An Open Letter about Mental Health
It’s okay if you fall apart sometimes. Tacos fall apart and we still love them.
As I am wrapping up with my term, I wanted to share a personal and candid letter that I recently sent to my high school biology teacher and my experience. Hopefully, sharing my story can increase awareness about mental health and remind students to always put their health first and foremost.
Hi Mrs. S,
Hope you are doing well! I just thought of you and wanted to thank you for being one of the biggest influences on my education and for always being there for me. I wanted to share a self-reflection and update since I have not caught up with you in a while.
It is a bit ironic to me that I am on the science-related path, since I remember working so hard, but also really struggling in AP Biology junior year. Looking back, I think my self-esteem & also ADHD (that I actually just got diagnosed with this summer) really affected my performance in my high school courses, especially the STEM ones. It was difficult for me not to "space out" during class & finish the assigned readings, which made me think I was incapable and dumber than everyone around me.
Last year, even though I did pretty well in freshman year of college, I felt like I had to dedicate much more effort & time (working 10x harder than others) to ace my classes (hence my last straw to get tested for ADHD this summer). I think my biggest progress these past few years was in pushing myself to go outside of my comfort zone, despite thinking that it would be nerve-wracking. Making that initial appointment is one example. A quote that I heard from a Women’s Leaders conference was "get comfortable with being uncomfortable," and I think that really aided me in being able to continuously step outside of my comfort zone.
I am now in my 2nd year at SDSU studying Interdisciplinary: Biology/Public Health/Psychology. I also work as a Supplemental Instruction leader facilitating chemistry sessions. This summer, I have had the pleasure of interning at Scripps Research Institute in Dr. Lamia's molecular biology circadian clock lab. It's funny how I used to think I wasn't good or smart enough to even step foot in a research lab, and was so determined to take an "easier career path for me," and I have now been in two! And all I did was put my insecurities aside, ignored people who told me to wait, and just went for it. Sometimes, I definitely do have "imposter syndrome" and often feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, but deep deep down, I know I am in these positions for a reason. I am eternally grateful for all the opportunities from my university, just being able to even attend college, and my high school teachers and mentors like you who have shaped me positively and supported me. Again, THANK YOU for everything, Mrs. S. You are such a caring, impactful, and incredible teacher and I was so excited to be able to share my growth with you.
“Stop shaking your leg.”
“Why are you so slow?”
These words echoed from my childhood and still to this day… give me chills. When I was in high school and first heard about ADHD, I thought that it was possible I may have it, but I was scared to confirm my suspicions.
I also did not fully understand this disorder. When people think of ADHD, they often think of hyperactive little boys. Yet, girls exhibit symptoms much differently than boys; theirs are usually more internalized. They often display the inattentive aspects of the disorder more and turn their pain and frustrations inward, causing low self-esteem and anxiety. Hence, I went 18 years undiagnosed, untreated, and in the dark about myself.
After finally getting diagnosed this summer of 2019, I was irritated with myself. Had I gotten tested earlier, my life would have probably been much easier. Regardless, I am so glad that I finally made appointments with a psychotherapist and am getting the help that I need. Better late than never! It has been tough to speak about this publicly since there are so many stereotypes surrounding ADHD, but I know that talking about this should be more normalized.
There is still so much stigma surrounding medications, a myriad of college students "self-diagnosing" instead of seeing a professional, and so little research on ADHD in women vs men.