If you’re reading this, what you’re feeling is valid.
Throughout my academic life, I have always struggled with stress. If you’re a human, then you can most likely relate to this statement. I was a high school student who strived for both perfection and greatness. Consequently, those goals often created a toxic learning environment. My stress slowly started to trickle and morph into something else-- something that I wasn’t familiar with.
Since coming to college, my mindset hasn't changed much, but its implications have. My continual drive for perfection feels offset by averageness; my pursuit for greatness seems impossible and, more so, improbable. My determination is constantly being smothered by the news of others’ success. Now, I want to stress that I am in no way trying to lessen the accomplishments of others. Rather, I am trying to illustrate their consequences on my own personal mental health.
I recognize what anxiety and depression are. I can tell you the scientific and practical definitions of both. I have helped others recognize when they’re struggling, yet, I am unable to recognize either/both in myself. “It” started as stress, and manifested into something more.
While struggling (both in high school and college), I wasn’t able to separate my stress and other emotions. As strange as it sounds, I never felt “worthy” of categorizing my struggles as either anxiety or depression. I presumed that since I wasn’t struggling as badly as others, I wasn’t worthy of claiming anxiety or depression, even though they were real and evident. My life was and is generally great. I come from a stable family with privileges that I am extremely grateful for. But, these privileges presented me with feelings that my struggles weren’t valid; that I wasn’t worthy of struggling.
Since then, I’ve realized that what I’ve felt and am feeling now is legitimate. My struggles are worthy of classifications, and I shouldn’t compare them to others’. Everyone struggles with mental health in some capacity or another. Everyone’s emotions are valid. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay not to struggle. Defining my own emotions does not belittle others’. What I am dealing with is valid, and I have the right to claim, define, and work through my emotions.
If you’re reading this, your emotions are valid. Claim them, embrace them, and grow from them.
Second Year Class President
Emma S., University of Virginia ‘22
Follow @uva2022 on all social media for events and opportunities to support the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of the Second Year Class. Programming presented by Second Year Council’s Wellness Committee.