Just to start, what’s your year and your major?
I’m Class of 2019, so I’m actually a super-senior and I am an Anthropology major.
What made you stay another year?
I took a semester off because I was dealing with mental health disabilities, and I wanted to take care of that before coming back to campus.
So how was that semester off, what did you do?
I thought it was amazing, because I got to know about myself. I did volunteering and explored classes outside of what I was interested in. I got a better understanding of what mental health is, it was a great experience for me. And when I came back to campus the next semester, it was a fresh start for me. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
How were you able to learn more about mental health – was that through the volunteering, classes, or experiences you had?
It not the volunteering experiences – I went to therapy; there was also Dil to Dil, a mental health platform for South Asian students where they get to share their experiences. It was amazing to hear that other girls and other students who were South Asians like me went through the same experiences I did. It’s really uplifting to hear everyone’s stories.
Is mental health viewed a certain way in South Asian culture?
I think, like in every society in the world, it is still a bit of a taboo. It’s something that is not talked a lot about and something that needs to be worked on. The fact that people at William & Mary are being more willing and open about mental health, and have a platform where they can talk about that, is wonderful. Having more awareness for mental health for everyone is very important, especially if you go to a very rigorous and academically challenging school like William & Mary.
Wow, did you think it was hard to confront those issues?
Like any disability or obstacle in life, it is always challenging to confront them, but it was a lot less scary than I thought it would be. For me, I wish I confronted them sooner. In the end, I confronted them and that’s what matters to me. I learned from my experiences that if you have any feelings, just talk about them and confront them head-on because you will only get good out of that experience.
Were there people that were super influential to you when this happened?
Absolutely – my family, especially, my parents, my brother. A few of my really close friends were super supportive and were amazing with me throughout my journey. They were patient with me when I was trying to figure out what kind of person I was – they were just the best and I’m happy I surrounded myself with a good group of people, from William & Mary, from high school, and even from my childhood. It was great to let them know I was becoming, not a different person, but my real self. I hoped they would still accept me for that, and they did.
Was your change to your real self more internally or externally?
Since it was internal, it definitely did change my external. When I say becoming my real self, it was like seeing the world not just through one emotion or through one view, but being able to process so many different emotions – which can be scary at times but also a very beautiful thing because you’re able to see the world through a completely new lens and you’re able to process emotions and relate and have empathy, sympathy, kindness, and compassion. Those come from learning from your mistakes, jealousy, anger, and suffering. I describe it as if you were engulfed in ice – you’re frozen in that state for a while, but when you go to therapy or when you find coping mechanisms, it kind of melts that and you’re able to see things from a fresh new perspective. Analogy of the day!
I’m really happy for you and I’m sure you’re not alone. From this point, is there advice you could give to anyone who might also be dealing with this?
I think my advice for anyone struggling with mental health is that while the illness does not define you, do not be afraid to accept and confront it head on and most importantly, to have faith and love in yourself. I am still working through it, and even though it’s something that I wish I didn’t have, in a way, it’s actually helped me so much. For me, it was the accepting it and not trying to push it down that really helped me. I accepted that it was part of my life and that it was part of my personality, and the things I have done to help cope and help be more understanding of other people have really changed me and that is a really beautiful thing. Someone with mental illness should not be ashamed of it or try to push it away, they should embrace it and try to be proud of it in a way, because they can help people to understand and gain empathy
Was there a specific moment or experience that really stuck with you during this process?
It’s so funny- I think the one thing that kind of stuck with me was the corny line in the first book of Harry Potter, where Dumbledore says “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” I was dwelling on not just my dreams but also my insecurities and all those bad thoughts in my head when I wasn’t living the life I should have been when I knew I had so much more potential to be something that clearly wasn’t in my head. Living isn’t only confronting bad things, although that’s part of it, but learning something from them and learning to grow as a person and not dwelling on the things you wish you were.
So this is your last semester. How do you feel about that?
I feel very excited but it is very bittersweet. For me it’s a feeling I never thought I’d feel before. I am going to be sad once I leave here, because I have made a lot of good friends here and my experience has taught me a lot. I am also excited to not study for tests!
Is there anything you’re really looking forward to before graduating?
One thing I’m looking forward to is taking classes for my major and being a TA for ballroom dance.
Wow! How is being a TA for that?
It’s a lot of fun! It’s very weird being on the opposite side and being called a “teacher’s assistant” but I think it’s great! It also helps me get in touch with a dance form that I really like. I think if you really like something you should go for it and see how it suits you.