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There’s a hole in the side of the boat

| Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A little over a year ago, then-news editor Margaret Hynds wrote a column about mental health, in which she said something that struck me at the time and has stuck with me to this day: “ … it’s okay to get help if [you] need it.”

In the stress of midterms week that year, I had asked for help on any number of things, whether it was Latin or just asking my roommate to bring back coffee from LaFun if she was in the area. But I had never asked anyone for any degree of help on the overwhelming sense of stress I felt that week.

I soon realized the stress didn’t end when the week ended, and there was always this — sometimes false — sense of tension I felt on any given day for any variety of reasons. Despite having no problems asking anyone for help on very literally anything else, for some reason, I could never ask for help on mitigating this stress.

While Margaret’s words truly struck me, I still didn’t know who to ask for help, and I felt silly even considering doing so. To me, everyone at Notre Dame experienced stress, and I was not special for needing help managing it. If anything, I felt inadequate, guilty and weak because I thought I needed help. I wanted to handle this on my own, and it wasn’t until this summer that I admitted there was a strong chance help is exactly what I needed.

Late May of this year, I was at the breakfast table with my family, and after a particularly petty argument with my dad — the type of argument that my sisters could attest is commonplace in the O’Grady household — I broke down in tears. Given the relative low gravity of the situation, my dad looked at me, almost questioning why I could possibly be crying, and said what I think is one of the most caring things he has ever said to me.

“Rae, I think it would be good if maybe we got you some help.”

“Help” came in the form of a therapist who I began seeing weekly over the summer, a therapist who loosely diagnosed me with a form of anxiety that I didn’t know existed. Help came in the form of my mom investing herself way too much into making sure I was okay. It came in the form of realizing just how incredibly lucky I was to be surrounded by so many truly wonderful people who supported me day in and day out. It came in the form of realizing that if Margaret — a 5-foot-1-inch firecracker and role model who I was scared of until about a week ago — could ask for help, so could I.

In the series finale of the HBO series “The Newsroom,” one of the characters says “There’s a hole in the side of your boat. … That hole is never going to be fixed, it’s never going away, and you can’t get a new boat. What you have to do is bail water out faster than it’s coming in.”

There are days — weeks, months, even — that, for me, feel like bailing water out of the side of boat. But on those days, I remember I’m not in the boat alone, that there are people and resources there to help me bail the water out — all I have to do is ask. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experiences, and I don’t mean to suggest that asking for help is going to fix everything. What I am saying is that asking for help is a start, and it’s the most important thing you can do.

About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall. She most recently served as Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

Contact Rachel