What I’ve Learned From Three Days At College

Hello again, folks! I have been absent lately because I just moved into my college dorm and it’s been a chaotic week. Turns out college is just a bunch of waiting in lines and climbing stairs. I’m going to have unbelievable patience and buns of steel by the end of the month. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m keeping this post brief and I haven’t gotten to plan it out, so I apologize in advance for the disorganization.

In three days of college, I have learned the following:

1. Silence is not an effective method of social networking.
2. If you don’t want to walk from the front desk of your residence hall to your room carrying two rolls of toilet paper, out there for everyone to see, be sure to bring a bag when you go to replenish your t.p supply.
3. No matter how well advertised your university’s food is, it will not exceed, or sometimes even meet your standards.
4. Everyone seems to think that all college kids ever eat is cheese or pepperoni pizza
5. Walking across campus will always take longer than expected.
6. Not all residence halls are created equal
7. It is entirely possible to discover standing water within your shower’s drain within the first two days of college
8. Alone time feels infinitely more sacred when you live with a roommate and two suitemates, even if your roomie and suitemates are pretty damn cool
9. The R.A may forget to tell you how to get ahold of him
10. People actually expect you to memorize your university email address even though the only thing it’s proven itself good for is notifying you of financial aid issues that you don’t actually have
11. Finding private time to journal is as difficult as finding a trace of logic in Donald Trump’s campaign speeches
12. Colleges love to throw around the word ‘mandatory’ a lot when referring to events that they have no way of holding you accountable for attending
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Please Stop Invalidating People Who Self Diagnose

Recently, I saw a livid Facebook post about self-diagnosing and how this apparently invalidates ‘real’ mental health problems. This viewpoint is nothing new. The internet is crawling with people who suffer from mental illnesses that they have been diagnosed with by mental health professionals, who resent those who have no official diagnosis, but who use the same diagnostic terms to describe themselves. I understand why this can be frustrating for people who have mental illnesses and I understand that there are people out there who certainly misuse diagnoses. Self-diagnosis can be unhealthy and risky and I don’t recommend it.

However, I cannot get behind the arguments of so many of the people with ‘real’ mental illnesses. In fact, I think the arguments many of them present are harmful, ignorant, toxic, hypocritical, and lack empathy on many levels. This disappoints me, because for the most part, in my experiences, people who suffer from mental illnesses tend be quite adept at taking their own experiences with adversity and turning it into compassion for other human beings. Their wisdom and empathy is more often than not, unmatched by most other people. The portion of mentally ill individuals who resent self-diagnosers surprises me.

I want to briefly note that I have never been diagnosed with anything. I talk about depression a lot on my blog. But if you read my early posts about it, you will notice that I preface everything by desperately assuring my readers that I use the term depression in non-clinical sense, because I am so afraid of someone getting on my ass about how my ‘depression’ isn’t real and how I am offending and invalidating ‘real’ depressed people. I don’t pretend to have been diagnosed. I don’t claim to have a mental illness. I do, however, know that I have, for years, had an unusually difficult time accessing the feeling of happiness, or often times, any feeling at all, it has impacted my life profoundly. I’m trying to get myself back. I’m trying to stop feeling numb. So I talk about my struggles and feelings online and I try not to offend anyone with ‘real’ mental illnesses. I am not someone who feels the need to self-diagnose though. So I stand kind of in the middle of this argument.

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The reason I have never been diagnosed with anything isn’t because I’ve visited a bunch of mental health professionals and still received no diagnosis. No, it’s because I have grown up in an unsupportive family who doesn’t believe in therapy or counseling. They do not believe in sharing emotions, and don’t seem to even believe in mental illnesses. Asking my parents to see a mental health professional would put me in an emotionally unsafe place. To get caught visiting a mental health professional in secret, would be even worse. There is no emotionally safe way for me to receive help or a diagnosis until I am financially independent and living entirely separate from my parents. On top of that, I do not have the funding to spare to see a professional, much less repeatedly visit one. I don’t have a ‘real’ diagnosis because I have not had the opportunity to even come close to getting one.

What these “I hate people who self-diagnose” people do not seem to understand, is that not everyone has the privilege of seeing a qualified mental health professional. Not everyone has the privilege of having their emotional adversity recognized, identified and validated by a qualified individual. Not everyone has the privilege of receiving the help they need to heal, a prescription, a word to tell them that their pain matters. There is a massive population of mentally ill people who don’t even know why they’re struggling or how to get better. They think there is something wrong with them. They think they’re alone. Or worse yet, because of the “I hate self-diagnosers” party’s shaming and hate speech (yeah, I’ll go out on a limb and call it that), these people are forced to feel like their feelings do not matter, their feelings are invalid and as if they’re the villains because they’re apparently ‘trivializing’ ‘real’ mental illnesses.

It seems to me that if you face emotional adversity, and you’ve been lucky enough to have that emotional adversity recognized, you should be aware that you probably had that same emotional adversity even before you were diagnosed. Having a therapist tell you you’re OCD isn’t what made you OCD. You had OCD before that. If you didn’t, your therapist would not have told you that you have OCD. If you are mentally ill, you should also be aware of how crucial validation is, and how much it hurts when you are blatantly invalidated. If you want others to make you feel validated, you should put forth an effort to make other people feel validated, or, if that’s too much trouble for you, at least refrain from hurting and invalidating your fellow human beings. Mentally ill or not, everyone needs validation and kindness. Insisting that a person is not really mentally ill does not make harmful words and invalidation any more acceptable.

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Your mental illness is not invalidated as soon as other people (mentally ill or not) say they have it too. It is always valid and real, because you feel it and it impacts you. You don’t have to feel threatened or trivialized because there are people using the same terms you use to describe your struggles, to describe their struggles.

There are so many self-diagnosing people who probably really do suffer from some kind of mental illness, and are lost and scared and confused and just want to know that there is a word for the emotional turmoil they are experiencing. You can argue that self-diagnosers are not qualified to claim they have a mental illness, but you are no more qualified to tell them they don’t have one.

Hello Again! Let’s Talk About Journaling!

First and foremost, sorry for the hiatus, folks. I’ve been backpacking with some fellow college freshmen, preparing to move into my dorm next week, losing sleep over getting tuition and everything paid for, but also, in some weird, paradoxical way, managing to feel very at peace with everything. I returned from the backpacking trip feeling like a new person for some reason, and I’m still working out why that may be, and I promise when I know the answer, or at least have the slightest idea, I will try to write a post about it, because it was a really pivotal experience and I want to share it. For now though, I want to talk about journaling again, because I’m thisclose to filling one of my own up and starting a new one, and I am totally, extra all about the journaling thing these days. Also, don’t expect this post to be a very organized one. I’m just trying to get back into the headspace for blogging, so I don’t know what I’m doing.

I realized recently that the kind of journal I keep is actually not really the norm. Not that there is a norm. It’s just that, when I read blog posts about journaling that are written by people who seem equally passionate about the activity, they all seem to have really different ideas of what journals are for. For me, it serves as a convenient place to hoard my memories. I write about moments that matter to me, and read into them and suck all the emotional nutrients out of them. Then two or so months later, I decide I want to relive them and flip back a year in my life story and reread them because I have a nasty habit of dwelling in the past. Journaling is my way of making sense of everything that happens to me. I rarely use prompts. I choose to record my creative ideas elsewhere, usually. My journals are my life stories. They are full of my thoughts about the reality I am living in and dreams for the future that I want to have. But they really aren’t that creative. I feel bad about that. Like, what kind of journal keeper am I? There’s no poetry in my journals (I take that back actually… there are some pitiful attempts from 2012. I try not to think about those though). There are no little stories or beautiful drawings or inspirational quotes or romantic observations of the world. You might find a corny joke or two or an awful pun though. It’s likely that you will find pages of my languid, numb, depressed musings. Or the word ‘fuck’ engraved into the page twenty one times along with bits of broken pencil led and murderous holes stabbed in the paper (I do not miss my days of being a suicidal wreck).

It’s like every other journal keeper has a way more creative approach to journaling though. Among those people, there is a vast diversity in journal types, but I was so sure I was the majority. So I don’t know whether to feel like I’m missing out on a type of journaling that could be super awesome, or to feel proud that my simple approach to journaling is something that is apparently out of the ordinary, even though I was so certain it was the norm. Or maybe I should stop fussing over it altogether. I don’t know. What do you do with your journal?