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Zine

Share your story and/or reflections on college mental health: experiences, services, trends, concerns, myths, and more.

Zine

Postby indiamelia » Aug 02, 2007 5:56 pm

Hey everyone,
I'm a student at the University of Minnesota and I'm working on a zine for the SDS/Icarus peer group that should be starting up this fall. I'm leaving the country in a month, so like everything I left this untill last minute! Topics I'm planning on covering are activist burnout, communication, stress, depression, anxiety...and??? its still open. Let me know if you have suggestions or anything you would like to submit!
Thanks!
Amelia
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this is my story..

Postby indiamelia » Aug 05, 2007 2:29 pm

Here's part of what is going in the zine. let me know if you have title ideas/editing advice. Thank you!

I grew up with a long family history of depression, all of my family and my extended family was clearly depressed at some level. My freshman year of high school, my orchestra director told my parents that I was depressed during parent-teacher conferences. I waived her off and called her a bitch behind her back. No one knew how correct she was. We had a family therapist that would help us communicate with one another, my parents didn’t know how to ask me how I was doing, so they would send me to the therapist for a check up. I always lied, and later on I found out that she knew I was just hiding everything.
I didn’t stop pretending until years later, when I finally realized that my soul could not subside on political campaigns alone. In high school I always kept myself ridiculously busy with eight hours of dance classes and working as a waitress part time, plus school. Once I got to college I started off by taking eighteen credits, getting a job that I loved but required 24 hours a week at least, and spending a substantial amount of time and energy at meetings organizing anti-war activities and demonstrations. That morphed me devoting all of my time and energy to ending the Coca-cola contract at our school. As I began to feel more and more empty and helpless, I gradually stopped going to all political meetings because I felt that it was useless. I couldn’t get myself out of the house to go to dance classes and I became totally disconnected from everything that I had loved previously.
After coming back to Minneapolis from hanging out with my friends and family over Christmas break and dreading going back to school I decided that I finally needed to get myself some help. In the mornings I would be on the phone with my mom and her simple question, “How are you doing?” would send me into a sobbing fit for a half hour that would be extremely difficult to recover from. It was odd because I had always been one of those girls who “just didn’t cry.” I spent so many years wiring my system to mask all of my feelings of confusion, depression, and loneliness. Just the thought of how I was actually doing and not what I was pretending to be left me emotionally drained. I didn’t understand my existence or why I felt so unhappy. I would sit on the couch trying to read for class and I would end up getting so anxious I would start to call my mom and my sister, sometimes almost obsessively. If they didn’t answer I would run until I gave myself shin splints and my knees hurt.
Finally one day while I was inexplicably crying about how terrible my life was over the phone my mom said, “You seem to have a significant degree of depression, you need to be seeing someone, I think it would help you.” At first I was appalled by her suggestion. Of course I’m not depressed! I have accomplished so much! I have strait A’s! What is there to be depressed about? That suggestion made me rethink myself and I sank even deeper into my mind. I had always prided myself on being the one person in my family who wasn’t depressed, when the truth was; I was just the best at hiding it. I felt as if I had betrayed myself by not being honest and trying to accomplish so much on the outside to make up for my personal insecurities and lack of real relationships. When I become depressed I become extremely self centered and self conscious. I always thought that people didn’t like me, that I had done something weird, etc. It was to the point that often I just wouldn’t say anything in a conversation and I would unintentionally alienate myself. I was afraid to show up at people’s houses without a friend who also knew people there. My social life suffered significantly, and this was not only due to the Minnesota winter. I spent long nights on the phone with my needy long-distance boyfriend bawling my eyes out for no apparent reason. He seemed to be the only one who uniquely cared. He would tell me that I was really okay, that I would get over it, everyone gets depressed sometimes, anti depressants and therapists couldn’t help me. “We could get through it together.” The messed up thing was, that I’m pretty sure he was worse off than I was. Finally after searching umn.edu extensively for all the mental health links I could find for over a month I stumbled upon a student counseling service. I decided to give it a try. I went into the oldest building on campus up the cold cement stairs and into the large cement lobby. I felt strange…proud of myself but scared and ashamed at the same time. I felt like I was just being a typical depressed girl and should just get over it. It’s difficult when society and your inner voice conflict to such a strong degree. I remember talking to people on the phone right after I left the building about coordinating an event that I was organizing for Witness for Peace. I wanted to tell them right away, “I just filled out the paper work to see a counselor, things are going to get better, I’m digging myself out of this hole!” But of course that is not appropriate, so I kept it to myself. I looked at the other people that I saw in the halls wondering if they too were also going to go see a counselor.
I had an appointment scheduled for the next week. They made sure that I wasn’t going to kill myself. They asked me in that, I’m-a-tired-and-bored-receptionist-and-I-hope- you-aren’t-wanting-to-kill-yourself-because-that-would-be-a-pain-in-the-ass-to-schedule tone of voice. My anxiety attacks were getting worse and worse as time progressed. I showed up for the appointment a week later, a small cheery young Ph.D. student with short curly hair greeted me and brought took me up several more flights of cold cement stairs and down a hallway of small, cement, cubicle like rooms. We sat down and I had to fill out paperwork, first a consent form, then another form, then a form that said that they could video tape me and she could show it to her professors. She told me it would be a great help to her if I could be video taped because she needed it for her degree. I said yes, because I didn’t want to seem paranoid or embarrassed of needing help, but the truth was it was very strange seeing that video camera pointed strait at my face as I bawled about not having a network of support, being in a terrible relationship, the coca-cola campaign falling apart, my plummeting confidence levels, my social awkwardness, and my anxiety levels that were so high all I could do was go running. I felt like an interesting specimen that was being examined through the lens of the video camera. I felt like I had a “disease” or a “disorder.” I could just picture her and her professor going over the session later in the day, talking about my symptoms, by body language. The way that the woman talked to me conveyed the message that she was definitely the one with the knowledge, I was the one begging her to help me. “Tell me how you feel when you get anxious around your peers.” “Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?” “How do you feel when…?” She took more and more notes on her yellow pad. “How long have you felt this way?” “Do you remember the last time you were happy?” “I’m sorry that must be terrible, you seem to be dealing with a lot.” “For people in your position we often suggest some kind of anti-depressant medication.” “How do you feel about that?” I could write you a referral.” I was so overwhelmed I began to cry. “I see that you are tearing up? What are you thinking?” “What do you want to get out of coming here?” “I want to be able to live normally without falling apart all the time,” I said.
I left the appointment shook up and feeling like a wreck. I decided that going back was a bad idea. It was the most stereotypically terrible counseling experience of my life. I could barely pull myself together before I went to work. People would ask me what was wrong and I couldn’t talk about it, if I said one word about what I was going through I would completely fall apart. It was like letting out a little bit would make everything come tumbling out. I began to search the internet for other therapists, but couldn’t find any. All I found was page after page of lame middle aged smiles looking back at me, with their Christian values, or their “excellence in helping adolescents.”
It wasn’t until a party several weeks later when, I got in a confrontation with a friend who told me I didn’t want to be friends with him anyway because he was lame and then admitted his inability to have real feelings. He told me about how he had just started anti-depressants and how he thought they were already working. I was partially upset that he hadn’t confided this to me earlier. The next day after nursing a nasty hangover and being a useless person all day even though exams were coming up I laid down in my bed at eight o’clock, called my boyfriend at the time and began to cry. I need help, I said, something is wrong with me. I tried breaking up with him. It didn’t work. I couldn’t do it. I hung up feeling like wreck and stared at the ceiling for many sleepless hours before I finally drifted off to sleep, only to be woken up, anxious and depressed an hour before I had to wake up. I decided that I needed to see someone immediately. I made an appointment and went to fill out the necessary paperwork. I made an appointment with a therapist who had patients stay an extra 20 minutes so she could get to know them very well. The woman seemed nice enough on my first visit, motherly and also a Unitarian Universalist, like I myself was raised. Then she asked me about my drug use, and even though I told her that I smoked pot “on occasion” she went off on me very seriously about how if I cared for human rights I could not support the drug trade. She also told me that she didn’t want me to attend parties where people would be drinking more than three drinks. I left feeling slightly better, and decided that her judgmental side would fade away and it was just something she had to tell me because she worked for the school’s health service. I wanted to believe that the system would work for me.
I made an appointment with the psychologist and eventually after questions and more questions about my medical history and if I had any morbid feelings I finally was given what I had come for, a prescription for prozac, which everyone in my family currently takes, including our two cats (it’s a foam that you rub in their ears, my mom and her husband decided that cats peeing in the house meant that they were depressed and so for them too prozac was the answer). I continued to see the therapist for several more weeks. She wanted to see me on a weekly basis, track how I was doing with my social interactions. She simplified my life in a way that didn’t relate to how I was feeling at all. I could tell that she felt like she knew the answers and if I only really tried to do her mental exercises I would be okay. After a weekend at a crazy music festival with one night hookups and an excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol I knew I couldn’t go back. If I went back she would ask me about how the music festival went, how my social interactions were, if I made any real connections…I couldn’t just go and say…actually I just broke up with my boyfriend for the last time on Thursday so instead of having a healthy weekend of enjoying the music and having enlightening conversations like we had planned on I ended up numbing myself physically and spiritually, taking every drug I got my hands on, drinking bloody maries with my coffee for breakfast and neglecting to eat anything substantial for days. I felt like I had betrayed my friends that I went with for not hanging out with them enough and I felt totally unlike myself. I thought about stealing everything I saw and while sitting in an outhouse I decided that I was at the worst part of my life and I had to think of a way out of it. I stopped seeing the therapist completely, although I continued to take my prozac, which I had many mixed feelings about.
A friend asked me what I was taking one morning and I told her. She looked at me, her eyes filled with sadness, and said you are so young, you don’t need to be on that, having real feelings is good. I tried to explain my inability to function, but it was clear that she didn’t understand. I also had heard horror stories from other friends about their psychiatrists that had prescribed them ridiculously high amounts of anti-depressants as a teenager, only because they had a crush on someone who was dating their best friend. I agreed with their claim about doctors’ tendency to over prescribe, but I felt like the drugs were making me able to function more normally, and so I wasn’t sure how to process that. I went home shortly after that weekend and had time to sort things out, I spent a lot of time with the people who were most important to me, my mom, my dad, and my sister. My parents were extremely worried about me. I didn’t really know what to say to them. They begged me to find a new counselor, even though I explained my inability to connect with any mental health professional I had met with in Minnesota.
I came back and things did turn around. I began biking, which led me to a community of amazing and fun people. Fixing my bike made me feel productive. I started volunteering at the local radical collectively run bookstore and getting in to reading all of the zines that I could get my hands on. I felt free without being pulled down by a needy long distance boyfriend. I was hanging out with new people who I felt like I had real connections with. A friend threw me a birthday party for the first time since my counselors at Blue Lake Music Camp in Michigan made my cabin throw me a surprise party on my thirteenth birthday. I started preparing for my trip to India….I began to find other people who had also experienced similar depression, if only I would have known that I wasn’t alone. It surprised me that by talking to people about my experience they would willingly open up to me and tell me their stories. It was as if they were waiting for someone to ask. Everyone had a different way of dealing with their feelings I met people who were just trying drug after drug trying to make themselves “better,” some people were seeing counselors, others were just doing what they could to live normally. I learned about close friends stints in the hospital because of their depression, I heard about my friends years of depression in which they barely left the house and had tons of meaningless sex to distract themselves from what was really going on in their heads.
There needs to be a new way to deal with mental health issues. Pamphlets from the student health center that simply tell you to “practice deep breathing” or “try a pilates class!” cannot solve all of our problems, neither can the cold faced psychiatrists who want to prescribe you with different medicines and are more than willing to double your dose even if you are not sure about it. We need to create a community in which we can seek support from our peers. Especially within the activist community where the number one priority is ending the war, or the coca-cola contract, or organizing the best speaking event ever to have hit the campus, and not how one is personally doing. If we want to create a movement that is self sustaining and can be effective at making change we must have healthy minds and healthy spirits. Mental health needs to become a priority and something that isn’t just considered a diagnosis. If we are successful at creating a space in which there can be an open dialogue about mental health issues people will feel more inclined to share their stories, less alone, and more empowered.
indiamelia
 
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Joined: Aug 02, 2007 5:41 pm

Postby Beau » Aug 05, 2007 3:32 pm

This is a really good read. I like it a lot. :)

Just want you to know.

Much love,
~Beau
"I know how I begin, and how I end -- strung out again."
-Elliott Smith
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Postby scatter » Aug 30, 2007 2:40 pm

this whole part is so horrible and just makes me think about how many similar stories there must be out there from other students and their visits to the school counseling center. thank you so much for sharing your story with us, hopefully it'll inspire a bunch more folks to feel comfortable telling theirs. mad love, sascha


I had an appointment scheduled for the next week. They made sure that I wasn’t going to kill myself. They asked me in that, I’m-a-tired-and-bored-receptionist-and-I-hope- you-aren’t-wanting-to-kill-yourself-because-that-would-be-a-pain-in-the-ass-to-schedule tone of voice. My anxiety attacks were getting worse and worse as time progressed. I showed up for the appointment a week later, a small cheery young Ph.D. student with short curly hair greeted me and brought took me up several more flights of cold cement stairs and down a hallway of small, cement, cubicle like rooms. We sat down and I had to fill out paperwork, first a consent form, then another form, then a form that said that they could video tape me and she could show it to her professors. She told me it would be a great help to her if I could be video taped because she needed it for her degree. I said yes, because I didn’t want to seem paranoid or embarrassed of needing help, but the truth was it was very strange seeing that video camera pointed strait at my face as I bawled about not having a network of support, being in a terrible relationship, the coca-cola campaign falling apart, my plummeting confidence levels, my social awkwardness, and my anxiety levels that were so high all I could do was go running. I felt like an interesting specimen that was being examined through the lens of the video camera. I felt like I had a “disease” or a “disorder.” I could just picture her and her professor going over the session later in the day, talking about my symptoms, by body language. The way that the woman talked to me conveyed the message that she was definitely the one with the knowledge, I was the one begging her to help me. “Tell me how you feel when you get anxious around your peers.” “Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?” “How do you feel when…?” She took more and more notes on her yellow pad. “How long have you felt this way?” “Do you remember the last time you were happy?” “I’m sorry that must be terrible, you seem to be dealing with a lot.” “For people in your position we often suggest some kind of anti-depressant medication.” “How do you feel about that?” I could write you a referral.” I was so overwhelmed I began to cry. “I see that you are tearing up? What are you thinking?” “What do you want to get out of coming here?” “I want to be able to live normally without falling apart all the time,” I said.
I left the appointment shook up and feeling like a wreck. I decided that going back was a bad idea. It was the most stereotypically terrible counseling experience of my life. I could barely pull myself together before I went to work. People would ask me what was wrong and I couldn’t talk about it, if I said one word about what I was going through I would completely fall apart. It was like letting out a little bit would make everything come tumbling out. I began to search the internet for other therapists, but couldn’t find any. All I found was page after page of lame middle aged smiles looking back at me, with their Christian values, or their “excellence in helping adolescents.”
"Bipolar I with Psychotic Features", but somehow that just doesn't seem to capture the essence of the whole dilemma.
http://theicarusproject.net/blog/scatter
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Postby scatter » Aug 30, 2007 2:41 pm

and this part is really powerful too.

There needs to be a new way to deal with mental health issues. Pamphlets from the student health center that simply tell you to “practice deep breathing” or “try a pilates class!” cannot solve all of our problems, neither can the cold faced psychiatrists who want to prescribe you with different medicines and are more than willing to double your dose even if you are not sure about it. We need to create a community in which we can seek support from our peers. Especially within the activist community where the number one priority is ending the war, or the coca-cola contract, or organizing the best speaking event ever to have hit the campus, and not how one is personally doing. If we want to create a movement that is self sustaining and can be effective at making change we must have healthy minds and healthy spirits. Mental health needs to become a priority and something that isn’t just considered a diagnosis. If we are successful at creating a space in which there can be an open dialogue about mental health issues people will feel more inclined to share their stories, less alone, and more empowered.
"Bipolar I with Psychotic Features", but somehow that just doesn't seem to capture the essence of the whole dilemma.
http://theicarusproject.net/blog/scatter
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Posts: 1962
Joined: Apr 07, 2003 2:23 pm
Location: bicostal space/time rollercoaster

Postby figure of speech » Apr 29, 2009 11:26 am

are you accepting visual art submissions?

-Julia
<p>In every cry of every man,

In every infant's cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forged manacles I hear</p>
<p>--William Blake</p>
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