Gallardo: Demotivation from mental health during college years

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"I make these small accomplishments very important because there was a point in my college experience where getting up wasn’t enough." - Graphic / Brendan Cohen

Demotivation is a college student’s worst enemy as they seek to get up for that 9:30 a.m. class. When that alarm blared into my ears in high school, I was up in the blink of an eye. I never wanted to waste a single second of my day as an honors student. 

I reported to my teacher’s office hours when I needed help, I created study plans to succeed in my advanced placement (AP) courses. There was never a time when I wasn’t studying, reading, or working at my part-time job. 

That was nearly three years ago when during this exact period of SATS and final exams, I was ready to attend college away from home. I am 20 years old now, with no idea how to be organized or energized. 

It’s so silly how time changes, how friends trickle down to just a friend, and how free time becomes a reward after several hours of homework and classes. How that bright spirit of my high school self dimmed once I stepped foot into the buildings of higher education. Now, I think about how I am going to get up for school, and how maybe it’s okay to miss 10 or 15 minutes of class to earn a couple more minutes of sleep. I don’t remember the last time I’ve truly given myself an adequate amount of hours to sleep; to shut my mind off from life’s worries. 

This stigma that as college students we must juggle working, attending classes, making friends, and going out has become toxic. We don’t realize how making this so common, becomes a threat to a student’s mental health. In our generation, we’re looking at rising numbers of mental health declines. According to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments in 2023, “In the annual survey, which received responses from 96,000 U.S. students across 133 campuses during the 2021–22 academic year, 44 percent reported symptoms of depression, 37 percent said they experienced anxiety and 15 percent said they have seriously considered suicide.”  These are the highest rates in the organization’s 16 years of distributing this survey. 

I’ve fallen into this stigma myself by getting involved in three different organizations on campus. On top of going to my five different classes, actively adding to my portfolio by reporting on stories for several publications, and working at my part-time managerial job, it gets exhausting. 

It’s easy to understand why students fall so behind in their classes, and why some people only have the energy to attend them, but not to finish homework on time. I wish this was something that more faculty and administrators understood. Is obtaining a college degree supposed to be easy? Maybe not, but why must we put ourselves through mental exhaustion? In my experience, sometimes I lose the passion for what I am pursuing because I am so overwrought with getting every weekly assignment done on time. When in reality I have a grand passion for journalism. 

On a more positive note, as a junior, I can’t believe how far I have come. Maybe I am still struggling with getting up for that 9:30 a.m. class, but I’m getting somewhere in my career path, I’m attempting to get my foot in the industry. I’m attempting to write these stories, and more importantly, I am attempting to be present in my life. 

I make these small accomplishments very important because there was a point in my college experience where getting up wasn’t enough. Putting on a nice outfit and going to my favorite places like art museums weren’t making me happy. Where I genuinely just wanted to stay in a small corner of my room forever. 

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder a couple of years ago. I never thought that I would open up to anyone about my emotions and my mental struggles, but I am glad I did. At a point where I was fighting it, I was decreasing my care of my studies or my self-care, I had to take the initiative to live and grow from it. 

I say this to anyone who feels alone, I know it’s cliche, “You’re not alone,” but seriously, you’re not alone. I always believed that my struggles were ones that nobody else could possibly comprehend, but I was very wrong. No one should feel alone in this fight, because it is one long and heavy fight. I am learning to overcome, and I pride myself on these little achievements to one day look back at my work ethic and realize I did a damn good job in my college years. 

My main goal aside from getting a job once I leave Rowan, is to overcome demotivation, it’s a darkness that consumes a person so quickly. It’s so comfortable to sleep in after an 11-hour shift, but when the realization hits that I skipped class again, I have to get myself up. Even if I make the class 40 minutes late, I’m still here, I still showed up. 

So, be proud of yourself, whether it’s because you earned that internship, turned in that overdue assignment, cleaned up your room, or made your bed. Ignore the judgment from yourself or others because nobody knows how hard you’re conquering this battle, but you.

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