Finding solace in psychology

A student recounts her experiences with mental illness and how it led her to study psychology.

Listen to the author read their essay.

Coming to Temple, I felt lost.

I was an undeclared major because I was unsure of what else to do. I felt like I needed to rush into college because there was no alternative route given. There was consistent pressure from my school, family and friends and I went along with the process even though it wasn’t the best choice for me mentally. 

In the seventh grade, I began struggling with feelings of depression and anxiety, and it started to affect how I was performing in school. I had no drive for what I was learning, and my depression stifled any passion to begin with. I had difficulty paying attention in class, and would often get in trouble for speaking to my classmates because I wasn’t engaged — it made me feel worthless.

I felt like everyone else was amounting to something while I was the only one in my friend group who didn’t get into the high school they wanted.

My depression only worsened as I became an adult. Whenever I met new people, they always asked what I was going to study in school and do with my future, but I couldn’t even imagine a life where I was genuinely happy with what I was doing.  

During my freshman year of high school, I told my mom about the suicidal thoughts I’d been having, and I started going to therapy regularly. In my senior year, I started self-harming, and shortly after, I became medicated. 

I wasn’t able to express my feelings of unhappiness because I didn’t know how to, and it got worse when I came to Temple, still unsure of what major I wanted to pursue or why I even wanted to go to college in the first place.

When I was placed to live with three juniors my freshman year of college, I’d compare myself to them and always feel inferior. As science majors, their class work and job experiences seemed so prestigious to me and it was hard to relate to their lifestyles. They were in long-term relationships and had a well-established group of friends — all I could do was watch. I could sometimes hear my roommates make comments about how I slept too much or didn’t go out as much as they did when they were freshman. 

I had nothing in comparison to them.

I failed a Japanese language class my first semester and was humiliated. I didn’t want to talk to them about my issues because I didn’t think they could relate, but I also didn’t want to stand out as the slacker student. 

I didn’t know how to express myself, nowhere to cry in my own home because I didn’t feel comfortable around my roommates. 

I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life. I felt stranded. 

I remember my family telling me to simply take my time when it came to choosing a major, and that piece of advice stuck with me. 

My life as an undeclared student changed when I took a human sexuality psychology course. The text was giving me an explanation of what I was feeling and also detailed experiences I’ve been through. It was a way to help me analyze my own background and understand myself, which I wasn’t able to do before.

I was intrigued by the topics deemed taboo and it was important to me that it was being addressed in this class. 

I realized my change in behavior. I used to never willingly put effort into educational tasks until this class, but now I was trying my hardest to get good grades. I’d go to the library weeks ahead of time to study our required textbook and I would read the chapters page by page. 

Around that time that I got out of a toxic relationship — I was newly single, learning how to spend time alone, making natural friendships and joining clubs that excited me. I finally started feeling less lonely and insecure because I was finding new ways to be myself. 

At the end of my freshman year, I went into my advising office to declare my psychology major. I felt happy, and that was enough for me to decide it was worth it. 

To this day I still struggle with my mental health, but I know to take it one step at a time.

Listen to how the author was inspired to write this story.

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