Hi, everyone! I want to introduce myself. My name is Jose Jacob Arce, and I am currently wrapping up my senior year at the University of Florida. I am a Women’s Studies major. I plan on attending graduate school for Student Affairs after taking a year off from school. Gabs asked me to help with Stronger Than Stigma’s blog after she noticed that I shared an article on Facebook about mental health. (Here’s the link to it: http://bzfd.it/1XMTBEQ ) We totally connected over this shared passion of ours. I was super excited for the opportunity to join the team of an amazing organization.
I guess I should start talking about why I was interested in writing for a blog about mental health. I very much believe everything happens for a reason. Stronger Than Stigma very much came into my life for a reason. During the fall semester of my senior year I began dealing with a lot of emotional stuff that I kinda put on the back burner. I never really paid much attention to my mental health. As long as I was physically healthy, I kept on going. School, work, student organizations and repeat. My first three years of college, I was a functioning machine. Sometimes better than other times, but nonetheless a machine that kept on going.
My senior year was different though. I seemed to have it all together, a well thought out plan for graduation, my perfect senior class schedule and the leadership positions I have always wanted. But something was just not clicking. I went from being a social butterfly, to a stay-at-home-Stan. I found myself just not “feeling well” and not really knowing why. Around October, I began experiencing intense moments of extreme fear to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night. I would not be able to make it to work because I was curled up with a pain in my chest, short of breath.
I have been through trainings in my various leadership positions that have taught me how to identify signs of distress, but I never thought I’d be identifying them in myself. I have always considered myself a “helper”, but I forgot to help one person: Me. Once I recognized I needed help, I reached out to my faculty mentor who immediately connected me to our campus counseling center. The weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was so scared to talk about my mental health for fear of judgment or feeling weak. Luckily, I was welcomed with open arms and a listening ear. Beginning in January, I was able to meet with a counselor once a week.
My journey with mental health is just beginning. While the road might not always be easy or fun (sometimes it’s scary!), I know that with time I will feel better. I hope that through this blog, specifically, and through Stronger Than Stigma’s efforts in general, that we can lend a helping hand in encouraging you to take those first steps towards feeling better. I’m glad that I did, and I know you will be, too. It’s my job to create a space where you can feel comfortable sharing your story. We want to hear your voice. You no longer have to suffer in silence; we’re here for you.
Jose Jacob Arce
Stronger Than Stigma, Inc.