By Christian Awong

Never in my life did I think I’d live during a worldwide pandemic. This global disaster that has killed over 500,000 Americans has affected everyone, putting all of us in an uncomfortable (and often frustrating) state of mind.

I have had a very tough time adjusting to this life we call “normal” at this point. It is mind-boggling to know that we have been living like this for nearly a year.

My college experience has probably been my most challenging aspect of this disaster. Since last March, I have not been back on campus, and I have had to find a new way of learning and retaining pertinent academic information.

As a person of color, we seldom discuss mental health. Photo Credit. Christian Awong.

All of my classes are now online, and I have not been able to get used to them. This is because the courses required for my major are meant to be taught in a more hands-on fashion.

It has become too stressful to keep up with all the new protocols and coursework, especially when I have become accustomed to doing things a certain way. Even though I see all my classmates through Zoom, the classroom dynamic and engagements are not the same.

On the other hand, I will say that this journey has forced me to manage and prioritize my time more effectively. Additionally, it has been somewhat more convenient not to have to drive 40 minutes to campus every day.

Mentally, though, I’m struggling. When the country shut down in early March 2020, it scared me. COVID was the first virus I’d ever experienced that could take out millions of people around the world, one by one.

My personal life has had its moments, too; it’s been a roller coaster of change. As a person living with depression and anxiety, I’ve experienced continuous troubling issues, such as a lack of motivation, feelings of fatigue and emotional drain, constant over-analyzing, fear—or a simultaneous mix of any of them.

Most days, I can barely function or perform simple tasks because of how and what I feel.

Now let’s be real—it has not been all bad. This quarantine season has brought me closer to my friends and family, although I can’t see some of them in person. Moreover, it has continually reminded me to hold on to and cherish the ones that I love.

The COVID learning curve has also illuminated the people with whom I can identify with the most regarding mental health. It has forced me to concede that, yes, it is okay to ask for help. I have always hated the idea of asking for help because it makes me feel like I am weak or that I cannot stand on my own. In retrospect, the complete opposite is true.

As a person of color, we seldom discuss mental health. In our communities, we put a band-aid over challenging situations and try to go about our everyday lives. Because of the lack of resources and acknowledgment of problems, we often find it difficult to reach out to seek help.

Peace and Serenity. Photo Credit. Christian Awong.

Because of this, actress, writer, and producer Taraji P. Henson has launched The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the African American community. Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM) is a national training, movement building, and grant-making organization dedicated to the healing, wellness, and liberation of Black and marginalized communities. Its organizers are a group of advocates who envision a world where there are no barriers to Black healing.

Being vulnerable and admitting that something is wrong is one of the most challenging yet rewarding acts. Life is too short to judge others, and everyone goes through hard times.

I have to keep reminding myself that tomorrow is not promised.

So, because of that, we must be there for one another and live life to the fullest. At the same time, we need to be present for anyone who is struggling. Even though it’s cliché, remember: You are not the only one. You will breakthrough, and you will persevere.

Soar on, Eagles!

If you or someone you know struggles with mental health, please reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Reinhardt University’s Counseling Center also provides students support at no cost for personal and social concerns, career development, and placement and educational guidance. It is located at the Student Health Center at Smith Johnson Hall. Please reach out to Adam Powell at counseling@reinhardt.edu or by calling 770-720-5549.

 


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