Connectedness brings mental disasters

In defense of mental health

Photo by Madison Inouye via Pexels

Staying connected with everyone was the main concern for me when I came to the USA in 2021. To do that, what else can be more beneficial than having people on Facebook and other social media sites? Yes, I did that. I put my best efforts into maintaining those connections that I had back in my country. Initially, it was going great. The USA is a great country to be in. The first couple of weeks went by describing to people how much I was enjoying myself and waiting eagerly to have snow. 

Once class started and I found myself standing in front of my students, however, things changed. Fear, anxiety, stress, and lots of other emotions came together without any prior notice. After a certain period, I realized that maintaining connections with everyone in my life became a Herculean task. My people started complaining that I was changing my behaviors as they did not get the same response from me the way they used to. Almost no one understood that I was a new student in a different country and setup. They were doing great in their respective jobs and personal lives, and they probably assumed I was doing fantastic, too. I don’t blame any of them. They wanted me to stay connected with them, considering the fact that it is just an easy matter of clicks and taps to nourish the relationships.

The problem was that I did not know how to maintain the time difference of twelve hours that the USA shares with my country. To make the situation worse, I was struggling with my academic life and teaching. For the first time ever, I was in the USA teaching students whose first language is English. Blackboard seemed confusing to me. All the rubrics and assignments sounded and looked like puzzles that did not have any solutions or answers. My mental health went south. But I did not have anyone to talk to and share that these were the things that were going wrong in my life because of the fear of being judged. Who wants to be judged after getting hired as a Graduate Teaching Assistant? 

However, all these things happened in the past. Now, I do not know everything but know enough to teach English 120 College Composition. With all my struggles, I have learned that suffering silently is not the solution. Talking to professors, seeking mental support, and setting boundaries are the key formulas that we need to succeed in academia.

Having people in your life even when you are thousand miles from each other is a blessing. But, this blessing turns into a curse if you do not know how not to answer their calls when your paper is due. Sharing your problems with others becomes a topic of gossip when you do not know how much to share. Listening to others’ stories becomes a burden when you are struggling with your life. There are so many empaths around us who do not know how to ignore others’ problems. They end up absorbing others’ sobbing stories and getting more depressed. 

In case you are an empath, here is what this empath is doing. Nowadays, I put myself first. You need to start doing that ASAP. Lend an ear but have another ear free so that you can hear what is going around you. Do not get too obsessed with others’ lives and make your life pathetic. People fail to understand and know what situation you are in. So, they drop emotional bombs the moment you pick their phones up. That is something we can label as our limitations as human beings. We do not know everything. But we know what we are going through. So, set boundaries. Do not get engaged in unnecessary talks if that is not going to add any value to your life. 

Identify the things and people who are really important to you. Ignoring the most important people in the name of keeping sanity intact is not the wisest thing to do. If we do not even know how to stand by someone in times of need, then what is the point of earning degrees? But do not do that at your mental health’s cost. Listen with an emotional filter. First listen, and then respond. Do not react. Develop a certain kind of intelligence to let go of things that are not for you and not important for your life.

Do not respond to that person immediately who last texted you when you were in the medieval age. Be practical. I am someone who is not emotionally intelligent and has gone through emotional disaster. So, I think being prudent in choosing people even when it comes to connecting with them on social media is a must. See, with mental disasters comes wisdom! Submit that paper, take a walk, eat healthy and once you are home, look at the weekly schedule and prepare yourself for the next assignments. In each semester, we barely get three to four months. Do not waste that.

Share your concerns and issues with people who have the authority to bring a  change in your life. I used to go to professors’ classes and look for connections. My belief was that the connections were there or not there. You understand it right after the first class. I felt great if my professor gave me space and talked to me, otherwise not. Now, I know that this belief system was based on a wrong idea. To get an excellent grade, you do not need to wait for your professors’ engagement with you. If the connections are not there, create one. Your professor will appreciate that. Ask for support, talk to them, share your problems, request for an extension in case you need any, show your eagerness, etc. Trust me, your professors will lend their support to save you and your grades. Almost all my professors did that and all of them are Americans. My identity as an Asian Muslim did not bother my professors at all. In case your mental health is slipping, our NDSU offers mental health service which is available at Ceres Hall.

Just because this era offers you constant connectedness with people, you do not have to do that. Choose fewer people, be happier!

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