My first step towards emotional wellness
How I learned to help myself when times are tough.
Audrey Del Prete
Have you ever heard of the “Sophomore Slump”? It’s a real thing. My parents warned me about it. My friends, sisters, and cousins all experienced it... And I certainly experienced it.
In case you’re not familiar with this urban term, the “Sophomore Slump” is a state of being during one’s Sophomore year of college concurrent with feelings of depression, anxiety, despair, and loss of enthusiasm for college life.
It may be caused by the cessation of the exciting Freshmen year coupled with the boring Gen Ed classes required Sophomore year before diving into your major.
It was 2010-2011 when I experienced the dreaded Sophomore Slump. Except for me, it was more than just a loss of enthusiasm for college life, it was a complete loss of interest for life itself and major depression.
I was a Social Work major, so I was already familiar with mental health issues and I’ve had others close to me struggle with depression. I also struggled with mild depression in high school.
But this, this time was something different. It sticks out in my mind as being the most sad, tired, and hopeless I’ve ever felt in my life. To the point where I just didn’t want to go on.
But I did. I got up. I showered. I went to class. I went to work. I showed up.
But oh god it was a struggle. My grades were the lowest they’ve ever been. Luckily I was still able to maintain a GPA high enough to keep my scholarships, but barely. I was just getting by.
But then I got the courage to do the biggest, little thing anyone can ever do.
I asked for help. And that’s what changed my life.
I paid a visit to the school’s counseling office and asked to talk to someone. I completed the initial assessment with the psychologist and waited a week or so to be referred to a counselor whom I could have weekly sessions with. This process was not unfamiliar to me, as my mom had made me go to counselors in the past. But this time was different. This was me as an adult, making the decision on my own to seek mental health services. And for the first time, I actually felt comfortable in therapy.
I still remember the counselor. His name was Ryan. He had thick dark framed glasses and bright blonde hair. He was actually an intern, as I soon would be, studying for his MS in Counseling. I will admit, I still blew him off a couple of times, but when I did make it to sessions (about twice a month for two semesters), I felt so much better.
One thing he did was recommend the book Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. If you’re not familiar with his work, he is a Zen master and mindfulness guru. This book is intended to help you find the path of mindfulness in everyday life.
I’ll admit, I’m still not much into meditating, but what this book taught me is that everyone finds mindfulness and meditation in their own way.
For example, we all have to brush our teeth everyday. What is usually a mindless task can be turned into a mindful activity that brings our awareness back to our bodies as we are reminded of the strong teeth that we have in our beautiful mouth and the flexible arm that allows us to move the brush up and down, back and forth. It is a book that I still keep by my bed ten years later to remind me of the journey I’ve taken.
What Ryan helped me do was bring awareness back to my thoughts and allow me to explore my feelings with open mindedness rather than hate myself for it. I learned to accept my feelings and learned when I need to ask for help which I’ve done many times since then.
Though my sessions with Ryan certainly weren’t the end of my journey, and I think I’m still on it, it was the start of my journey. And if I could, I would thank Ryan for helping me take the first step on my path towards emotional wellness.
I’ll leave you with the opening lines of Peace is Every Step.
“Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.”
Audrey Del Prete
As a social worker, health coach, and fitness instructor, I help busy working professionals who struggle with work/life balance and want to make time for healthy lifestyle changes. www.alwaysfitcoaching.com