CSUMB Student Compiles Essays to Promote Mental Health Awareness
Makena Volzing, a CSU Monterey Bay student and a NAMI Monterey County volunteer, has compiled a series of essays written by CSUMB students about their experiences with mental illness.
She has entitled her essays “In Their Shoes.”
Volzing said her project is a way to bring increased understanding of mental illness. “We believe education, advocacy and support are the route towards acceptance and consideration of the mentally ill in our community and on our campus,” she said.
The essays are written by either former or current CSUMB students; identities were omitted for privacy reasons.
The following are several of the essays:
A panic attack feels like the walls are closing in. I get tunnel-vision and things start to spin around me, and I know I’ve fallen back down into my dark pit. My hands shake so badly I can’t hold onto anything.
I can’t catch my breath and my heart punches against my chest as I hyperventilate. I break out into a cold sweat. The wave of panic makes me feel like I’m dying in that moment. I can never tell exactly when this feeling of terror will pass; it could be minutes or hours. Nonetheless, every second feels like it drags on for days, yet terrified my life could be snapped away at any second. When people try to help, I can’t talk or explain.
And I feel inadequate and embarrassed when people see me have an attack because there isn’t any reasonable explanation for them.
Anxiety is like a mean dog following me constantly that could pounce and bite me at any given moment.
I find a lot of solace in music, writing, and nature mostly.
I have always enjoyed writing since I was young and so I keep a journal to track my feelings and document my thoughts.
Journaling is not only a very introspective process by a retrospective one as well. It provides great perspective on how anxieties that consumed me in the past no longer affect me a year later. It is evidence to me of my own personal growth and progress as a person.
Singing and music in general can turn my whole mood from bitter to happy.
Nature is also a reminder that we shall endure through the passage of time; that we are small and the greater scheme of the world is beautiful.
Being suicidal and/or experiencing suicidal ideation is a crushing low.
It is a point you reach when everything and everyone has failed you, and all of your options have been exhausted. It is the point that you reach when you have given everything you can, to the point of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, just to find out that it is not enough, nor will it ever be enough.
Getting to this point is essentially getting to the point of giving up on yourself and the future. It is the loss of all hope for change. It is forgetting happiness. It is an inescapable black hole of crushing defeat and exhaustion.
I still have a hard time coping. There are dark points in every life, and in those times, it can be easy to lose hope and seek an escape, be it through substances, sex, or suicide.
However, even in the darkest points, there are still some things worth holding on to hope for. For me, the two things that keep me going, even in the darkest of times, are the bonds with my closest friends and music. Without them, I can safely say that I would be dead, and I am eternally thankful for them. I doubt that many of them even know how much they have helped me, but I will forever be indebted to them.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder makes me feel like I was never one person. I am an interplay of versions of myself that couldn't be whole at once or loved. It's impossible for me to cohesively interpret people's actions and intentions because people are either heroes or villains in the BPD mind.
The scary part with BPD is that you can't comprehend gray areas. Mentally, you have to reconstruct your entire worldview to accommodate to the good or bad you see in yourself or another person. It’s difficult to comprehend gray areas because you can only comprehend extremes, which in turn affects how you judge others in relationships.
You lose everyone around you and shame from your inappropriate anger eats away until you turn to anything to escape. Someone always plays the hero and the villain, but with BPD you need to assign that role to feel whole. But you never feel whole. Emptiness peels the inner lining of hope and you forget that a sense of self is an experience normal people have but an intangible dream that you feel you will never deserve.
My first psychologist, after hearing my story responded, "Have you ever felt at peace?" I never knew what this meant... I either wanted all of the world or wanted the world to burn. The first step is healing and awareness to overcome this disorder.
Being radically honest with your symptoms and experience helped me the most with handling my splitting.
Constantly remind yourself that people can be good and bad... at the same time. It feels impossible, and probably is, but you deserve peace more than anything else. Be honest with yourself and others about what is going on. Constantly check up on your moods and ask yourself what made you think a certain way.
It's hard telling your friends that what they said made you feel invalidated, triggered, or worthless but acknowledging your borderline experience will give you a sense of control. Asking for help is terrifying but there are resources and amazing professionals who want the best for you.
Therapy is the most effective first step you can take. Seek help as early as possible because when you finally feel whole, everything that has eaten you alive will be worth it.