Being in Argentina has significantly changed the way in which I see myself, and my place in the world. Although I wish I could concisely put into words all of the changes within me that studying abroad has created, the best I can do is try to express everything – the good and the bad. Who this benefits I’m not sure; it may be that writing for me is a simple attempt at catharsis. I hope that whoever reads this on CampusCalm finds this post, above all, relatable. Healing begins with empathy, and inspiration is found in shared experiences. Either way, this post is not meant to be a scholarly article, but rather a very personal account of how it is to be a young woman away from home.
It’s no secret that there is a considerable amount of stigma around stress, anxiety and depression among young people. In this day and age, it seems nearly impossible to admit flaws publicly; generally speaking, we are far too preoccupied putting a PR spin on facebook profiles, applications, and resumes to consider the normality of our top-secret personal problems. Who has time for problems anyways? No one else has them, so why should I risk admitting mine, right?
This mentality has become the foundation upon which my generation perceives the world and our position in it. Sadly this paradigm perpetuates not only the aforementioned stigma surrounding mental health disorders, but also the disorders themselves.
My freshman year of college was amazing. I had a wonderful boyfriend, incredible roommates, and I was close enough to Austin that I could keep in touch with my family and friends. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was suffering from depression. Ah, that word, immediately makes you want to run away right? Misunderstood and, sadly, often mistreated. I would be as content with life as I could be, and then suddenly be curled up on my bed wondering why everything was black and why life didn’t feel like living. And then, just like that, it would pass. So this is where we all start feeling uncomfortable, right? Well welcome to reality my friends! Everyone has his or her secrets. This is one of mine.
Long story short, I battled depression and anxiety off and on for over 9 months before succumbing to the expert advice to take medication. Before meeting my current therapist, I hated the idea of antidepressants. I would’ve rather struggled than be that girl on medication. I was as scared as I have ever been in my life. I began taking antidepressants/anti-anxiety medication and seeing a new therapist regularly. With this combination and the support of my family and friends, I slowly pulled myself back together. Keep in mind this is all a very simplified, summarized version of my life.
I used to be very shameful of the fact that I had depression. Writing this now, my thoughts couldn’t be more opposite. I am not to blame for having experienced depression. I am a joyous, grateful, and empathetic person, and always have been. Even through struggling with depression, I always tried to keep my feet firmly on the ground, tried to keep the fire lit within me to fight off the cold. The key word here is tried. I tried with all my heart, and instead, broke it. I left my boyfriend to find independence; I started consistent therapy to soften this newfound independence, and continued my spiritual introspection peacefully.
Over a year has passed since that turbulent time. It is a distant memory that I no longer fear. Now I’m in Argentina, with wonderful friends and a tenderhearted boyfriend who will be nearly impossible to say goodbye to, and I couldn’t ask for more.
That’s that, my friends. The uncomfortable truth! I’ve suffered from depression, and I believe it’s nothing to be ashamed of. More specifically, seeking help and/or medication is admirable. What is most important is the soul, the human being that is suffering from depression, who is not defined by it yet merely restrained, dampened. Those who have never experienced depression, I truly hope you never do! Those who have, I am with you. You are not alone, depression is curable thanks to modern medicine, and not everyone is too ashamed/cool/healthy/closed-minded to discuss it openly. It is a harsh reality faced by many, many people, and thus should be treated for what it is.
Now I’m not going to pretend I’ve become some expert on mental health, travel, how to be happy, etc. I’m young, I’ve been privileged my whole life, and have always had everything I’ve ever really needed. I guess I’ve just realized how much my friends’ and family’s experiences mean to me, and that when they share their stories, their passing thoughts that they find irrelevant, their epiphanies, the gears start turning. I feel for them. I feel physical relief when my feelings are shared, when I find out that the people I love are happy.
All I know is that I feel young, younger than I have felt in a very long time. I feel youth in the sense that I feel new, defenseless. At times fear crashes in, in that the childlike vulnerability that travel creates aggressively fosters independence and trust in the self. You become your own home, and this has become central to the way in which I understand almost everything.
Recently on Facebook, I saw someone post a list. It’s simple and concise, yet so important:
You chose to be here and you knew what you were doing.
There are no “tests” and you’re not being judged.
Everyone’s doing their best, with what they know.
You already have whatever you’re looking for.
You’re naturally inclined to succeed – at everything you do.
You happen to life, life does not happen to you.
Order, healing, and love belie every moment of chaos, pain, and fear.Following your heart is the best way to help others.
So much love from Argentina,