By Sharon Kattar
When you enter a new environment, things may seem overwhelming; you may be in a completely different atmosphere, having come from elsewhere, or you might be lucky enough to still be leeching off your parents. Either way, you may get the feeling that you’re in it alone… (super cliché comment coming up) but you’re not! My first year at McGill University was confusing: I thought I had it all figured out, but I wasn’t happy. I didn’t have any solid friends I felt I could count on, I wasn’t performing as well as I wanted to in one-hundred-level classes, and life just wasn’t looking the way I had imagined it.
Luckily enough, I had everyone in the organization Promoting Opportunities for Women in Engineering (POWE) to look up to, a club I joined in my first year at McGill. But at times, the weekly meetings just weren’t enough. I’m not an introverted person, in fact I’m quite bubbly, but when I was thrown into a wildly new environment where I was struggling to get the grades I used to get so easily and where I had to cook for myself or else I wouldn’t eat (which did happen), I got lost.
I eventually found a friend who stuck by me no matter what. He introduced me to healthy behaviors, both academic and not. I started going to the gym, making gains, and feeling good about myself again. At home, I strived to be the scholar I saw in him, and although it was hard not to compare myself to him in the beginning, I eventually got to a place where I was confident in my work. I connected with more people in my classes and sought out those friendly faces I so desperately wanted to see in my life. By my third semester, I felt my place in university life was finally somewhere I wanted it to be. I continued my involvement in POWE, I was working out four times a week, I saw my friends in and out of classes, and I felt healthy.
However, at the start of my fourth semester, Winter 2019, a tragedy occurred. I was in a bad place. I felt like I couldn’t share my tragedy with my friends because I didn’t want to burden them. I felt I had to keep it to myself or else I’d spread more hurt. I felt alone.
I swallowed my pride and headed over to Brown Building Suite 550 West, and made an appointment with the psychiatric services. I remember crying as I spoke to the person at the front desk, not being able to keep it in. I was crying because of the loss I had felt, but also because my pride was hurt. I was finally asking for professional attention, but I couldn’t come to terms with it myself. As they spoke to me, they casually handed me the tissue box from their side of the desk then gave me a tablet with the forms I needed to fill out.
The psychiatric services offer drop-in hours for students who don’t have an appointment and that’s what I did. I dropped in, waited a bit, spoke to a psychiatrist, and let myself release what I had been holding on to. I felt small. I felt shaky. I felt alone. But in that moment, I felt provided for. McGill pulled through. When I asked for help, I was given this free resource to talk to a professional and even more resources in the case that I wanted to continue counseling. At the end of the session, the psychiatrist reminded me why my friends were my friends: to help me carry the burden on my shoulders. They pointed out that even though I was deeply affected and undeniably hurting, my friends probably wouldn’t be affected by the incident itself, just by how it affected me.
I ended up telling my friends and I was comforted beyond imagination. I was even given cake pops! The best decision I have ever made at McGill was to ask for help, whether it was professional help or help from my friends. McGill has the resources (though they are sometimes overwhelmed), so use them! Don’t be afraid to take advantage of what’s free for you to use. You never know when you might need it, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.