Heart racing. Heavy chest. Unease. Pressure accumulating. Throat tightening.
The first time I decided to talk to a Wellness Peer at the Wellness Centre, it took me five minutes to walk inside. Before I succumbed to the idea of leaving, my body had already sat down. A thousand thoughts and emotions ran through my mind and translated into tears. I tried to hold them back, tensing my jaw. I couldn’t speak.
“It’s okay, you can cry. Let it out.”
So I did.
I expressed what had built up inside—my stress, pressure, and anxiety. She continued to listen attentively, this stranger in a Wellness Peer t-shirt. She nodded slowly, relating to and watching as I detached myself from the weight I had been carrying.
Before I left, she handed me a couple of worksheets I could use and informed me about other UBC services that could potentially help more.
I thanked her and walked away feeling a sense of calm—my shoulders relaxed and my conscious clear.
What truly made a difference was expressing how I felt, letting myself be vulnerable with my mental health.
After my visit, I felt understood. I felt connected. But most importantly, I didn’t feel alone.
That was the beginning of my journey to get help for my mental health struggles and the start of being open with my feelings and emotions. Within a couple of months of seeing a Wellness Peer, I finally decided to go to counselling for additional support.
Although going to counselling was initially difficult to accept, it exposed me to a number of resources and techniques that further supported my path towards taking care of myself and my mental health. It’s important to know that communicating your issues to someone is not a sign of weakness; in fact, it shows great strength.
It wasn’t and still isn’t easy for me to say, “I’m not okay."
Every time I find myself experiencing a low period there’s a voice that tells me “to toughen up” and “to stop being weak”. The stigma around mental health and mental illnesses can contribute to the need to suppress how you’re feeling.
However, I’ve learned to remind myself that what I’m going through is completely valid—being human is hard work. We often forget that what we’re doing on a daily basis is a lot.
As I began to open up and become more vulnerable in front of friends, I noticed how they were able to hold a space for me to cry and sit with my feelings as much as I needed. Before saying anything, their faces already expressed how much they could relate to my insecurities—how I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and feeling like a failure in different areas of life. They were able to talk about their own experiences, which helped me see and understand that I was not alone in my struggles.
As my mental health journey progressed, I saw how communication enabled connection, and connection enabled companionship—one of the most important and basic human needs.
I started to feel less scared and anxious to ask for help, both from friends and professionals.
If you’re not sure about what kind of help you need, try the UBC Student Assistance Program—it provides 24/7 personal counselling and life coaching, free for all students anywhere in the world. Another great starting point is the “Finding health support” tool. By answering two quick questions, you’ll be able to see what mental health and wellbeing resources are available to you based on where you’re studying from.
However, if even the idea of researching help overwhelms you, that doesn’t need to be your first step. Your first step can be reaching out to someone you already trust and feel safe around: a friend, an elder, or even a mentor. This is just as valid as seeking professional help in the first stages of receiving the support you need.
It takes great strength to reach out and use your voice to communicate what lingers inside—but it gets easier. As a by-product, you also foster a kinder internal voice and relationship with yourself when not feeling okay.
Every struggle and its effects on you and your mental health are valid. However, this act of letting yourself become completely raw and emotional allows acceptance of where you are right now. This will eventually bring you closer to taking action and managing your struggles, whilst developing resiliency in the long run.