Nov 15, 2019
Fresno State first lady, Mary Castro, hugs a graduating student. It has become customary for Castro to hug students walking across the stage when graduating. (Courtesy of Fresno State's Facebook)

You are not late, you are very much on time for graduation

It is about patching yourself back up, through it – not around it.

Growing up, I was taught that living in a constant state of restriction, burnout and forcing myself to pretend I was OK was how you deal with mental health.

However, as an adult, that mentality slowly caught up with me. I thought that I had to take 22 units, work full time and never allow myself to have enough time in the day to even think. That, in my mind, was what a successful person looked like. Someone who could do it all.

I want you to know that, right now, if you are struggling to find the balance of school and mental health, you are not alone. I want you to know that sleepless nights and lying awake with anxiety, wondering if you will be able to graduate, is normal.

Take the time to remind yourself that college is not a race, and as much as society likes us to think that college has to be done in four years, that misconception is what creates the pressure for students to feel like we are failing or going to fail.

My first two years of college, I was grieving a family death, struggling with my mental and physical health, skipping class and feeling lost.

It was in my second year of college that I received an email that I was being put on academic probation for failing classes.

I remember feeling like my life was worthless, and I judged myself for how terrible I was doing academically.

I wanted to talk to someone, but I did not know how or even to whom. I wanted to be OK, but I was not.

When the six-month break from school began, I used this time to understand why I had gotten to this low point in my life.

After I realized that I was trying to grieve while trying to focus in class, I understood how unhealthy this coping mechanism of burnout and avoidance was. I was too anxious to sit in class and often too depressed to put clothes on.

So if you are reading this right now and you find yourself in the same boat, I want you to know a few things that I wish I had known.

Your mental health is the most important priority in your life. It should always be prioritized over anything and anyone.

It is OK if you are failing school. There are many resources right here on our campus to help you through this process. 

There is a reason our Student Health and Counseling Center offers free therapy sessions, and there is a reason why Services for Students with Disabilities is here to help you.

These two organizations, in themselves, offer you the ability to talk to someone through your pain and frustration and allow you options to have additional help in your classes from note takers to alleviating classes because of a mental illness that makes it challenging for you to function in your everyday life.

Two years later, through the work of therapy, reaching out for help and the understanding that it is OK to trust the process of not knowing where life is going, I made it to Fresno State, and I am on track to graduate this spring.

I would be lying if I said life is all rainbows and butterflies. But that is the beauty of growth and fighting your battles. You grow through what you go through.

No matter how low you may feel or how hard it is to struggle while you are trying to persevere through school, you have more resilience than you will ever know.

It is OK to graduate in six years instead of four. It is OK to take time off to better yourself. It is OK to have to work more to pay for school instead of taking more units. it is OK to not be OK.

You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.

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