ELHAM NUMAN/THE VARSITY

4:00 am. Classes were going to start in a few hours. Dejected, I threw my books down and tried to catch some sleep.

Stress was taking over my life. I did not know if I wanted to live. Driven by self-disappointment, I was facing a massive disparity between my own expectations and what I felt I could do. There was a wall in front of me: the bricks were self-doubt and an ever-growing workload; the mortar was the dissonance between my abilities and my goals. It seemed that I could never climb over this monstrosity. I started to question if I really belonged among the amazing peers and friends surrounding me.

Desperate for help and understanding, I reached out to someone and opened up to him. He guided me to find the right people, and they concluded that I needed professional help to get through some of my problems. I was finding it difficult to agree with this conclusion. I felt I would just be blaming myself for everything I was feeling, when I remembered something a dear friend had told me during one of my breakdowns.

Driven by self-disappointment, I was facing a massive disparity between my own expectations and what I felt I could do.

“It’s okay to not be okay.”

Rewind to the start of my first year. I had just met Sean, who would become my closest friend. We bonded over the advice he gave me when I was at emotional and mental all-time lows.

He told me that I am only accountable to myself. The most important thing, he said, was to take care of myself. There are no ready-made cures for emotional and mental wellness like there are for physical ailments. I had to use the resources around me to make sure that I could get the care I needed and still need.

Even with the resources around the city and on campus, it was difficult. I was definitely never okay at any point. Sometimes I was close to it, but just shy of the mark. This gave rise to more stress — how could I possibly live up to any of my goals if I could never be at peace with who I was?

“It’s okay to not be okay.”

One night, I told a stressed friend that she needed to step back from everything she felt obligated to do. I felt that it was indeed okay for her to just feel the stressful, tense emotions and understand that one day it does get better. As long as we can look forward in our lives for even one second, we will be okay.

In her moment of struggle, I saw that it was important for her to understand that she was already amazing just as she was. Regardless of how my friend felt internally, she was still someone I looked up to and cherished. If I felt that way about my friend, then surely my friends would feel that way about me. In fact, my best friends were telling me this all the time. I just never believed them.

I realized that I was on the brink of something. The wall I faced at the time was a mirror, and it had enraptured me. The mirror was grungy and cracked, and it showed a distorted perspective of myself. Instead of trying to fix the image the mirror gave me, I had to realize the mirror was just that — a perspective. As a result, I had to be okay with not being okay. The troubled turmoil in my mind and heart would pass one day.

The mirror is replaceable. It can be cleaned, fixed, and even made wholly new. Of course, it takes time — to make a new way of looking at ourselves, we need to let ourselves change. I am still learning how to grow and develop. I have learned that I need to accept that right now; I can be not okay with who I am. This mirror will change, and I will drive that change.

As long as I can take just one more step, I am at peace with myself — with all the good and bad that comprises me. I will keep living my life, using the resources around me to make peace with myself. I do not have to be perfect.

Knowing this, I put down my books and peacefully head to bed. I am ready to face tomorrow, because I have the strength to tackle whatever lies ahead.

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