Personal Principles: Emotions do not amount to weakness

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Nicole Walker

Two years ago, my life was falling apart.

My family’s dynamics were shifting dramatically and starting to crumble. My already unhealthy relationship ended on nasty terms and I refused any help from my friends, opting to shut them out of my life.

School was the last place I wanted to be, so I started skipping classes and hid in the darkness of my room day after day. I barely ate and didn’t particularly care about taking the steps to get better.

I just wanted to always be alone. 

Every time my family would ask me how I was doing, I would always mutter a generic, “I’m fine.” They knew something was wrong, yet I constantly pretended things were OK. I was always the strong-willed child in the family.

I cried every single day of my sophomore fall semester. I remember my eyes being so dried out that it hurt when I blinked.

At the time, I believed I was simply wallowing and pitying myself an exorbitant amount. I didn’t want to bother people with my issues and seem whiny. I saw myself as a pathetic person — someone who needed to get her act together quickly for everyone’s sake.

I always thought I could handle my personal struggles alone. I am a fairly private person and have difficulty confiding in others because I worry I am wasting their time or inconveniencing them. If I worked things out on my own, everyone won.

I have always put the interests of others before myself, and my mental health is no exception.

My attitude toward mental health for others has always been positive. I was always the person others went to with their problems, and I would offer a lending ear and shoulder every time. I would urge others to seek professional help and talk about their problems.

I have always known the importance of advocating for mental health, yet had immense difficulty accepting this advice myself.

World Mental Health Day was on Oct. 10 and the fight against the stigmas attached to mental illness stimulates conversations about treatment. As the day came and went, I reminisced about my initial attitudes toward my own mental health.

I was hesitant to try therapy because the idea of sharing my feelings and thoughts with a complete stranger was wholly uncomfortable to me. I wasn’t skeptical of therapy as a practice, but I was skeptical as to how it would help me personally when I had to provide the background information to my own problems. I was scared of being irrational and letting my negativity cloud my discussions.

Eventually, with a push from my friends, I started seeing a therapist at the counseling center. At first, I tried to be entirely unbiased. I was a robot reciting a factual report of my life.

I never wanted to show emotions. If I talked badly about someone, I thought I was being mean. If I started to be sad, I thought I was depressing. I wouldn’t even crack a smile talking about the happy things in my life, instead opting to keep my passions at bay. 

I was trying to suppress my emotions because I thought they made me appear weak and annoying to people. With the help of my therapist, I eventually realized I need to share the good and bad in my life to remain sane. Keeping everything bottled up inside results in terrible consequences, ones that I suffered as a result.

Being able to simply talk was a first step in recovering. I was able to pinpoint the problems in my rationales and where those stemmed from. Perhaps I was simply avoiding therapy because I didn’t want to hear the hard truth. 

But this is exactly what I needed. 

Today, two years later, I can’t say that my mental health is perfect. I continue to struggle with anxious moments and stress.

I can say so many positives though. I have stronger coping methods and know when to ask others for help. I allow myself to open up and forge strong relationships with those important to me.

Most importantly, I no longer think showing my emotions makes me a weak person. Instead, it just proves that I’m human.

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