Creating a Community on Campus: an interview with some of my peers at Temple University

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One of the things that helped me most with my anxiety was realizing I wasn’t alone. Other people had this illness; I wasn’t some kind of freak. My ultimate goal of this blog is to create an open and safe place where people can not feel strange about their mental illness. I hate that it is a very looked down upon and shushed topic. I was highly influenced by the Put a Nail In It campaign, which is similar but with domestic violence. I don’t want mental illness to be taboo. People should be able to express problems with their mental health without facing judgement and misunderstanding. I wanted to talk to some other students on campus and ask them about their experience with mental health in college. Mine, as seen in my previous post, isn’t a smooth ride. I knew I couldn’t be the only one, but that I was likely the only one to ask. I got to interview two amazingly brave students. They requested to be anonymous, but I am so proud of them for sharing their stories with me.

One student struggled with depression and anxiety, while the other dealt with anxiety and an eating disorder. I could connect to both because that is my diagnosis. I asked them a series of questions to get them talking about their mental health history and how things have changed over time. Questions included their first time recognizing mental illness symptoms, how it made them feel compared to their peers, and how they have changed since starting college. One student I interviewed in person, and I felt so grateful to have her share her story with me. It was nice to have a conversation with someone who gets it.

College isn’t easy for anyone. The independence and responsibility can be overwhelming. It is scary enough for anyone, even without mental illness, to navigate their path to their future on their own. Mental illness makes it hard to go to class, to make friends, to go out whenever we want, to stay on campus in a bed that isn’t ours, and to not have complete control over our diet and health. One student expressed to me that the food on campus is a large stressor for her. Because she has a meal plan, most of the food she has access to in the dining hall is not very nutritiously valuable. The idea of eating junk food, or just unhealthy food, is scary to her. I completely agree, and am so thankful to be able to have a full kitchen in my apartment, even though cooking and groceries is a whole other level of stress.

Neither of the students who I interviewed were at the end of their college career, but they already had this sense that there was something wrong with them and how they fit into the college system. I continue to feel that way. I never found that large group of friends, or even small group of friends, that I really connected to. My anxiety caused me to ostracize myself before anyone else could ostracize me.  I didn’t make  a ton of friends as a freshman and I felt like some strange alien because it seemed that everyone else had.

Most colleges are plentiful in resources for this kind of thing, but very tight on budget. I was not able to get an on campus therapy appointment for two months from the date I called. The health and counseling centers seem to move constantly and their systems for appointments are very confusing. Once one can actually get in, the staff is so friendly, but you can tell that things would run so much more smoothly with more people. I don’t want any student to feel like they can’t ask for help, or that it would be pointless to ask for help. I will always stress that no one is alone on their journey. You are strong and loved. There are so many people who want to help you and watch you succeed. As a mentally ill college student, I always support others in my situation. My door is always open.

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