By Hope-Elizabeth Darris
Hope-Elizabeth is a rising sophomore at Swarthmore College. She is intending to major in Sociology and Anthropology. In her free time she loves to dance, read, act, and continuously rewatch The Office.
When I finished my freshman year of college, I felt an enormous weight come off my shoulders.
I remember being so happy after my put my pencil down because I knew that I’d be going home soon. The first thing I did after the final exam was go to the school library, rent two movies, and sat in the freezing building for hours laughing my ass off with no stress looming overhead.
The second semester of college, my mental health was at an all-time low.
I started feeling unmotivated early on in the semester. I thought if I committed myself to the things that made me happy then all would be well. This worked for about a week. I had a wonderful time writing for school publications, dancing in two different groups, and participating in a little acting on the side, but I still wasn’t feeling any better. I was sad, tired, and no matter how much I threw myself into the things that mattered, my bad mood didn’t shift.
For the longest time, I thought this slump was due to my being away from home for so long and taking difficult classes. I truly thought the solution to feeling better was going back home to spend time with my family. However, when I returned home for summer break, I was still feeling dejected.
My first week home I was huddled up in my house doing nothing. I live in a small apartment so there wasn’t very much to do. While the sun was filtering through my useless lace curtains, I could hear the sounds of kids laughing and music playing through my open window, all while I was watching T.V. in an unairconditioned apartment. I told myself that my laziness was acceptable because I had just come back from school and I deserved it. After a week and a half though, I couldn’t seem to justify it to myself anymore. It seemed like everyone was enjoying their summer and doing great things that would help them in their careers. Meanwhile I was stuck at home, not by force, but by choice.
After two weeks of doing nothing and feeling inadequate, I realized I did not want to waste a perfectly good summer. I started applying for jobs, going to cool stores and restaurants around the city, and attending concerts with friends. Then after about another two weeks, I was back to being unmotivated. I was tired and once again, all I did was lay in bed. I would incentivize myself by finding cool restaurants or bookstores in New York that I had never been to and would try to go check them out. However, on most occasions, I would set a time for myself to get ready, then that time would pass, and I would just decide not to go at all. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to leave the house, I did so badly, but for some reason I couldn’t find the motivation to do so.
Things started to get better when I got a job that required me to work 42 hours a week. I was obligated to go out and perform my task to the best of my abilities. Then, five weeks after I had finished work, I once again had nothing to do. I fell back into my habits of setting plans for myself and failing miserably to follow through with them. For the first five days after I finished work, I rarely left my house except to get food from the grocery store downstairs. And after those five days, when I did go out, it would be for 2-3 hours at a time.
I am never going to self-diagnose myself, but I will just say I was (and still am) in a funk. I always see people on social media saying to reach out to someone if you’re having trouble, but it was/is hard for me. It’s difficult to admit to myself that something’s wrong, and even harder to talk about it with someone.
When I’m at school it’s a lot easier for me to express what I am feeling because there are free counseling and psychological services provided. I feel like I now have a support system and people to rely on if I’m struggling.
In the middle of the summer, I got into a desperate situation where I didn’t want to be at home anymore and I didn’t know what to do. I started to rely heavily on Pinterest where I would create board after board of aesthetics and things that made me feel good. I started following a bunch of self-motivation and body-positivity accounts on Instagram. Instead of creating all these impossible tasks for myself, I started small. I would go for a walk around the block one day, then the next day maybe 5 blocks, and so on. I would visit my favorite places closest to my neighborhood and stay there for a couple of hours. I wasn’t seeing anything new, but I was happy. There were a lot of days when I would try to do 10 blocks but only get to five, and I had to remind myself that doing the five blocks was a victory within itself.
I’m back at school now and I’m still a bit unmotivated, but I’m doing better. In the middle of the night when things get overwhelming I frantically add to my boards on Pinterest, and try to seek out other people feeling the same way as me. I keep having to remind myself to start small.
I was doing myself no favors by trying to go from spending days on end in bed, to then running around the city. Every day, little by little, I am making progress. When I start feeling unmotivated, I think about that monkey on Bojack Horseman who said, “It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier, but you gotta do it every day and that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.” I am learning that it does.