My name is Sara Rosenblatt, I’m currently a UC Berkeley student living in Berkeley. I was born in Annapolis Maryland, lived in Dallas Texas for 6 years, and moved near Sacramento (Roseville specifically) in 2011. This is my second year in Berkeley and it’s definitely more exciting than the past locations I’ve experienced.
I’m the middle of 2 sisters (who are my best friends), all 2 years apart, and my relationships with my sisters and my family definitely have defined my identity. My mother was born in Vietnam and has worked hard to provide me and my sisters with a comfortable life, taking on so many roles and responsibilities to give us the childhood she wasn’t able to have to support her family as they adjusted to the US. My mother taught us to treat others how we want to be treated and to be proud of giving our very best effort in achieving our personal goals. My parent’s relationship wasn’t the best growing up, leading to my sisters and I forming a tight-knit bond with our mom and learning to protect our emotional health. When my parents separated during my junior year of high school it was more a matter of “finally” for my sisters and I. My dad’s emotional negligence growing up would affect us all differently, but I would say that I’m grateful to currently be close with my family individually and cherish these relationships including their ups and downs.
I grew up in a very privileged, non-diverse town in Placer County, California. Most of my peers were very sheltered and knew no better than being handed opportunities and expecting the world to work in their favor. Coming to Berkeley I was excited to be surrounded by a diverse community with unique goals and ambitions. In addition, seeing the reality of an unfair system which I’ve had the privilege of benefitting from was important in fueling my desire to provide the resources I’d been handed as a standard for all.
In general, I think my biggest critic is myself. I try to work hard to be able to support myself and reach my academic, professional, and personal goals while being the best sister, daughter, and friend I can be for others. Sometimes I think I can take on more than I can handle, but finding balance in my life is something I’m always striving for. My first year at Berkeley was a difficult transition between leaving my family, adjusting to a heavy course load, dealing with a toxic roommate, and facing health scares. I’m proud of the person I am today and the coping mechanisms I’ve learned throughout my life as I continue to give my best effort in this chapter of my life as a full-time student.
Depression and anxiety run in my family, and it’s been a dynamic journey supporting the mental health needs of my loved ones while trying to support myself as well. My mother, father, and two sisters are all diagnosed with some form of anxiety/depression and all currently seek treatment in the form of counseling and medications. As such, the stigma behind seeking help/speaking to a A therapist is nonexistent in my family, which I’m very grateful for. At the same time, we’ve all grown up learning not the best coping mechanisms, and all struggle with our personal attachment anxieties and abandonment issues.
I take comfort in being a consistent support system and the nurturer for my sisters/family. I feel like I’ve mastered the art of listening, comforting, and seeing people deeply. In these relationships, I’ve been with my sisters at their lowest, most vulnerable points and have learned to see communication as art with seeing people at their rawest. Amid this, I also sometimes struggle with taking on their problems as my own. When I left for college it was very difficult to be away from my younger sister, who struggles with severe clinical depression/anxiety, as she started her junior year of high school post-lockdown and navigating new medications, life as an only child, and a school year without her best friends who’d graduated. I felt responsible for the adversities she endured, if only I had been home or been free to pick up one call and relieve some of her burdens. My relationships with my sisters will always fulfill me, but sometimes I can take on the heaviness they feel in their minds and hearts.
Growing up, it had always been easiest to bottle my emotions and keep moving forward rather than facing them or turning to my support systems. Even though I value being the support for my family, I find that I don’t like to confide in anyone but myself regarding my own mental health. It’s difficult for me to open up to people as I’m afraid of feeling stupid or of them eventually leaving. As a result of compartmentalizing, I find that everything resurfaces whether I like it or not. I’m still actively learning how to acknowledge and deal with difficult emotions and turn to support rather than push my feelings down and self-isolate. I always want to be there for others and be a consistent pillar of support, but I’m still learning to embrace my own vulnerability with others and see this as an opportunity for growth and trust rather than as a weakness.
I definitely deal with my own waves of insecurity, depression, and anxiety since starting college and functioning as an individual rather than as part of a unit. I think I’ve learned a lot about myself since being in Berkeley. I’ve learned not to take my living situation for granted, as the anxiety I faced while dealing with a toxic roommate carried over into many aspects of my health. I’ve learned to release myself from the anxieties that come with hyper-awareness of others’
perceptions, and to not live for the approval and satisfaction of anyone else but myself. I’ve learned that accepting the support of others rather than self-isolating and forcing myself to turn to my outlets is always better than wallowing in and feeling unmotivated.
I feel like I’m very proactive and self-aware in identifying my mental health struggles, as I’m well acquainted with the signs and treatments thanks to my family as well as a growing background in public health and mental health. I think that knowing I do have a support system and people who love me is very important when I’m feeling out of touch with myself. Resisting the urge to isolate and reaching out to my trusted loved ones always leaves me feeling better than I’d initially felt. I’m very close with my current roommate, and being able to easily talk to her can help me feel revived as well.
I’ve consistently kept a journal of my day, feelings, and reflections, since high school. I think that journaling helps my mental health as each day I have to take a second to reflect on the events of the day and how I felt. With this, I’m able to look back and appreciate the highs as well as acknowledge the lows and off days. This is also helpful in helping me identify things I may have brushed off at the time which actually weighed on me later. Out of convenience, I use an app called Daylio to write about my day and I’ve consistently been using this app for over 1200 days. When I’m feeling especially pent up I take time to just dump my feelings on a Google Doc/Notes app and write what I’m feeling without a second thought. These “feeling dumps” are like a mini therapy session for myself, where I can work through and identify issues tangibly, as well as look back to see how I felt at that exact moment. As a pretty logical and quantitative person, I enjoy looking back on my journal entries and revisiting how my feelings are captured in time. This is also helpful for me when I need a refresher or clarity on how a certain situation made me feel at the time.
Another outlet for me is working out. The emotional release I feel while working out is incomparable, especially after sitting at desks all day. When I’m working out, there is no choice but to be present and in tune with my body. Being able to push myself physically also reminds me that I’m capable of being strong and self-sufficient.
Another outlet for me is listening to music. I’m very passionate about all kinds of music, and being able to sit and be present with a good song is a special moment. I have hundreds of playlists of every genre and I love to organize them based on different moods and vibes. When I’m feeling a certain way, having a soundtrack to match my emotions is especially satisfying and provides a specific kind of relief, as well as providing a sense that I’m not alone in my feelings.
Finally, giving myself the time and space to feel is important in managing my emotional health. When I just go go go and ignore my emotions for the sake of time or convenience, I’m hurting myself and others by not being at my full capacity. I enjoy having time to myself to slow down and reflect and feel at the end of the night, as well as start my mornings slow, make myself a nice breakfast, listen to relaxing music, and start my day not rushed. Having dedicated chunks of time
to breathe and acknowledge and feel my feelings has provided me great relief compared to trudging forward with my day and pretending I’m totally fine (everything will eventually resurface).
My success comes in both identifying my struggles and moments of weakness and acting on so I can feel better. For example, if I’m feeling very out of touch with myself, isolated, or overwhelmed on a given night, I can turn to my roommate/support systems and identify/talk about it; I can journal, vent, and reflect with the judgment of no one but myself; I can exercise and feel an objective physical and emotional release after pushing myself and being present with my body; I can spend time to myself listening to music and feeling out a specific emotion. I’m a very methodical person and I like having my flow chart of outlets to turn to when I’m struggling or feeling a certain way.
I’m still continuing to work on accepting and embracing my emotions and allowing myself to be vulnerable with others. I’m proud of the outlets and coping mechanisms I utilize now compared to 1 or 2 years ago. Success for me comes with identifying and utilizing the effective outlets which work for me. The more reliable outlets I can turn to, the more opportunities I have to feel better. The one important outlet I’m missing is having a trusted therapist to talk to, and I’m working on finding a good fit for me to continue to prioritize myself and my mental health. I also wish I could pour more of my time into creative outlets like art, crocheting, and playing music, but these activities are difficult for me to prioritize with an already packed schedule.
I think that being surrounded by a community of people who embrace mental health resources is something I’m grateful for but unfortunately is not the standard for everyone. Being able to have conversations with others and create a safe space and open dialogue about how we all deal with struggles is a great way to share outlets and resources. There is no “one-size fits all” for dealing with mental health struggles, and any given person’s mental health journey is dynamic and entails many highs and lows. When you’re at a low point, it can be very hard to pull yourself out completely alone. I’m still actively learning to embrace this and accept the support of others as I’ve provided for my loved ones. By caring for and giving the same respect and energy to myself as I give to others, I’m able to enjoy my time with myself and others more consistently and on a deeper level.