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On My Mind: A Series on Emotional and Mental Health

*NOTE FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: The following piece was actually intended to be the first entry in the 'On My Mind' series; however, given the recent social unrest in our country, a special piece was released on June 5th. You can read that piece HERE*

My name is Jacob Hughes; I'm a young, dumb kid who's still growing up and learning what it takes to make it in this world. Let me be the first to say that this series will be both very awkward for me to complete, not to mention extremely personal. I've never been one to openly talk about myself or what I struggle with daily, no matter how much I can relate to those who feel just as lost as I do sometimes. Initially, I'd like to use this series to open up about myself before ultimately being able to reach out and rationalize life with people. Life is hard and if there's a chance I can possibly help open people up to new ideas, I want to take it.

I've always been the type of person who tends to hunker down and rationalize things on his own, something that we can all relate to deep down. After all, sometimes the best guidance we can get winds up coming from ourselves. What gets lost in this process, however, is the ability to accept and act upon the advice we receive from others.

Many of us young adults struggle with how we feel emotionally, yet we don’t tend to fully understand either the impact or severity of those emotions. The struggle with mental health has become so common within our world that we’ve become somewhat numb to it. I've lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard "I'm depressed" or "My anxiety is through the roof" from friends over the years. These phrases are used so commonly nowadays to varying degrees and we hear them so often that, sometimes, legitimate cries for help are ignored.

It took a whole twenty-one years for me to understand the profound impact, either positive or negative, that our mentality can have on the way we live our lives. I was always the guy that kept to himself and stayed quiet about his issues; my introverted nature may have been to blame for this. I never wanted to burden anyone with them - I figured that being an adult meant solving my own problems. I never knew how dark it was to be alone until I truly was.

What further complicated things for me was the plethora of issues that all seemed to rise at precisely the same time: a failing relationship, my father’s health, family issues, stress from being completely confused and having a full-on identity crisis. It got to the point where I felt like I was just going through the motions of life. Eventually, the bad thoughts flooded my mind and consumed me entirely; Jake was gone, replaced by someone who neither cared nor felt cared about. I blamed those around me for my hardships, never admitting that it was I who created his own problems. I felt angry for a long time, but at the root of these emotions was sadness. I refused to accept the world around me and soon collapsed because I wasn’t prepared to deal with these festering issues. I bottled up my emotions until I imploded.

Like all wounds, mine healed gradually in time; before they could, though, I first needed to learn to accept my issues and talk openly about them. Thinking back on the person I was a year ago, it’s almost night and day, as my life has changed drastically in such a short time.

These days, there are many people in my life both new and old who I'm now willing let my guard down for and open up to. I now realize that, in one way or another, the people around me cared all along - I wish that I had been able to discover this sooner and had never taken those people for granted. If there was a way that I could go back and either change my outlook on life back then, or even just the way I handled things, though, I don’t think that I would. For better or worse, those events helped shape the person I am today.

I realize now that, even if they don't seem that way, experiences like mine are part of the beauty of life. We must find a way as humans to learn how to take things in stride and understand that life has hardships from time to time. And as great as our memories may be, eventually we must grow up; while our bodies obviously do this, we must mature equally from a mental perspective as well. We also cannot grow without first falling down. This life lesson is required learning for us all, even if we learn differently, but in doing so, remember one thing:

We are never alone.

- Jake


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