Studying abroad is a big deal. From the cost to the risk to expansion of world view, it’s undeniable that studying abroad is no small feat. So, naturally, everyone I know has asked me how study abroad is going. How I like England so far. What has been my favorite part of this great British adventure. I have answers and they’re genuine. But there’s a sliver a truth that gets caught in my throat every time these interactions take place.
Recently, I’ve been going through a bit of a hard time wherein I haven’t been feeling quite like myself.
I’ve had a hard time being mindful and present. My head is everywhere. I am consumed by anxiety. My brain is quick to latch on to the bad and struggles to truly appreciate the good. And I feel as if I’m trapped.
I’m stuck between wanting to feel the full joy of all the lovely sights I’ve seen, food I’ve tasted and experiences I’ve had thus far. But at the same time, I am dealing with this dark cloud that seems to linger over me and taint everything that I do.
I’m stuck because I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems. As a culture, we (Americans) don’t speak candidly enough about mental health. So, within those cultural norms, I don’t feel like I can just roll up on someone and be like, “Hey! My mental health is on the decline! How’s your day going?”
Furthermore, I’m stuck because I don’t want to sound like a privileged S.O.B. who has been granted this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity she’s wasting with her moping.
Oh, poor you, you’re studying in one of the greatest cities in the world, you have engaging + cool classes, your accommodations are excellent and you have the financial means to take advantage of your time in your Europe. How awful!
But at the same time, I want to be frank about how, even when life is going just swimmingly, anxiety and negative thoughts are liable to creep up on you to try to rob you of your great experiences.
Just because I flew across the pond doesn’t mean any mental health issues I’ve had has dissipated into the wind. Anxiety doesn’t change with the zip codes.
If you struggle with mental health, you just know how much it stinks. It especially stinks when you know that your life is on the upswing and everything around you is going well, but your mental state stubbornly refuses to reflect that. I think that’s even more frustrating, because of the interior-exterior contrast.
Then, you can’t blame it on your surroundings or your situation. You, you yourself, are the problem. Or so it feels. Why can’t you just snap out of it? Why can’t you just get yourself together? Everything is great! Why do you feel so awful?
Talking it through helps. With a friend or therapist. Or a journal. I’ve done all three. At any rate, I’ve tried to take time to self-examine and get to the core of who I am.
Who am I? What am I doing here? What are my plans for the future? (With graduation closing in, this feels particularly pertinent and terrifying to me.)
What kind of energy am I putting out into the world? What can I be doing better? (Because while bad things can happen to good people, maybe certain attitudes I have toward myself can perpetuate cycles of negativity.)
And finally, what have I done to be proud of?
Early on in this blog, I wrote about the need to take time off from your career or artistic endeavors to discover who you are. That’s already a big step. Now, I’m realizing what an even bigger leap it is to have to sit with yourself and really get down to brass tacks.
Here’s hoping. I know that it’s just a matter of taking it day by day.