Dealing with my Mental Health During the Transition to College

In the bottom drawer of my nightstand in my childhood bedroom lies a stack of journals, ranging from sixth grade to the present. The practice of journaling has been not only therapeutic in itself but also a frame through which I am able to view my own processes of tension, growth, and self-discovery as I have moved through adolescence and into early adulthood. The thread of my complicated relationship with my own body first appears in the journal entries from early in high school, when I began to pay attention to what I ate and how I exercised, realizing for the first time that if I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle, I would have to reflect that wish through my actions. It was not until my freshman year of college, however, that the desire to have a healthy body fused with a strong character tendency toward perfectionism, lead me down a path to patterns of disordered eating and exercising that intensified as I entered college.

My journal entries from freshman year are punctuated by concerns about my body, and these entries increased in frequency and intensity as I continued on in college. During the summer after my freshman year, I spent several months living in a new city working as an intern. I soon found that that in this new environment, away not only from home but also from the new home I had begun to make at college, I found that my desire to excel and to be in control of these new circumstances manifested itself in a heightened obsession with exercise and healthy eating. I spent the summer training for a half marathon, and by the time of the race back at school in September, I knew that I needed to seek help.

Since the moment I first sought help at the counseling center on campus during my sophomore year, I have been continually astounded by both the joys and the frustrations of healing. While I felt entirely prepared for the social and academic aspects of the transition to college, I had not considered what it might look like for me to struggle with my mental health as I entered that new phase of life. However, the transition was made much easier by the abundance of resources on my college campus: I have received professional help by the licensed nutrition counselor at the counseling center, have been nourished in the spiritual side of my mental health through the college ministry office, and have been met with great encouragement from peers through the student-led Wellness Center. Aside from these resources, I have found it invaluable to keep myself accountable to a close friend, sharing with them weekly updates on my progress in maintaining certain necessary boundaries in my physical health life.

Overall, while I wish that I had been more prepared to deal with the challenges in mental health that came from the move to college, I am grateful for the support I have received from both my peers and my institution, which seeks to nurture students in the development of their whole selves- body, mind, and spirit.

Alexandra, Class of 2016

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