Sometimes it’s like I’m an empty space. A whole body filled with nothing. No happiness, sadness or relief. It’s just a deep black pitcher of nothing. Some days, I can smile and live a life full of good things, but as soon as the day is over, I’m empty all over again. I never thought it would be me, but it could happen to anyone and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Mental illness is a part of who I am. 

My name is Cheyenne Paige. I’m a sophomore at the University of Rhode Island. I’m a human development and family studies major, and I deal with depression and anxiety. 

Last year, I was sexually assaulted on campus. I think that was the most terrifying experience, especially when the man who assaulted me was someone that I thought I could trust with my life. It affected my life tremendously and still does. 

At first I was in denial. I didn’t want to believe that it happened, but it came to the point where I would do things that weren’t my character. Alcohol abuse became a part of my life. It numbed the pain that I didn’t want to feel. Soon I pushed people away and became an enclosed person. Closing myself from the world felt like it was the only way to cope. 

I thought this wasn’t noticeable but I was wrong. People noticed that I was not being as sociable as I usually was, nor did I want to be in Exposure, a multicultural dance group I was involved in. My best friend had to knock sense into me. The day she cried in front of me and told me she was scared for my life, that’s when I knew I needed to change.

I started therapy at the Women’s Center. It was working for a while but soon it started to me make feel different. The women there were an awesome group of women that were there to support my healing, but I mentally wasn’t there for my healing. Soon after I tried therapeutic things to help my mental health. I continued to dance because it was the only outlet that seemed to help me stay connected to my old life. To this very day, I continue to dance because it gave me the freedom to be able to express the emotions I didn’t know I had. I talked to friends about my situation and they have been my biggest support group. 

When dealing with depression and anxiety, it’s a work in progress. I still deal it with it and I’m still learning to manage. If I could give any advice to anyone, it would be to talk to someone. Trying to deal with it on your own only makes it worse. Go to the services provided to you or even talk to your friends. Come clean about your mental health. There is nothing to be embarrassed about because it’s apart of who we are and what makes us stronger.