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Your Feelings Are Validated

Music, more specifically, listening to music has always been my favorite hobby. It’s kind of a silly thing to say. My more talented peers play instruments or have the most beautiful voices, but I just listen. Granted, it has given me the most eclectic music taste from listening to EDM during workouts to Fleetwood Mac in the car, but it’s a simple, therapeutic part of my life. It wasn’t until this unexpectedly long quarantine that I’ve realized that music has connected me with the people I love, brought me out of my lowest moments and has filled the silence of otherwise awkward car rides and social interactions. I recently rediscovered songs that were buried deep within my playlists on Spotify and felt a wave of nostalgia when I heard the opening lines. It’s a scary feeling to feel like you’re 14 years old again with no clue how to navigate the world, but if anything, it has shown how much I’ve grown.

Simple Song by The Shins

“I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone/ Don't go thinking you gotta be tough, to play like a stone”

Growing up in an Asian household, sharing our feelings wasn’t exactly our strength. In fact, it was kind of an unspoken rule to never talking about our emotions and it was even quite unorthodox to hear words of affirmation or comfort. I never really minded because my life was relatively content. Sure, it wasn’t exceptional, but I did well in school, enjoyed time with friends and at that time, it was easy to ignore the other feelings of disappointment and nervousness.

Sophomore year of high school was the first time I really found myself struggling to keep up with everything around me. Looking back, because I was essentially having a “college experience” at boarding school, I felt older than I was, so I always forget I was only 16. There seemed to be an endless list of moving parts I couldn’t keep up with, not to mention, the foreboding shadow of college. I had stupid boy problems that seemed life altering at the time. I was terrified of the hook up culture which I felt forced to be a part of but had no clue how to navigate. There was the terrible mix of body insecurity and the toxicity of living with 50+ teenage girls. So, yeah, it was a daunting feeling to tackle academics when I was constantly dealing with issues that coming-of-age movies seemed to resolve so easily.

My parents weren’t particularly happy with my grades and the lack of communication-- partly due to my fear of disappointing them and partly due to physical distance of going to boarding school--only worsened our relationship. Our conversations were focused solely on the single letter or number that ended up on my tests and papers and I couldn’t find the right words to explain that those same emotions which were once so easy to bottle away had turned into anxiety. Mental health was an unknown concept; it did not exist in my family. So, I never really learned how to deal with or talk about it. And how does one even begin to explain a feeling of failure so crippling that I felt suffocated? When I tried to mention feeling physically and emotionally drained to my parents, they seemed to dismiss anything I said as “making excuses”. I will give them some credit, though. I never really took these attempts seriously because I was terrified of breaking the unspoken rule we had established. To them, the answer was simple. I could work harder, spend less time with friends, or quit my extracurriculars. I just had to get over whatever phase I was going through.

Liability by Lorde

“The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy/ 'Til all of the tricks don't work anymore/ And then they are bored of me/ ….

They say, "You're a little much for me/ You're a liability”

I convinced myself that I was overreacting-- that I was being dramatic, so I always put on a happy exterior. I felt like I needed to please everyone around me. I told myself that I could bring my grades up while hanging out with my roommates until 2 am while being a varsity athlete while apply for leadership positions and all while simultaneously putting a smile on my face. The unexplainable feeling of being sad with no reason why? Don’t worry, it’ll pass. Feeling the crushing weight of my parents’ expectations until it kept me up until the next morning? You can sleep when you’re dead. I struggled to even picture how I would tell my friends. Ironically, it gave me even more anxiety to imagine their faces staring back at me. Sure, I shared almost everything from my greatest achievements to my most embarrassing stories with them, but my own negative connotations about mental health stopped me from confiding in them. I felt like a burden, that I would only ruin the mood by telling them what I was going through. So, I made jokes about being depressed and ended up truly believing that I had to go it alone because not only did my parents brush off my mental health problems, but so did I.

Leave a Trace by CHVRCHES

“You think I'll apologize for things I left behind But you got it wrong And I'm as sane as I ever was”

Looking back, I wish someone had told me that yes, my feelings were validated and no, I shouldn’t be ashamed. I wish it was more normalized to talk about mental health and mental illness without the stigma. We act as though asking for help or getting therapy is a sign of weakness. We as a society are guilty of throwing around tropes in media and entertainment that men should be masculine and people with mental illnesses are dangerous. More specifically, as women, while I could make a never-ending list of names we are called, one of the biggest stereotypes is that we are dramatic, crazy or emotional. The concept of gaslighting or blaming our actions on our “raging hormones” only reinforces the idea that our feelings should be kept to ourselves. When I was younger, my male counterparts always asked if I was upset because it was that time of the month. I realize now that little comments like that were just invalidating my attempts to be openly upset, confront and essentially get closure.

It’s Not the Same Anymore by Rex Orange County

“I'll stand up straight like I'm tall/ It's up to me, no one else/ I'm doing this for myself/ It's not the same anymore.”

I still struggle to open up about my feelings. The irony is not lost on me that I am writing anonymously and my friends poke fun that I am emotionless or too ambivalent. They always question why they don’t know what’s going on in my life and why I always redirect the conversation away from myself. In reality, it’s because of that same lingering feeling of being a burden, but I recently had a conversation with a friend that gave me a new perspective. I wasn’t incredibly close with him and while we were friendly, we had never sat down to have a real meal. As we caught each other up on the past year of our lives, he casually talked about his experience dealing with depression during his freshmen year of college. Hearing someone talk so openly about mental health and asking for help was so new to me. It made me realize, again, that I don’t have to always have a tough, happy exterior and that it’s okay to ask for help. I can be unapologetic when I chose to share OR not share my feelings. I don’t have to feel guilty for putting my mental health first. And most of all, I don’t need anyone to validate my feelings for me.

Songs That Got Me Through… Life

  1. Simple Song by The Shins

  2. No Place Like Home by HONNE

  3. The Man by Taylor Swift

  4. Leave a Trace by CHVRCHES

  5. It’s Not the Same Anymore by Rex Orange County

  6. Creeps & Strangers by the Tragic Thrills

  7. Liability by Lorde

  8. Junk of the Heart by The Kooks

  9. You’re Not Alone by The Mowgli’s

  10. Feel Again by OneRepublic

I am a rising junior studying Math and Economics with a minor in Government. I was born and raised in the small and only slightly boring state of Connecticut, but in reality, I love my small suburban town. When I'm not finding new places to go running, I love drawing and making animations!

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