towards the beginning, I experienced what I have found to be called “The Freshman Blues.” When I was going through it though, I had never felt more truly alone in my life. I was severely depressed and bottled all of my feelings up. I, myself, had never gone to therapy out of fear for how others would perceive me. I wish I could go back in time and smack myself for not going to therapy sooner.

ake the time to talk to someone! I cannot stress this enough.

I trudged through each hour, counting the days until I would be home again. I cried every time I had to go back to school after a weekend at home because, truthfully, I didn’t want to be there. I felt so lost and was regressing to old, childlike habits. I talked to my parents every day and called them crying every weekend. Eventually, my father became fed up with my antics. “I will always be here for you and love you and listen to you whine. But this is getting out of hand. You can’t just keep calling us like this. You need to see someone,” he said one night when I called him in hysterics.

I took a deep breath. Time to swallow my pride, I thought. Who was I to be above talking to someone? I looked into the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) that my campus had to offer. I found that Penn State offered a free counseling service known as “CAPS Chat.” It was sort of a group setting with a counselor, where advice and open conversations were held. I decided I had no other choice. If I wanted to overcome my depression, I needed to face it head-on.

I walked into the office and felt my heart beating out of my chest. I was so nervous about what I was about to step into. Would somebody see me there and think I was a freak? Would the counselor be somebody I knew? What if it didn’t work? What if I’m bipolar with raging OCD? These thoughts swam through my head as I waited to be called in.

To my surprise, I was the only student in the session. The counselor was very compassionate and listened to everything I had to say. She offered incredible advice and I will forever be grateful for the time I spent with her on that Tuesday afternoon. I walked out of the building a new person. My parents even stated that from that day forward, I seemed a lot happier. Because I was. My feelings had been validated and I was able to speak openly without being judged. I was not alone.

Use the resources your school has to offer. Talk to a therapist and if necessary, take the prescribed medication. Nobody walks out of therapy or counseling and says, “Wow, I wish I didn’t go to that session. What a waste of time.” Ignoring your mental battles is just as bad as leaving a tumor untreated. You are not alone. You are loved. Your mental health is important and your thoughts are valid. Share this with someone who may be struggling or with someone who does believe in that negative stigma. I wish somebody would have told me this years ago because I would have scheduled an appointment sooner. Remember, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to therapy. Take care of yourself.