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Community Content: The Power To Live

Editor’s Note: Student body President Najee Rodriguez announced Wednesday that he’s temporarily stepping down as UPUA president in accordance with his health and well-being. Rodriguez hopes to return to his role on September 5.

Warning: The following includes mention of mental health and suicide.

I think for many college students, we leave high school with the hope of entering a vast world of opportunity, hope, and new beginnings. We are bright-eyed and excited to leave the past behind and start anew. But sometimes, no matter how much we may try to be happy and excited about a new life, we may start to feel increasingly alone, anxious, and depressed.

It might be the struggle of being able to afford tuition, it might be the stress of succeeding in classes or finding a job, it might be the burdens of moving forward from our past, or maybe it might be the effort to try your best, to be perfect, with the intent of showing the world that you are ready for adulthood. Either way, over the past few years, we have seen an increase in students experiencing mental health crises, to the point where it can be considered a national emergency.

Still, mental health and the necessity of support can still be stigmatized, leading students to feel further alone and not seek help, and it often isn’t talked about. We ignore it, compartmentalize it, and maybe feel ashamed about it. Well, I want to tell you that even the student body president can struggle and that you aren’t alone if you have been struggling too. I’ve been facing many questions because of my decision to temporarily step down, understandably, and I want to say that I don’t feel forced to write this nor do I feel like I need to explain myself. Rather, I see an opportunity to help other students who may be struggling and who may feel alone. 

I don’t think I’ve still fully processed everything, and I don’t think anyone can ever fully process an attempt on one’s life. I haven’t registered the severity, nor the impact that it could’ve had on those I love. I didn’t even register what I was doing when I did it. I didn’t register anything after I wrote the note. I didn’t register anything when the police and paramedics came, still, nothing when my system had to be cleared, and then still nothing when the doctor said that I could’ve died. I just stared blankly — almost confused. It was all a blur, and I didn’t cry once, not once, at the moment leading up to it and at the ER. At the moment, I wanted to be dead. I think life got harder and harder, the pressures of college and life caught up to me, and I think I felt alone even when I wasn’t, and I think that I didn’t see a future. 

When I think back to the moment leading up to what I did, I remember thinking about my life. I remember my diagnoses: borderline personality disorder, clinical depression, and ADHD. I didn’t want to live my life relying on pills, I didn’t want my mind to think that nobody cared about me anymore or lose control of my emotions, and I didn’t want to lay in bed for hours when I didn’t take my medication. I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to excel. Over time, the obstacles and the invisible pain that I felt got the best of me.

The drinking because of the pressures in college only worsened things. I wanted to forget that I was abused, emotionally and physically, and that I didn’t have parents as a foundation of support, that I felt that I had to be perfect in the world. Because in college, we can change our futures and our lives, right? That’s what I thought at least. But no, for myself and probably many others, we arrived here with the chance and hope for a better future. For me, I felt that I couldn’t do anything to fix how I felt, my life was a mess, and nobody really knew. I felt irrevocably broken. I was in pain, and it lasted all the way up until that second that I did what I did. I wanted it to end. Now, I’m glad that it didn’t. I’m glad I failed. 

Finally, after years, I got the help and support I needed. It is my hope that no other student ever has to get to that point that I did. It is my hope that we can continue to normalize these invisible issues. It is my hope that students who might be in pain right now, who are reading this, know that there are resources and support for you. That you have a chance at life, to take advantage of this opportunity in Happy Valley to not live for others, but for yourself. And I know every day won’t be perfect, but whose days are? I want to get better, and I want to continue to live. You deserve a future.

I’m sharing this because there was a pretty good chance that I wouldn’t be here today, writing this, and because even when I reached my lowest point, tomorrow came. And yes, I’m taking time to care for and better myself, and you have a right to do that too. There will always be a reason to keep going, even if it’s day by day. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Right now, it is my hope that I can normalize caring for yourself and knowing your limits. Don’t be ashamed of that. I want to normalize the idea that you can change your life for the better. Don’t be afraid to get help. Take advantage of CAPS, go to therapy, learn, and grow. For your friends, for your life, for all the things in life you enjoy — ultimately, that’s what college is for. A bad day never lasts forever, and your past doesn’t define you. I know that now, and I hope you do too. You have the power to live.

This post, written by UPUA President Najee Rodriguez, was submitted independently as part of our community content program. You could have your content published on Onward State by submitting it here.

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About the Author

Najee Rodriguez

Najee Rodriguez is a senior and serves as Penn State's student body president.

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