Mental health vital to students
December 5, 2005 —
The other night, suffering from chronic insomnia, I was lying awake in bed staring at the ceiling. Like many tortured souls, I was contemplating the meaning of why my mind finds it necessary to be in overdrive at 3 a.m., when I can barely stumble out the door for an 11:30 class.
I find it difficult to consistently get more than three or four hours of sleep a night. All the exigencies of modern life simultaneously confront me and haunt me when all I want to do is try to have dreams of falling off a cliff, be chased by a homicidal ax murderer, or take a ride in a terrible nightmare that signals I've entered the deepest stage of sleep.
When I was a kid, my nightmares would leave me screaming in the night, and I'd often wander around aimlessly in the dark, fumbling for an exit I knew didn't exist. When I moved out and became an adult, I no longer had the reassuring voice of my parents to assuage my fears and calm my nerves. So I turned to anything that would bring me some peace in the night - whether it be alcohol, sleeping pills, or something more illicit.
It's ironic how easily your nightmares can become a part of your daytime existence. The same substances that prevented me from a tormented sleep are the same substances that made my life a tormented hell. Hours turned into days; days turned into weeks; and soon, I could hardly look at myself in the mirror.
I didn't know where to turn. I assumed my friends didn't give a damn about whether I even woke up the next day. And if my friends didn't care, then why would anyone else? Trapped in an endless sea of self-loathing, I retreated to my own personal prison of misanthropic thoughts and actions.
I grew to hate the world. My only satisfaction came from seeing others as miserable as I felt inside. Pink Floyd's The Wall became the anthem which defined my life. I rewarded friendliness with cynicism and apathy, which ultimately stopped people from taking interest in buoying my spirits.
Why am I even mentioning my situation? After all, the vast majority of people reading this will only have a passing knowledge of who I am. I could fill up an entire issue of the Vanguard and not begin to explain the intricacies of my situation.
Yet I know I am not alone. I know that there are students who are struggling with the same problems I am; I know that there are students who feel they have no one to turn to; I know that there are people reading this who have genuine problems more serious than anything I could begin to fathom.
It's part of the college game, and yet no one wants to talk about mental health. Sure, counselors are on campus, but let's be honest: is anyone with serious problems going to visit a counselor? I can honestly say the thought never crossed my mind once, even if I did know they were available.
At my lowest point, I was playing around on my phone. Everyone who ever drinks will inevitably do some drunk-dialing. It's just that most people don't do it in the afternoon during the workweek. I had made a few calls to some friends, to see who truly cared about me. You know what? They all did. Everyone was willing to come over and talk to me if needed. They were willing to help me deal with my problems, even if at the time I wasn't able to deal with them myself.
In college, more often than not we are taught information that isn't directly applicable to our daily lives. There isn't a class that teaches you how to suffer less, and I haven't read anything that tells me how to excise personal demons. College is one of the most turbulent and stressful periods of your life, and yet you feel like you have to deal with it alone. But you don't.
It took the self-realization that I was throwing my life away to step back from the abyss. Even with my problems, I know I would have still graduated with a degree. And then what? It's likely I was destined for a bullet in my brain, if I hadn't gotten my head on straight.
If you are facing similar problems, know that people do care, even if you don't realize it. Just because you are in college doesn't mean you have to tackle your problems alone. Life is too short to spend much of it suffering.