From Rock Bottom to Success
Sana James ’16 shares how vulnerability helps in overcoming struggles
Thursday, September 30, 2021
sana james in cultural wear sitting on teal blue couch, with a red pillow next to her. the text "from rock bottom to success" is superimposed

There is a lot of silence surrounding mental health in many South Asian cultures. My family immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when my mother was pregnant with me, and because we grew up in different environments, my parents and I constantly had trouble communicating. My family frowned upon me sharing my struggles with friends, therapists, or even other family members because of the fear that mental health issues would be perceived as a weakness and reflect poorly on our family.  

I went to a small private high school, and when I toured Trinity University’s campus, I immediately knew I wanted to pursue my undergraduate career there: the small class sizes, the opportunity to get to know professors on a personal level, and the emphasis on student involvement were exactly what I was looking for. Little did I know then how much my experiences at Trinity University would set me up for success not only on a professional level, but on a personal level as well.

Sana James '16 participated in Momentum (left) and the Prowlers dance team (right) at Trinity.

I was hopeful that the change of scenery away from my toxic home environment would alleviate a lot of the stress I was experiencing; however, it only continued to escalate. I enrolled in pre-med courses my first year due to my parents’ influence, but I kept feeling that medicine wasn’t the right track for me. Eventually, I was able to sit down with Dr. Sheryl Tynes, who allowed me to be vulnerable and share my struggles about changing my major—and the subsequent feeling that my parents wouldn’t be accepting of the change. She personally called my parents to explain that medicine wasn’t an option for me and that I needed to shift my major. Because of her support, I was able to switch and become a Spanish major. After studying abroad with Dr. Bladimir Ruiz, I decided business could be a track I would enjoy and soon added business administration as a second major. 

My second year at Trinity is when my mental health took a turn for the worst, and I felt isolated in my struggles. I tried regularly visiting with the free on-campus counseling, and while the psychologist was wonderful, I found myself holding back because I was scared to share what I had always been instructed to keep to myself. I was afraid to ask for help. When I hit a breaking point, I overdosed on antidepressants. 

I was fortunate to have gained good friends through my two years on campus, and they helped me get the care that I needed. This moment became a turning point for me: I realized that I didn’t want to leave this world, rather, I needed to take my life into my own hands. The shift to business administration provided me with the tools I needed to budget and save money. Because of the writing course requirements through the general curriculum, I was able to improve my resume and cover letter writing quality and landed a job at Clinical Trials of Texas, Inc. as a first step after my graduation in December 2016. Now, I have my dream job at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and have found a way that I can give back through work that I am passionate about. I have also joined the Trinity University Alumni Association Board (TUAAB), where I have the opportunity to connect with other alumni and do my part to give back to the University. 

Sana James '16 is an author and the social media and digital advertising manager at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Her autobiography, Exposed, was published in 2020.

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