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What Having Mental Illness in College Is Like for Me


Mental illness in college can be a silent battle.

It’s coming up with reasons not to hang out with my friends. Or go eat dinner or do anything at all. Because the truth is, I just can’t get out of bed.

Mental illness in college is putting on a show when my family calls because I don’t want them to worry. I want them to think everything is OK. So I lie.

It’s feeling overwhelmed by the flood of papers and exams that just keep coming and then staring blankly at my computer for hours. Then I can’t breathe and I want to ask for help, but I don’t want to annoy my friends. I know they’re busy too.

I start to wonder how people say these were the best four years of their lives.

Mental illness in college is biting my blankets in the middle of the night so my roommate doesn’t hear me cry. I want people to think I’m tough, but I also just want someone to notice how broken I am inside.

Until they do.

It’s shaking uncontrollably in my friend’s arms on the balcony at midnight and feeling guilty she had to get out of bed to hold me. Then it’s feeling like nothing I do will ever show that person how much she means to me.

But mental illness in college isn’t all bad. It can help me grow.

Mental illness in college is realizing I can get by on my own. I can navigate a new city and do my own laundry.

It’s learning how to control habits that have controlled my life. I’m surrounded by new people who don’t know the old me. College is a fresh start. If I want to change, now’s my chance.

Mental illness in college is channeling my intense emotions into each new experience. I can inspire people with my passion.

It’s making connections with the best friends I’ve ever had. It’s having a roommate who researches my illnesses when I’m in the hospital. Or the friend who gets me out of bed to go for a walk with her when it’s pretty outside. The friend who comes to be with me when I say I’m fine, because she knows I’m not OK. And the one who holds the scars on my wrist and tells me I am beautiful.

Because I am.

All of these thoughts and emotions swirling around can be overwhelming. And if you are handling college on top of all of this, that is amazing. It isn’t everything, though. No matter where you are in life, you are strong.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Lead photo via Jacob Ammentorp Lund