The Help

Author name
Jose Sandoval, '16
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Most people do not like talking about their problems, whether they are academic, financial or emotional – especially at a place like Duke. The stigma attached to mental health issues do not mix well with the Duke community. Things become a lot more daunting when there are unrelenting expectations to be the perfect student with an immaculate academic record; this quickly tears away at one’s self-esteem and life.

When I first arrived on campus, two years ago, I was ambitious and ready to tackle whatever was thrown at me. However, following my first semester, I realized that things were not fine. I used to conquer school, but now it was conquering me. I had no one to talk to about what was going on inside my head. I thought, ‘people have their own issues to deal with’. I did not want to be a burden. Speaking about how poorly I was doing in my classes would be humiliating. In addition, being 3,000 miles away from my home did not help my situation.

No one ever thinks that they will suffer from depression until it actually happens. Before leaving for college, I always thought that I was healthy and happy with my life. I never thought that my life would spiral out of control. I isolated myself from everyone because I did not want to be perceived as crazy. I found myself unable to escape the clutches of my bed. If it was not for a close friend of mine recommending CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) to me, I am sure that I probably would have been kicked out of school.

CAPS is a beautiful thing- it really is. Before ever walking in to my first appointment, I thought that I was going to be bombarded with questions by a psychologist that thought I was crazy. That was not the case. I was asked to talk about everything that was bothering me: school, family, money, etc. I was given the opportunity to vent to someone who I knew would not judge me - they just listened and gave advice. As I continued to visit regularly, I began to feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I was able to breathe throughout the day with ease. Most importantly, I started to do well in school again.

If I could offer any advice to an incoming student, it would be to make an appointment at CAPS if they are ever going through some tough times. I know that the easiest thing to do is to bottle up your emotions, but that will only make things worse. Remember to always take care of yourself first.

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