If you are reading this, you don't have to be okay.
I have always felt the overwhelming desire to take care of people. When my dad became abusive, it was my newborn baby sister, my other siblings, and my mom who I cared for. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, it further solidified my role as a caregiver. I felt the best when I was helping others, anyone but myself. Taking care of other people allowed me to feel useful and important. I was able to push away every bad thing that had happened to me and do good onto others.
When I came to UVA, my life seemed perfect from the outside. I built my life here all by myself. I went from knowing nobody to having strangers pass by me and greet me. I smiled all the time. I was doing well in my classes. I was doing all of the “right” things. I had friends and I had a boyfriend, which gave me more people to take care of.
It took me countless nights of crying into my pillow, hoping nobody would hear me and think I wasn't happy, countless instances of leaving class to wipe tears away in the bathroom, to realize I was not okay. It wasn't until I found myself (with the company of an incredible friend) at the emergency walk-in hour of CAPS. I remember the woman asking if she could help me and I just started bawling; she looked concerned. In that moment, I realized I was not okay.
Accepting that I was not okay made a huge difference. Seeing someone at CAPS made me feel validated. I had gone through a LOT of really hard things in my life, and it made sense that I wasn't okay. Once I accepted that, I realized it was important for me to express to others when I felt I could not handle things on my own.
I am still working on the balance between being happy and smiley, and crying on the shoulders of friends. It will take time, but I know now that asking others for help does not make me weak or a burden. On the contrary, it makes me stronger and makes me happier.
If you do not think you have a person who will let you cry on their shoulder, I will be that person. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it's scary. You are not alone and you do not have to be okay.
Anonymous, Class of '18