If you are reading this, I want you to know that you are not a failure.
To your parents.
To your friends.
To your teachers.
Because I understand what you are feeling. I used to be in the same dark hole of negativity and depression. I was that girl who cowered against a brick wall behind my apartment and cried into a puddle of pre-med dreams as I shakily waited to tell my mom I failed my chemistry test (and it wasn’t a B-, I got a 42). I was that girl who had 1000 friends on Facebook and thought that every recognizable face I passed didn’t want to acknowledge me because I wasn’t worthy of their consideration or greeting. I was that girl that woke up every morning to a gray filter, wondering why I had to go through the day if I was just going to make make the world a little bit worse by bedtime. I was that girl who wrapped herself in sweatpants EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. DAY. because I believed I wasn’t deserving of attractiveness or attention.
And the reason I was this girl was because I firmly believed I was a failure. I worked endless nights studying for quizzes that I failed, and to try and compensate, I began spending so much time in office hours and the libraries that I neglected the relationships with my friends and family back home. My support system. I created such an aversion to my classes that I actually had an anxiety attack during a test where I laughed and cried simultaneously as I handed the Professor a Scantron with 5 randomly bubbled-in answers gleaming on the end. I wasn’t doing “fine” or “ok” like I told my roommates and mom. I was drowning. I was sobbing. I was sinking into a pit whose walls I continued to claw against with invisible, desperate, useless fingers.
It hit a climax when I stumbled into the student psychological health center at my University fifteen minutes before closing time on a Friday, and told them if they didn’t see me today, I wouldn’t make it through the weekend.
And in response to my demand, they threw me a life raft that I couldn’t find on my own.
They talked to me, listened, shifted my perspective from failure to learning, and gave me extra time and a quiet space to take tests so that I could apply what I knew without breaking into little, spasming pieces in public.
Over a couple of months, my spirits began lifting, my grades began showing my potential, and I began focusing on activities that I excelled at. I slept more. I began reading a book before bed instead of staring at a computer screen. I talked about my issues without embarrassment to those around me. I found copies of myself: girls crying in libraries, boys downing energy drinks for all-nighters, students silently dropping out in shame when they couldn’t handle it anymore. The pressure. The depression.
I realized that this was not something only I was going through, but that the prevalence of the disease was being hidden by the fear of stigma for having a mental health issue. People worried that they were crazy, and on top of that, they worried that someone else might think they were crazy. But when I finally began discussing my story, I watched as more and more friends stepped forward to stand by my side: friends who had struggled or were struggling with the same misconception of failure in their lives.
So I wanted to tell my story to you, and remind you, again; you are not a failure.
There is help out there, found both in the form of people and accommodations.
There are more stories just like yours.
Take mine for example.
If you are reading this, I want you to know you are a success.
We are successes together.
Teresa E., University of Virginia