Gender & Identity Life

I was terrified of going to class

High school was easy for me. I had straight A’s, I had great friends and I was all around doing well. I was a part of a specialized dramatic arts program. I danced. I was your normal, average teenager who was always right on track. When my teachers would tell me that university was going to be a lot harder, I pushed the idea out of my head. “I’m doing so well, how hard can it really be,” I would think to myself. I felt prepared for my next step in life.

Going to university was never even a question. It had been ingrained in my head by my parents that this was going to be my path. I had the grades for it so I never really thought to contest or say otherwise. It just seemed logical.

[bctt tweet=”University was never even a question.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Once I got to university, things changed. I was in a room full of hundreds of students who were just as smart and well rounded as I was. University was harder. A million times harder. Not only did I have academic pressures, but I had pressure to make friends in a new place and to be fun and cool. I wanted to go out and meet people, be social and have the great “university experience” while getting the A’s I was used to.

My first year was a balancing act. It was the first time I was living on my own, so I wanted to really enjoy this freedom. I wanted to party and have fun while still keeping up the good grades I always had. I didn’t think anything of it. What I didn’t realize was that all of these changes would take a huge mental toll as well.

I had moved 3 hours away from home which gave me a lot of anxiety. I also had a history of depression, and not having my support system with me caused me a downward spiral. I started feeling tired all the time and I would sleep all day and skip my classes. This made me fall behind and my grades started to slip. I didn’t want to tell my friends because I didn’t want it to seem as though I wasn’t as smart as they were. My anxiety got worse and worse. Even if I would get up in time for a class, I would be too scared to go because I didn’t want to sit there and feel lost the whole time.

I stopped eating. I would stay up all night and sleep all day. I was struggling so much, and I didn’t want to deal with it, so I would go out, have a drink to forget about it. What started out as a Saturday night of partying turned into an everyday occurrence. It took a toll on my whole life. My friends started being distant because I was always such a mess. I pushed my family away. It got to the point where I was starting to think that my whole life was a failure. At times, I wish it would all just end.

[bctt tweet=”At times I wished it would all end. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I was failing classes. I had a drinking problem and I was losing the people I loved most. I was devastated. I thought that I would never be able to graduate. I thought I wasn’t smart enough for this. I wanted to quit. My anxiety had won.

I remember sitting in my room crying all the time. I was so stressed and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like a huge failure. I didn’t know who to reach out or if I even should because what would they say? How did other people do this? How could they balance a social life, school and everything else and not break into a million pieces?

I was speaking to a friend of mine who seemed to have it all so I thought I’d ask her, “How do you do it? How are you so put together?” She laughed. She said, “I’m not. Not at all. I go see a counselor every week and I have to ask my professors for extensions. Trust me, no one here is put together, they’re just trying to make it work.”

I realized a few things in that moment. I realized that one, I wasn’t alone and two, that I mattered more than my grades did. I spoke to a therapist to start working on my mental health. I knew I had to fix myself before I even attempted to fix my grades. I reached out to my friends and family for support and they took me in with open arms and open hearts.

[bctt tweet=”I learned I wasn’t alone” username=”wearethetempest”]

University is stressful for everyone, and there is no shame in reaching out for help. I worked with an academic counselor to get me on the right track. I dropped some classes so my course load was lighter. I cut down on the partying and going out. I sought out help from my professors, asking them for extensions when I had too much on my plate or when I was mentally overwhelmed. They were always willing to help in any way they could. They wanted me to succeed.

I reached out for help, and it made all the difference. I wasn’t weak for doing so, I was strong. I felt stronger than I ever did before. I graduated university on the Dean’s Honor list. I got an awesome job after school ended in my field and I’m proud of my success.

One bad grade or bad semester is not your end all, be all. University is a really stressful time for students. Know that your grades do not define you. Find balance and take the time to take care of yourself. The rest will come.

By Jessie Brar

Jessie Brar studied psychology at Queen’s University and now works in youth mental health promotion with in Toronto, Canada. Her spare time is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health in the South Asian community through The Mental Health Spotlight (@TheMHSpotlight). The Mental Health Spotlight is a project dedicated to erasing stigma around mental health and mental illness in South Asian communities through the power of storytelling. In her downtime, she can be found cuddled up watching/reading Harry Potter, eating Reese’s Cups, or dancing to Bollywood and Bhangra tunes in front of a mirror.