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Taking Care of Ourselves & Each Other

Health & Well-Being

Emmie, Flourish Stories. (AI Edit) Credit: Andrew Brodhead


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Content Note

Flourish Stories may include discussions of suicidal ideation or language that may be distressing. As you read each student's story, we encourage you to prioritize your own emotional well-being. Take a break from reading or seek support if needed. Remember, it's OK to not be OK. 

Looking back, I wish I could tell myself two things - that I will accomplish my dreams, even if they seem far-fetched and that I will get better and I deserve to feel good... I’ve come back stronger and better ... ” 

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Emmie's Story

“I’ve been struggling with my mental health since I was about 14, but in the beginning, I tried to hide it. I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to be good and do well in school, and over time I couldn’t really keep up with all the pressure. I didn’t talk about it at all, with anyone, especially my family — though I think they noticed anyway, especially when I was stressed all the time and exhausted. There was a period in ninth grade where I skipped school for a whole month because I just couldn’t deal with everything. I’d be at home, lying on the couch, not able to do anything. So my parents took me to see the doctor, but at the time I was told, ‘Oh, you’re not really sick enough.’ 

The years went on, and I kept drifting in and out of what I’d describe as a state of hopelessness. During the pandemic, I was able to set up a really good structure for myself and catch up on courses where I’d fallen behind, so I started to feel more calm and things were looking better. But in 2021 I started a PhD and while it went well for a while, the struggle was coming back very slowly. I was putting everything on myself and questioning whether I belonged in this field, but I was afraid of asking for help or showing that I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d come to work late every day; I couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t realize that it was depression at first, because it had been going on for so long. Sure, there had been breaks in between, but I thought this was how my life is. I had kind of normalized it. 

But my supervisors knew something was going on. I started to talk a bit about it at work, and  they encouraged me to continue trying to get help. When you’re at that stage, you don’t really have the energy to fight for the help you actually deserve, and since I had tried so many times before, I had no energy left for it. So it helped to have them push me to demand it. Finally they suggested I take sick leave, so I went down to 50 percent and started seeing a psychiatrist, who validated me and diagnosed me with recurring depression. 

Since then, I’ve been doing cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, which for me has included a lot of work on self-validation. I had been sick for so long that I thought it was how everything had to be, and I was believing these self-limiting thoughts. These days, I feel a lot better. I feel a lot more hopeful, and I’ve spent a lot of the last year working to rewire my brain. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but it takes a long time. I will say that it doesn’t feel hopeless anymore, and my self-esteem is getting better too. 

Before, I would put everything on myself. I would believe that I was worthless and couldn’t do things like normal people. I’ve started to be more kind to myself — which is kind of wild to say out loud, because a year ago, before I got help, I was really at the bottom, and I thought I would never be free of this. I wasn’t exactly suicidal, but I didn’t have any energy to live anymore. I was so tired of being sad and feeling worthless all the time. But I’m so glad that I kept pushing, because things can turn around so much quicker than you think when you finally open up.

Coming here to Stanford has been a really good thing for my overall mental health, too, which you might not think moving across the world would be, especially on my own. But it’s been really nice with a change of scenery. I work with a lot of the same people as in Sweden, and they know about my struggles and what I’ve been through. They are not just my colleagues, they’re also my friends, so I don’t feel like I moved across the world. I enjoy exercising and yoga, and I’ve been taking time to recover at home, but also forming friendships and going to see people even if I’m tired. 

I think it’s helped to talk with people and not hide like I did in the beginning — not only because it meant that I could get the support that I needed to make a change, but also because it’s easier to not feel so alone. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s so isolating. But mental health problems exist in every aspect of society, and I think, especially in academia, it’s very common but not talked about, because there can be so much pressure. Sometimes this pressure is not external but internal, especially if you don’t really understand people’s expectations of you. So I don’t think it’s that people aren’t struggling, it’s that they are but they feel alone. 

Looking back, I wish I could tell myself two things: that I will accomplish my dreams, even if they seem far-fetched, and that I will get better and I deserve to feel good. Yes, I dropped out of high school twice for my mental health and I struggled as a student and while working, but I’ve come back stronger and better.” 

Additional Details About Emmie

  • Non-matriculated grad student/Bio-X
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden ’25
Littlefield garden, 2022. Credit: Andrew Brodhead

Mental Health Resources at Stanford

This website is your go-to hub for navigating the many mental health and well-being resources at Stanford. Whether you are seeking advice to establish your self-care routine, looking for ways to manage stress or mental health symptoms, tips to help a friend, someone supportive to talk to, or anything in between, you are not alone.

Professional staff and your peers are ready to support you, regardless of what point you are in your mental health and well-being journey.