Mental Health

Getting Rid of Pedestals

I think a lot about the ways in which my self image consciously and subconsciously rule my life. The idealizations people hold of me, although frustrating and limiting, sometimes fill me like a guilty pleasure; a dirty habit that continues to manifest and take hold of me.

And I know the ways my own perception and idealization of myself and my life hurt me. Those who surround me are held to impossible standards, including myself. Agitation and conflict arise as I try to micromanage behavior to fit a mold I can’t even squeeze into myself. In turn, life starts to look out of control and wild, spiking my anxiety and creating more problems and more issues over things I can’t and shouldn’t control.

I know I do these things. I know that much of this behavior is a defense mechanism, sprung from trauma and low self esteem. What I haven’t done is fully own up to it. I haven’t been harsh with myself, clinging to a false sense of independence and self that gets muddled by the genuine work done in rebuilding my self esteem and interactions with others. I’ve done very real work within myself, but now that I’m dealing with core, deep set issues, I’m scared.

I’m scared to own up to my weakness, I’m scared to allow for change when I don’t feel ready. I’m scared to sit down with a therapist and trust a stranger with my emotions. I’m scared to allow someone in, not only because of trust, but because I don’t know how I’m going to move forward with shattered idealizations.

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Mental Health, Student Life

The Burden of a University Student

My makeup is smudged as I lay in bed, attempting to regulate my breathing and calm my racing thoughts. This is the third panic attack I’ve had today, and the worst of the three. My back aches, my head thumping, and my eyes tired. The silence in my room is filled with a faint ringing and every so often, the light of my phone is too harsh and I have to close my eyes.

I’ve spent the day running back and forth on an empty stomach and a restless night of sleep between the financial aid office of my school and classes. The aid I was supposed to receive a week ago was delayed by the never ending pile of IRS related tasks, reporting the income of my family and myself to my school. I’ve been scraping by the past week, living off of my parents’ financial/emotional support and the kindness of friends who understand my situation. 

Within three days of being in school, I’ve had almost five panic attacks, starved myself, and gotten little to no sleep. I haven’t gone to sleep without having a mental breakdown this entire week and I can feel my health deteriorating as I type.

And I’m not the only one. Students fill the bursar’s office as each one of us leaves, equally distraught as we entered, only given one word answers from advisors who are supposed to be our support. Financial Aid has its hands wrapped around my throat, as I spin in circles trying to get money that I need to survive. 

It’s the end of the day and I feel heavy. My body hurts and I’m too tired to panic anymore. In all of this, I can’t help but think about the trials of other students. Those who don’t have Aid. Those who are homeless. Those who are starving. Those without a collective. Those without a support system. In all of this, I’ve had people alongside me, helping me breathe and manage my situation but I couldn’t imagine coming out of this without them. 

There’s something deeply wrong with our education system when our students feel like they’re walking into a corporation instead of a learning institution

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Mental Health, STEM

A Blink in the Universe

I woke up today with a heaviness that weighed down my entire body. This feeling isn’t new; throughout the entirety of winter break, I’ve felt my depression looming over me. I haven’t been writing, eating, or going out as much as I should, and instead, have been combating it with more weed, and more booze. I’ve let myself waste away, covering it up with the excuse of last semester being one of the most stressful and challenging times. The relief I thought I would have from being on break has yet to wash over me, and instead, I’m left with myself and my unchecked mental health. I can get lost in my depression sometimes, and forget why I’m working as hard as I do.

It wasn’t until this morning that the ease of writing came back to me. I was flipping through a journal my mother had given me for Christmas. “99 Things That Bring Me Joy”, each illustration prompted by a number and writing task. The entries tend to be short, since the pages don’t accommodate much space, but I don’t plan to write much in them. As I flipped through I came across number 59: “An aspect of nature that inspires you.” It wasn’t the prompt that had me fixated on the page, but the illustration: a blue page filled with constellations and a tiny observatory at the bottom of the page. I felt my heart swell in ways it hasn’t for the past two weeks; the kind of heart swell that fuels the majority of my writing. It reminded me of the reason why I love Astrophysics as much as I do: the security and uncertain certainty of space.

I was eight years old when first confronted my own mortality. I owned a ton of books about space, including a tiny, pocket encyclopedia that I had read cover to cover and kept on my person whenever anyone had a question about the universe. I was reading about the lifetimes of stars, the same flaming balls of gas that continue to intrigue me today, and how stars die. For the first time in my youth, I was confronted with the mortality of not only humans and my many pet fish, but of great giants, like stars. These same great giants perished too, and in many cases, took everything with them. I knew that our Sun would one day die, swelling into a red giant opposed to a supernova due to its relatively smaller size, and whether it was into a red giant or a supernova, it’d take with it any form of life along with it, including me. My whole world would be reduced to cinders, and I was okay with it. The price of life was one that was great, because the experience of life is something unimaginable.

So when I do wake up on days like this and feel the weight of my depression, I remind myself part of the weight is gravity. I remind myself of planetary motion and Enceladus, the moon the could support life. I remind myself of everything we don’t know, and how the universe is out there just waiting for someone to find it. And when I do remember all of this, I’m reminded that it’s okay for me to have bad days. It’s okay for me to step back, because I do have a lot on my plate. And when things really get bad, it helps to know that humans probably won’t make it to the death of our Sun. Our lives are a blink in the universe, and I plan to love this blink with all of my ability.

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Mental Health, Student Life

Death By Finals

The struggles of university students very often become normalized. I fell asleep at 6pm yesterday, and hauled my ass to school at 7am to complete Calculus homework. I’m exhausted, scratch paper taking up a third of the table I’m sitting at, and having to force myself to take a moment to myself and work on my writing. I feel guilty that I’ve been neglecting writing during finals season, but also find myself feeling guilty when I do take that time for myself. I felt uncomfortable even doing my makeup today, even though I know it’s something that I look forward to every morning, because I should be focusing all of my energies on this last sit in final. But I’m not.

Why do I feel so guilty taking time for myself? Especially in this stressful, sleepless climate, I should be taking the time to eat, reflect, and let myself just exist. I woke up angered that I fell asleep so early yesterday, instead of accepting the fact that I was exhausted and required that rest to have a productive day. I’m not even the worse situation during finals season. Students are sleeping all around me, carrying toothbrushes and blankets with them for overnight studying. Everyone looks as if they’ve had their entire lives sucked out from beneath them, as the semester works its way to a close.

I’m concerned for my fellow classmates and myself because this shouldn’t be our condition. We shouldn’t be working 12 hour days studying and forcing papers out of our ass. We shouldn’t be so dependent on napping to get through the day, unable to go home to adequately prepare for exams. I’m fed up with the youth constantly have to sell their souls to survive, whether it be through loans or our labor, for low wages, shitty housing, and an institution that cares more about making money off our backs instead of investing in our education.

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Mental Health

Hi, I’m Lina, and I Have Major Depressive Disorder

I woke up today at 1pm with a full face of makeup from the day before. My room was stuffy from the heater and my closed door, the way it gets whenever I oversleep, and a shred of bright light blinded me as I tried to reorient myself. The first thought that passed my mind this afternoon was the fact that I was awake, and I hated being awake. I didn’t want to deal with my life, this day, or any of the tasks waiting to be checked off my list of things before the semester ends. I was angry the moment I woke up, not at the world per se, but at myself. I was angry that I was conscious, alive and breathing.

Today was the first day I realized I needed to seek psychiatric help again. For almost twenty minutes I sat in my bed, blankly staring at a wall, trying to figure out where I’m at in my timeline of development. That in itself is messy to think about, because linearizing my progress doesn’t shed light on my changing conditions. When I was first hospitalized, I was still in high school. I wasn’t dealing with bills or college courses, I was dealing with graduation, clinging to my 3.8 GPA that was withering away from burning myself out. I was dealing with myself, and what I saw as successful: attending a UC, getting a good degree, getting paid for grad school, excelling in my field. Recovery in that space required a full shift of headspace and unlearning, something I’m not particularly dealing with now.

My depression is deeper than this and is dealing with the roots of my problems. I’ve left my trauma unattended, and haven’t been dealing with it has relationships and circumstances shift in and out of my life. I’m again, weighting my success on the amount of things I fulfill and do, opposed to what’s making me feel whole. I don’t know what circumstance I’m in, or what the root is. I don’t really have words to explain what I’m even fighting against, which is why I need to seek psychiatric help. I need to be making concrete steps and actions to deal with this issue.

I also don’t have to be entirely strong. I’m going to slip up, even though I know better. I’m going to sabotage myself sometimes, only consuming coffee and cigarettes instead of actual meals. Understanding this process is messy is also something I need to get comfortable with. But also understanding that this process isn’t isolative is part of it all in the long run.

I don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay. I’m taking the time I need to grow and help myself and that’s all that matters.

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Mental Health, Social Justice & Organizing Work

Living in Limbo: How Anxiety and Depression Rule My Life as a Student

Being a university student is like having a switch attached to the back of your head. Very easily, I find myself going from productive, lively days to having the energy completely sucked out of me, with espresso shots being the only thing keeping me up right. Especially during this time, as many students work strenuously for the next couple of weeks tying up loose ends, this polarizing behavior is very common amongst not only myself but my peers. This behavior within my own life is dictated by my mental health particularly, as my depression and anxiety play a tug-o-war throughout the week, the victor regulating my actions throughout the day.

On the days my anxiety is most prominent, I work excessively. I become increasingly paranoid, and in an effort to relieve myself of stress,  end up working hours upon end in the library, running off water and coffee. My anxiety is particularly connected to my eating disorder, the suppression of eating making it easier to hit the highest level of working efficiency. When my anxiety rules over my body, I go numb and seek refugee within my textbooks and piles of assignments and my working checklist. This workaholic behavior is something I’ve discussed in the past as a product of living in a capitalistic society that praises efficiency, as the rippling effects of our society’s values are deeply instilled throughout the youth. Especially with my peers, there’s a hint of pride when you take more than 15 units a semester.

Other days, my depression rules me. Depression has the ability to weight my whole physical being down, as if I was caring invisible weights with me throughout my day. Depression keeps me chained to the bed, wrapped underneath my comforter as I mindlessly scroll through the news, becoming increasingly heavier with each negative article. Depression tugs at my stomach in a way anxiety could never sway me, reminding me that I need food to survive but never granting me the privilege of hunger. Instead, I eat cold leftovers from the takeout boxes the one time I couldn’t bring myself to the grocery store and sleeves of crackers, telling myself that the carbs will help. My insomnia from the night before teams up with depression, phasing me out throughout the day as I stare at the corner of a room, glass-eyed and all.

I live in limbo, as anxiety and depression fight over rule of my body. They work in completely different, yet similar ways, making it hard to pinpoint any concrete steps to improve my condition. They have me chained at the wrists, limiting my abilities to work as a student and reach full potentials. They tug at me as I write, trying to force me to put my computer away and do something else, whether it be working until I pass out from exhaustion or checking out entirely for the rest of the day.

When navigating mental health as a student, it become increasingly hard to make room for my own development. I feel chained to my library, whether it be for naps or working, because my schedule demands it. I keep finding myself with more and more tasks piling, my time for therapy or counseling reducing in number as the semester continues. Self medicating as been significantly helpful in turning around issues of insomnia and eating, but the possible dependency on medical marijuana worries me. As I continue with university, I have to constantly remind myself of the need for collective and self care because living like this isn’t sustainable. I need nights full of debauchery, laughing at dumb television shows as I shovel food into my mouth. I need give myself the space to cry and really feel everything, so I don’t grow cold. I need to remind myself that I’m human, and forgive myself for my mistakes so I can continue to grow.

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Family Life, Mental Health

San Jose, My First Home

As I ride back home to San Jose on the CalTrain, a feeling of melancholy has washed over me. I feel uncomfortable leaving Daly City, saying goodbye to all my plants and my beaten up old house. Part of me is excited to visit my hometown again, revisiting old friends and the streets of the city I know so well, but a huge chunk of me is aching like the moans of the train. I’ve left a huge chunk of myself back in Daly City, all of my growth and safety, and traded it in for a holiday rooted in genocide and a bunch of bitter relatives who wish they could scrub my tattoos off. I hate being thrown back into the fascade of who I used to me, just repeating back lines and trying not to reveal how drunk I am at dinner.

Being with family after developing such genuine relationships and love within my collective is always hard during the holidays. Especially considering the roots of Thankgiving and its basis of colonialism and genocide, I’m very hesitant to take part in most of the festivities. Coming home, I know I’m here to simply see my family and lend a helping hand around the house as my mother cooks days in advance and my stepfather runs errands all day. It was refreshing to complete different chores this morning, feeding my chickens as I take part in my morning stoge and coffee. I’m comforted by mother’s presence in a way that transcends our differing policies: food and farm labor.

I love going into our wild garden and seeing all the produce flourish beneath my feet. I can hear the chickens squawk as I pet our cat Lexi. My mother is constantly making meals, making sure I’m comfortable back home and can rest from my time away from the city. Even though leaving my home is difficult, it’s easy for me to find that silver lining in all of this, knowing I don’t see my family often and their presence comes from a genuine, kind place.

Differing politics will always be a hurdle with my family, which is why I moved out in the first place. As I carve out my new life as an adult in the city, it’s important to never forget the amount of love I still left at home with my family in South Bay. I don’t think my mother and I will ever see eye to eye, but I do know that we are on that track to healing our relationship since we do have the time and space we both desperately needed when I was still developing as a young teenager. In my time back home, I’m working on bridging those gaps and healing those wounds so I don’t feel as heavy as I did when I left.

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