“You Are Just In A Mood”

My journey dealing with mental health

Desiree Oliveros, Staff Writer

Desiree Oliveros engaged in her homework (Dominic Di Palermo )

For so long, I knew I needed help. I struggled for years with depression and anxiety, but I grew up believing I was just sad or nervous. I constantly heard the phrases “others have it much worse” or  “you are just in a mood” which invalidated my feelings.

There was always a stigma in my family against mental health. No one believed in going to therapy for a while, no one believed that spending hundreds to just sit and talk was worth it, and no one believed that I, who was always fun and bubbly, was truly struggling.

It was not until the Spring 2021 semester here at Elgin Community College that I realized I was at my breaking point. My eating habits were out of control. My mood changed drastically from day to day. It felt like I had no control over my life. But then one of the professionals from the Wellness Center at ECC came to talk to our class, and since then it felt that my mental health recovery had begun.

I must admit that my very first therapy session was terrifying. I paced the hallway back and forth contemplating if I should turn around and leave. For 17 years, I was told that therapy was pointless. I thought I would sit there awkwardly while some old person takes notes and silently judges me.

However, I could not have been more wrong. My first session with the Wellness Center was revelating. I had no clue about all the trauma I subconsciously suppressed. I went into my first session thinking my main issue was my eating disorder, yet I walked out realizing that there was a lot more going on that developed my unhealthy eating habits.

From losing family to COVID-19 to having considerable changes in my life like transferring schools and getting a new job, I did not realize that I had a lot on my plate. I choose to put all the blame on my eating habits as to why I was always moody or fatigued but failed to examine other factors in my life.

So after my first meeting with the Wellness Center, I continued to go back weekly. I uncovered more about myself that I never realized I completely ignored and did not healthily deal with in the past. I also developed better habits to deal with my eating that really helped me believe that food was not the enemy but rather a fuel.

Consequently, after a few weeks, I stopped. I stopped because I thought I was all better. I thought everything was solved and all my issues were gone. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Spring forward a year to the Spring 2022 semester, we are back in person for classes. I had my hardest course load so far for my time at ECC and I was in person for four days a week. It was a huge change from my past few semesters since thanks to COVID-19 I was home all day with the exception of one or two classes in person once a week.

I did not realize how difficult it was to readjust to in-person learning. I thought since I did great in person before COVID-19, I would be just fine after. But man was I wrong.

Within the first two weeks of classes, I cried every night. I was overwhelmed with the workload and hated being back in person. My mental health was destroyed and I went back into past bad habits. 

I even cried after my first calculus quiz of the semester in front of my teacher. Yes, it was quite an embarrassing and humbling experience. The thing is I did not cry just because I did not know what was going on, but because I was so overwhelmed and anxious about the possibility of failure, that my mind went completely blank while taking the quiz.

I remember talking to my teacher after class and what she told me really pushed me to go back to the Wellness Center. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Absolutely no test or grade should go above your mental health. This is just one calculus quiz. It means nothing in the long term.”

So after a few months off from therapy, I finally went back. Once again, my experience went quite well and I uncovered why the transition from online to in-person learning was initially quite difficult. 

The greatest takeaway from my sessions this semester was how to cope with my anxiety. I realized that I had to learn to separate fallacies from realities. For instance, when it came to taking my exams, I used to always go into it thinking I would fail and forget everything I needed for the test. However, in reality, I studied for hours and I was more than prepared. By realizing the reality of my situation, the anxieties I had going into tests would subside. 

While this reaches the end of my story, my mental health journey is still a work in progress. I realized after my first time stopping therapy thinking I was all “better” and that there was nothing else to work on was not necessarily true. There will always be things I will need to work on and a long list of things from my past that I will continue to uncover.

It is not an easy journey to heal, but I am glad I finally broke through my childhood stigma and took the step necessary to better myself. I also urge anyone who is nervous about making this huge leap into their mental health journey, that once you cross that barrier, things truly do get better.