Peer Health Educators X IfYoureReadingThis.org
If you’re reading this, know that change is possible.
I wrote an If You’re Reading This letter at the end of spring semester of my First Year. I am now in my Third Year and recently read over my post for the first time in over a year. Have you ever heard the saying “Do as I say, not as I do?” This phrase essentially sums up my reaction to re-reading my first post.
In October of 2017, I received a call from a family member that would ultimately spark the beginning of a very difficult journey for me. While I won’t share details about the circumstances, because it is not my story to tell, the events that followed forced me to come to terms with trauma that I had pushed deep within me over the course of eighteen years. The realization that the events I experienced as a child were real and valid led me to become cynical and angry with the world. I distinctly remember gaining some sort of twisted satisfaction from pitying myself. My distorted thinking made me believe that I was one of a select few people at UVA who experienced hardship and that made me incredibly angry. My irritability led me to isolate myself, as I did not want to be around people who were visibly happy, when I was internally suffering.
This anger continued throughout my fall semester and picked up right where it left off when I came back to school after winter break. Around February, the satisfaction I gained from feeling bad about myself diminished and I was tired of being angry towards the world. My mom called therapist after therapist and she finally found someone who had availability. To put it bluntly, therapy was the best thing to ever happen to me. The first few sessions I mostly sobbed and released all of the pain that was tightly wound within me. Session after session, we started to peel back each layer of my emotions, ultimately reaching the root of my anger and frustration. By the end of May 2018, I was starting to feel genuinely happy, but I still had a very long way to go.
The summer of 2018 was one of the most transformative periods of my life. I had time to take what I learned in therapy and put it into practice in my own life. I started to thoughtfully listen to my mind and body. For someone who is tightly wound, meditation was very hard for me at first. I would sit down and my mind would immediately begin to wander. Most of my thoughts also revolved around negativity. Looking back, I know my thinking was a little irrational, but for me, that was my reality. After each meditation session, releasing negative thoughts from my mind started to become a little easier and my thinking overall started to become more positive. Thinking about my thoughts differently resulted in me gaining some much-needed emotional resilience. This was the first time in the last couple of years that I was excited about life. I was genuinely thrilled to go back to school and apply what I learned over the summer to my everyday routine.
Here I am now in a much better place than I was at this time last year. I am writing all of this to ultimately say that the elimination of all negativity is not possible, but change can be achieved. Change is by no means easy or quick, but it is attainable and everyday it must be worked towards. Whenever I feel anxious about a previous interaction, I stop, breathe, and reflect about why this person may have behaved this way. My therapist taught me that negative interactions with individuals most often stem from particular aspects of their life, rather than their interpretation of you. Having this insight about not internalizing my perceived negative interactions has allowed me to be more accepting of others, which has reduced my anxiety and led me to become a more joyful person. I am also not saying that my way is the only way to resolve your sadness, anxiety, or anger. Talk to a friend, therapist, or doctor and find what works for you. The rawest form of human desire is happiness and you deserve to truly be happy.
Maria P., University of Virginia ‘20
This post is a part of a collaboration installment between IfYoureReadingThis.org and Peer Health Educators.
Our two organizations share the joint mission of creating a happier and healthier student body, and we encourage you to explore their resources and programs.
Peer Health Educators (PHEs) are a group of roughly 45 UVA students who are trained to educate their classmates about college health and wellness issues in a positive, interactive, fun, and nonjudgmental manner. Comprehensive training through a three-credit course prepares the PHEs to provide confidential patient education sessions; facilitate dynamic outreach programs; encourage physical, mental, and spiritual health; create informative awareness events; and promote community support to create a healthy culture. PHEs are trained to educate on mental wellness, nutrition, alcohol safety, and sexual health.
If you would like to request an outreach from the PHEs, go to tinyurl.com/requestanoutreach and fill out the form. If you would like to talk to a PHE in a one-on-one patient education session about any and all of the above-listed topics, either book a patient education online through healthyhoos.com or walk to the lower level of Student Health.
If you would like to learn more about the PHE program or would like to apply to become one, go to our tab in the student health website under “health and wellness” > “peer education”.