My freshman year of college was like everyone else’s, full of excitement, hope and a goal of gaining my independence. The first eight weeks at Southeast Missouri State University were spent on a high. The large dose of freedom was amazing, and I finally understood why people loved college.
What I didn’t understand was the dozens of places that were advocating for mental health.
I often thought, “How could anyone be upset in a place like this?”
And then winter came. My normal active lifestyle was put on hold, I couldn’t go outside for more than three seconds without freezing. Normally, being from the Midwest I know how brutal winters can be, but I was alone. My roommate and I had begun arguing every minute and the small group of friends I had made at the beginning of the year had drifted apart. I was alone. Alone to deal with my first finals week, homesickness, holiday work stress and the inevitable event of getting sick.
I came down with the flu and was quarantined for a week. Utterly alone watching Criminal Minds reruns on the puke green floor of my dorm room. My mental health kept sinking, and I had resulted to old habits of poor self-care and self-harm. On February 26th, 2017 at five o’clock in the morning I had hit rock bottom; no really, I felt as if I couldn’t go any lower. But as fate would have it, a neighbor passed by my room and saw me sobbing on the ground and finally after a few phone calls I hobble (I was on crutches at the time) to a friend’s car who drove me to the hospital due to suicidal thoughts.
For those of you who have never gone to the hospital for a mental illness, it is extremely lonely and eerily quiet. The hospital wouldn’t allow my friend into the back where I stayed, and the jet-black color of my walking boot was the only color in the room.
Hour after hour, several different nurses and social workers came to visit me.
All of them strangers, all of them with the same sympathetic head nods and sad eyes. It wasn’t until I saw my mother’s sad eyes that I finally fell lower than the concrete floor where my confidence then resided.
No child likes to disappoint their parents, but the look on my mother’s face told me she was beyond disappointed.
My mom then took me home and a councilor from school helped me reach out to my professor lightly explaining why I wouldn’t be in class. The two-hour drive home was silent and the building dread of her possible explosion once we got home loomed over me.
But she didn’t. Instead, she hugged me for another two hours. I was treated as a fragile jewel; my parents always asking if there was anything they could do to help, how I was doing, etc.
Inside I felt as if I was still deep into a black hole.
As if my inner self disappeared into nothing. I went through the motions, desperately trying to find any joy. The things I once found amusing now couldn’t even produce a smile. As a result, I slept a lot, unknowing of what to do and upset that I felt nothing.
After a week at home, I came back to Southeast Missouri State. I had made an appointment with the counseling center on campus. We talked about that night and she helped me make an appointment for me to see a psychiatrist. The word ‘psychiatrist’ often hangs in the air. Just the sound of it produces images in the mind of straitjackets and maniacal laughing. “I’m not crazy,” I repeated to myself. The psychiatrist had diagnosed me with moderate depression. “You’re not crazy, just a little unwell. Going to therapy or a doctor when you’re mentally hurting is as normal as going to a doctor when you’re sick.”
Walking out of the office felt as if I was sent on a secret mission.
How was I supposed to live with depression while working and being in school? It felt impossible. As I began to panic a sudden whisper from my psychiatrist said, “You are not alone.” I ended up talking more to the friend who drove me to the E.R. She took me to different clubs, and we grew closer and remains my best friend to this day.
For the next few years I had attended Southeast Missouri State I had visited the counseling center. There are days that I still feel depressed, I know now that there is help for me and that no one should be shamed for their mental health. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, after all its as normal as going to a doctor when you have the flu.