As some of you who have been reading my blog know, I’ve been having some problems with my friends and my mental health. Recently I had, what I consider, an appalling experience with the administration at my school which revealed a shocking misunderstanding and lack of support for students dealing with mental illness.
Earlier this week, on a night I was feeling particularly depressed, I reached out to a friend hoping for a little support. Despite multiple texts, the friend didn’t respond. The friend– although that’s probably no longer an appropriate description for this person– lives in the same apartment complex as I do and it wasn’t uncommon for us to pop in and out of each other’s apartments. I resigned myself to the abandonment of another friend and eventually tucked myself into bed, hoping to wake up to a better day.
Upon waking, I was greeted by a missed call and voice mail from the administration of student services at my school requesting a meeting with me and alluding to the concern for my mental well being. The message indicated that some friends had been in touch with the administration about my recent depression.
I went to the meeting, terrified that someone was trying to commit me. I’ve always had a fear of being involuntary commitment and as I waited for the meeting I frantically researched my state’s commitment laws.
Luckily, at the meeting I learned that I wasn’t being committed. However, I did learn that the friend who I had texted the night before had reported my texts not only to the university counseling center but also to student services. The complaint was that my texts and cries for support were disturbing, distracting, and stressful. I was appalled by this on a number of levels. First– that my friend had reported me instead of supporting me. Second– I was appalled that I was being reprimanded for reaching out to a friend to support. I left the meeting, having had to promise not to contact this person anymore.
This situation was upsetting to me on a number of levels and did little to help stabilize me or alleviate the depression that had led me to reach out to a friend. What are friends for if you can’t reach out to them for support during a rough time? Loyalty and support have always been a staple in my treatment and interaction with my friends. Not only had the friend ignored my cries for help but he had gone so far as to report my behavior as being “disturbing” to him.
Ashamed and insulted at having had to promise not to contact friends, I trudged through the rest of the day. Disgusted by the administration’s response to my clear emotional distress, I managed to make it through another lonely night on my own, believing that the shaming was over.
However, the next morning I woke up to an email from the administration following up on the meeting. The email reviewed what we had discussed and instructed me in the following way:
“As we discussed, our concern is for both your emotional wellbeing and for the wellbeing of our campus community. We expect that, in the future, when you are experiencing emotional distress and need to reach out for help, you will access appropriate resources available to you and will not communicate this distress to other member of the campus community through text messages, emails, verbal communication, Facebook communications, or photographs. Your ongoing use of blogging for therapeutic purposes is up to your discretion, but should not be intended to communicate with others on campus.”
I was, and remain, disgusted by the university’s response to my obvious need for support from friends during what has been an impossibly difficult time.
I apologize to anyone who feels “communicated with” by this blog. (note sarcasm). This experience remains a tragic and disgusting reminder of how mental illness remains stigmatized and how little support can be expected from fair weather friends.
In spite of this disappointing experience I have found some much needed support from a close acquaintance turned supporting hero. I remain very thankful for the support of this new found friend, who has helped me weather this storm. I’m so thankful to find that there are still good people out there and that support for my loneliness has been found in an unexpected place.
My days have slowly been getting easier to get through and my nights less lonely. The support of this new found friend has gone a long way to get me through my despair and disappointment and the loss of old friends.
Lesson learned: where leaves fall from the tree new ones grow in their place, more beautiful and stronger than the ones they replace. I will not be silenced in my fight against my illness and, at times, myself.