Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been encouraged to express my emotions.
I didn’t grow up in a hypermasculine household. Every day, I saw my dad communicate his emotions to our family. I was expected to do the same. Conversations about mental health were normal for me, and I’m thankful that I was able to learn about myself and my emotions from a young age.
But I never really had a choice.
My mom died when I was 12. I was instantly put into group therapy and weekly one-on-one counseling sessions with my middle school guidance counselor. At the time, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. All I wanted to do was stare at the wall and feel sorry for myself.
I cried every day because I missed my mom. But I also felt selfish. I’ve always felt an obligation to take care of the people around me, but instead of doing that, I was a pathetic heap of emotions who struggled to get out of bed in the morning.
I needed an escape, and while weekly therapy didn’t end my emotional insecurities, it helped me process the feelings that swirled throughout my angry and bitter 12-year-old body.
But nine years later, I still struggle with thinking that I’m not good enough.
At the surface level, I look like somebody who has it all together.
I carry a 3.8 GPA (I’m a communication major, so take that with a grain of salt). I’m a vital member — and soon to be editor-in-chief — of The Spectrum, a major student organization on campus. Every weekend, I go out with a great group of friends who look out and care for me.
My house is a revolving door of people coming in, saying hi and making me feel better about myself.
On top of all that, I have the staff of The Spectrum in my corner. My colleagues consistently bombard me with positive reinforcement and beautiful energy. I walk into the office and I know I have a safe place to crash on the couch, watch basketball highlights with managing editor Justin Weiss or just have a talk with somebody.
But I don’t talk about how I cry myself to sleep sometimes.
Or how I don’t feel like I’m good enough.
Even when I sleep at a friend’s house after a night out, they have to deal with me sobbing at 3 a.m.
I cry because I don’t think I’m doing all I can for the people around me. It’s exhausting to hear that a friend of mine struggles with mental health. It’s a constant reminder that I’m not supportive enough.
I hate the fact that tears stream down my face as I’m writing this. I feel weak and powerless.
I’m frustrated because I shouldn’t feel like this after years of group and one-on-one counseling sessions. I think I still need therapy, but what’s the point if I’m going to feel the same after?
After years of being “open” with my emotions, I still feel like the same confused 12-year-old, even if I don’t always show it. This isn’t a cry for help; I’m not depressed. I just don’t always know what to do with whatever it is I’m feeling.
I feel the pressure to be a rock everybody can lean on, and I know I’m not always strong enough to do so.
The pressure to return to therapy casts a shadow over my head. Am I just overreacting to everything? What about the people who actually need it?
But no matter how much I tell myself I’m not good enough, the people in my support system keep my head above water. I just want to provide them with the same help when they need it.
My life is great, and I’m so lucky to be where I’m at with the people that care for me.
I just hope I have the courage to one day return to therapy. Even though I was forced to open up emotionally from a young age, I still find myself struggling with the same demons that haunted me nine years ago.
The mental battle within my head isn’t an easy one to mediate. I’m not where I feel I should be, but I’m still confident enough to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ll figure it out. I always do.
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m.