Saturday, September 26, 2020

Column: Surrounding myself with friends is essential to my emotional well-being

November 14, 2019
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I’m a person who needs to be kept busy. If I’m alone and bored, I fall into a long, seemingly never-ending spiral of thoughts. Thoughts that can begin in any direction and eventually result in feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. 

When I got to college, I found there were endless opportunities and activities that could help distract  myself from these negative thoughts and feelings. 

Since the time I graduated high school, I’ve picked up a lot of hobbies. Now, I bullet journal, attend multiple concerts a month, knit and do pretty much anything else I can to keep my mind active. 

I have a carefully-crafted schedule to keep myself busy. Monday nights, I visit the Michigan State Union with my friends and study afterwards. Wednesday, I visit open mic night. Thursday nights, I go to meetings for a club I’m in and then have friends over to catch up on whatever mediocre reality TV show we are watching together at the time.

At school, I have fewer excuses to just lie down and watch Netflix all night. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still the queen of binge-watching, but now I do it with friends instead of alone. “Gossip Girl” is a much better show when you watch it with other people who can hear your complaints about the characters (Jenny is the worst, you can’t change my mind).

Just because I have distractions now doesn’t mean my mental health problems are cured. I still find myself being sad sometimes. Just last month, I left my room a little after midnight only to return around 3:30 a.m. after having a really good, long cry in the basement of my dorm. 

It seemed like the second I packed up my things and moved into my dorm freshman year, everything back home started going bad. 

With health problems plaguing my family, I feel immense feelings of guilt for being at school instead of being with them. As my dog ages, I worry that he’ll pass away before I can say goodbye. As some of my closest friends are going through the same struggles with their mental health, I feel remorse for choosing a school so far away from them.

Sometimes, when I think about these things, I just feel scared. Small, vulnerable, trapped and scared. 

Things seem bad all the time, but despite this, I find it easier to celebrate the little things. 

I make it to class when I have the option to skip. I go to the library when the option to lay on my futon is so much easier. I visit whatever event UAB is hosting instead of watching YouTube videos in bed. 

While some people think distractions hinder their productivity, I rely on them to make it through my time at MSU. 

If it weren’t for these distractions, I’d find myself going back to those thoughts and feelings that leave me struggling with my mental health.

Counseling, free screenings and other psychiatric services and resources are all available at the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS.

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