This post contains mature themes about drug use and mental illness that may be triggering to some. Reader discretion is advised.
August 17, 2012 came faster than I could have ever imagined. Leaving for college was, hands down, the most exciting experience to ever come my way. I thought I was one of the most prepared college freshmen out there. However, life caught up with me pretty quickly.
Let’s rewind a bit to February 2010. It was my sophomore year in high school, and I had just been officially diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. Fast forward two years, multiple hospitalizations and a lot of scars later, and we end up back in August of 2012 .Of course, I thought that college was a new start. I thought that nothing from my past would follow me, even things that I couldn’t get rid of, because they were mentally part of who I am. In my mind, getting away from everyone and everything that had been a part of what “used” to be would be the perfect way for me to “get better”. It doesn’t work that way.
My first semester of college consisted of me fighting myself to stay alive. According to NAMI, one in four college students suffers from a mental illness, therefore, I was not alone in my struggles. It was hard to not feel alone, though. I was seven hours away from my home, my friends, my family, my boyfriend, my life. What I didn’t realize is that help could be a lot closer if I would have done a little more research, but what I also realized is that researching for help wasn’t on my mind during that time.
Within my first week of school, I was already getting into the “bad” activities. I can’t truly describe the feelings that I was having. From my memory, it was a feeling of complete loss. I felt as though I had literally lost the person that I had been at one time. I was self-injuring and smoking almost daily. Anytime my roommate was gone and I had the room to myself, which was often, I took advantage of it. It was an unhealthy addiction, and I had no desire to fix it. Once my legs were covered with marks that I would never get rid of, I finally realized that I had gone too far. I didn’t want help, because I thought that I could quit everything cold turkey. Life doesn’t work that way, though. I started out by trying to sleep less. I thought that if I could get myself up and out, I would start cleaning myself up. However, I just found that while waking up earlier was easier, I would just go back to my room to take naps whenever I got upset in order to avoid any sort of confrontation.
Even though I had already realized that I was going too far, I didn’t realize that I truly needed help until one late night in September. It was a Thursday. I only remember that detail because of how fond my roommate was of “Thirsty Thursday”. It was the night that I decided to end my life. I felt as though I couldn’t save myself from the hole that I had dug for myself. I spent the first half of the night crying. I wasn’t sad because of what I was about to do, but because I truly do hate hurting people. I knew it was hurting my friends and family to see what I was becoming. The next half of the night was spent throwing up. My body didn’t respond like I thought I wanted it to to an overdose. After the throwing up ceased, I called my university’s emergency counseling line. I had an appointment the next morning to meet with someone whom I had never even seen, but I was about to pour out my life to them.
Now, unlike most stories that start the way mine did, this one has a happy ending. I went in the next morning feeling very vulnerable. The women at the front desk looked at me as though I had been hit by a train. I know that I looked like a mess, and they could see the sadness in my eyes. They had me sign in via computer, which prompted me to answer a few questions about my feelings and what was going on. After five minutes of answering questions about what I thought was making me depressed, I was finally finished with their survey. I sat in a dimly lit room waiting for my future therapist to call my name. When she did, I was pleasantly surprised. She seemed rather laid back and rather young for a therapist.
I soon learned that I wasn’t seeing a licensed therapist, rather a graduate student that was in school to become a therapist. Our sessions would be recorded for a therapist to look over, but I would never meet that person, and they would never have any contact with me. When she told me this, I was stunned, but I thought it was my only option. We had sessions every other day. She made me talk about my past, why I came to Kentucky instead of staying in Chicago, why I felt the way I did. It was all very general stuff. She gave me coping skills, but they were all things that I had been told to do before. I’m not saying she wasn’t good at what she was assigned to do, but she didn’t have the qualifications to help someone with what I was going through.
Like I said, I thought this was my only option, but I was mistaken, and I wish I had known that before leaving the school. Admitting to yourself that you need help and asking someone for that help are two of the hardest things that anyone can ever do, and I am completely aware of that. Trying to ask for different help than what you are being provided on top of that is even scarier. However, there has to be a line drawn when you aren’t getting the care that you need. Every college offers some sort of counseling service for their students, free of charge. There are also many groups around campuses that offer support from other students that are suffering from similar ailments. The best advice I can ever give to someone who is in a situation similar to mine is never be afraid to ask for help. College can be the best experience of your life, or the scariest, and I’ve experienced both sides of spectrum. Don’t let your fear of asking stop you from having the best experience of your life! If you aren’t sure what your school offers, ULifeline can be a huge help.