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Vol. 5

the secrets we keep


[||||||||||||staff|||||||||||||] ALYSSA ABBATE Editor in Chief

ANNA JENIE LEARIS LI MARY KATE KEMP HELEN YANG ALYSSA ABBATE ANNA LEARIS Business Manager Events Director Editor in Chief Co-Design Editor Co-Editor in Chief Co-Editor in Chief JENIE LI ALYSSA ABBATE AMELIA CACCHIONE ANNA LEARIS Business Manager CHRISTINA LI Design Editor RHIANNA VERGEER JENIE LI Webmaster Web Editor Co-Design Editor Print Editor

Business Manager

RHIANNA MARY KATE KEMP JOSEPH FRALEY VERGEER RHIANNA VERGEER LIZ FERNANDEZ LIZ FERNANDEZPrint EditorJOSEPH FRALEY Events Coordinator Outreach Chair

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|||||||S ppo tin | e e s]AMELIA CACCHIONE LIZ|tea FERNANDEZ AMELIA CACCHIONE Webmaster Chair Stephan Deuchler, Webmaster Hannah Qin,Outreach Neema Prakash, Alexandra Eastman, Rachel Eble, Natasia Pelowski, Christine MacKenzie, Heather Fairbairn, Evelyn Wallace, Dom Valentino, Bekah Cone, Olivia Wujek, Alexa DiLuca, Kaylina Savela, Suma Kanuri, and Jordan Lazarus

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[letter|from|the|editor||||| Dear Readers, As Sylvia Plath wrote, “When at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.” It is with much pride that I present “The Secrets We Keep”, Mentality’s fifth print volume. Unlike past volumes, every piece is published anonymously with the goal of allowing our writers to be as honest and open about their personal experiences with no fear of judgement or repercussions. Although pairing a name with the story may decrease the stigma more than an anonymous piece, we opted for anonymity to ensure our writers didn’t feel the need to filter their truths. I am no stranger to secrets. Until I came to Michigan, I hid most of my struggles with mental health from the people I was closest with. I was ashamed and felt as though I was weak for having these struggles; that I just wasn’t trying hard enough to feel happy. During the first semester of my freshman year, the façade that I had kept up for years cracked, and I reached out to a friend for support. With them by my side, I sought professional help and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and once I started treatment, my quality of life increased dramatically. I no longer had daily self-harm impulses or suicidal thoughts, and I rarely had the manic periods that would keep me awake for days at a time. If I hadn’t reached out and shared my secret, I would still be struggling with an illness that is very treatable with the proper medication. For anyone with similar issues, I cannot stress enough that although it may be intimidating and scary to share your secret and seek help, it is so worth doing. As many of our executive board members prepare to graduate in the spring, we’ve been reflecting on our time with Mentality and how the organization has grown over these past five semesters. Since Mentality Magazine began, two of our primary goals have been to inspire people to talk about their experiences by showing they are not alone in their struggles, and to educate the Michigan community about mental health. Our key metric for the success of these two goals is readership. From October 2016 to October 2018, we have had over 23 thousand unique visitors and over 44 thousand page views on our website. We hope to continue to expand our reach, and are so grateful for our readers and supporters from all corners of campus and beyond. In this very special volume of Mentality, you are that someone to whom our staff is pouring out their souls. We are freeing our words from that small cramped dark inside of us and we are so proud to be doing so.

Anna Learis, Editor in Chief 1


all of the pieces in this issue are completely anonymous. these are the secrets we keep.


table of contents the history of the word secret............. 4 out of breath.................................................... 6 i have dissociative identity disorder....................... 7 how to help a friend............................................................ 8 my breaking point........................................................................... 10 secrets told...................................................................................................... 12 hushed heart................................................................................................................... 14 the science of secrets..................................................................................................................... 15 the happiest people....................................................................................................................................... 16 whats that diagnosis?................................................................................................................................................... 18 resources...................................................................................................................................................................................... 24

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the

history of The word originated with the Latin verb, sēcernĕre, which means “to separate or divide off.” The verb’s past participle, sēcrētus, started being used as an adjective that meant “secret.” Old French then adopted the word, which they changed to “secré,” which was used as both an adjective and a noun. Late Middle English then picked it up in 1378, and the word was born in the English language. The first recorded use of the word goes back to 1399, when poet, William Langland, used it in his poem, Richard Redeles: “Lete youre conceill corette it [sc. this treatise]...for it it is secrette.”

Here are examples of some of the uses of the word by famous writers. With each use is provided the definition of the word as it meant at the time. Multiple definitions of “secret” were in use at overlapping times in history.

1470 Sir Thomas Malory; Le Morte d’Arthur, XI, ii. 574. “He was receyued worshipfully with suche peple to his semyng as were aboute Quene Queneuer secrete.” Definition: “That is entrusted with a person’s private or secret affairs; that is a confidant”

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? the

word

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William Shakespeare

Henry VI: “In this Citty will I stay, And liue alone as secret as I may.” Macbeth: “How now you secret, black, and midnight Hags? What is’t you do?” The Tempest: “I...to my State grew stranger, being transported And rapt in secret studies.” Definition: “Beyond unaided human intelligence. Dealing with mystical matters.”


se·cret: [sēkrit] / noun /

1667 John Milton; Paradise Lost, I. 6 “Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire That Shepherd.” Definition: “Of a place: removed from the resort of men; retired, remote, lonely, secluded, solitary”

1752 David Hume; Essays and treatises on several subjects, II. 35: “Nature has kept us at a great distance from all her secrets.” Definition: “Something unknown... or that is known only by initiation or revelation; a mystery; chiefly plural, the hidden affairs or workings (of G-d, Nature, Science, etc.)”

something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others.

1825 Walter Scott; Betrothed ii, in Tales Crusaders I. 22: “They...were initiated into their order by secret and mystic solemnities.” Definition: “Of doctrines, ceremonies, language, signs, methods of procedure…: Kept from the knowledge of the uninitiated”

1864 Charles Dickens:; Our Mutual Friend “You will all of you execrate Lady Tippins in your secret hearts.” Definition: “Of feelings, passions, thoughts: not openly avowed or expressed; concealed, disguised”

1818 Percy Bysshe Shelley; Poem Julian and Maddalo, 341 “My secret groans must be unheard by thee.” Definition: “Of feelings, passions, thoughts: not openly avowed or expressed; concealed, disguised” 5


When did it begin, when does it end? The constant torment you didn’t ask for. Waxing and waning, but it’s always there. It’s like drawing breath. You need it. The rush of life filling your lungs. But you hate it. The release of death leaving you behind. You don’t want to live, but you can’t bring yourself to die. Trapped in this in-between state of existence. Alive, but dead on the inside. Confined to this tug-of-war waging on in your defective mind. You’re broken, a slave to the thoughts. Not good enough. Worthless. Never amount to anything. Useless. That’s all you are, all you’ll ever be – A pathetic excuse for a human being, a waste of a person. If only nothing loved you, then you wouldn’t feel obligated to stick around. You’re a burden no one should have to bear, Suffocating on the guilt consuming you. Freedom of goodbye at the cost of the ones you love most. You drive them away. You have to. The price to pay for protection from the monster that’s your own insanity. Beyond your control, a beast that can’t be tamed. You give into its advances, retreating into the depths of loneliness. No one notices as it defeats you, hiding behind a mask of your former self. Alone, you see past it to the failure of a weak coward underneath. Without any fight left in you, the facade shatters. There you are staring down the barrel of a gun, Your finger frozen on the trigger. How did being alive become more painful than the thought of being dead? Depression. It’s breathless.

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I Have Dissociative Identity Disorder by anonymous

No one understands what it means to have dissociative identity disorder (DID). That’s why I keep it a secret unless one of my alters slips out to another (an event that tends to beg explanation and reassurance that you’re sane, I think). You can’t tell someone that you have voices in your head without them considering the possibility that you’re completely bonkers. And the nature of my alters is another difficult issue in and of itself. The roots of DID almost always lie in abuse: physical, sexual, emotional. Those of us with DID dissociate as a mode for escape. We lose our sense of the world around us, we lose time, we lose memories. Yet despite all that’s happened to me, and continues to happen, I am still highly functional – people look at me in disbelief and seem to say, Surely, nothing that awful must have happened to you. You look so normal to me. I’m not normal in any sense of the word normal, however, even if I have perfected the many masks I wear. There has been immense controversy over whether the disorder actually exists – I can assure you that DID does in fact exist. According to PsychologyToday, “DID is a severe condition in which two or more distinct identities, or personality states, are present in – and alternately take control of – an individual. … The person also experiences memory loss that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. DID is a disorder characterized by identity fragmentation rather than a proliferation of separate personalities.” Even so, DID is a unique experience for each individual. Our alters – alternate personalities – are created for specific purposes intended to protect us from realities from which we cannot escape. The only escape, therefore, is mental; in these situations, people tend to either dissociate or become psychotic. I created one of my alters to fulfill a maternal, protective role in my life. I wasn’t allowed to express anger in my household, so all of my anger transferred into her. I didn’t have a supportive mother figure, so I created one of my own. Issues arise when DID enters into our lives in a destructive fashion. Sometimes my alters communicate with me through my journal, so I do have records of some of our conversations. I will share an instance of the bad parts of alters, but warn you to read with caution, as this is sensitive material: “I’m here now, I am in, I am here now, I am in, let me out into the world. I want you to jump out the window, there’s graffiti on the walls, it’s a nice place for you to curl up and die. You want to die, you want to die, you want to die. I know that you’re a whore, I have seen what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, I let it happen because you should die. I love you, I love you, I love you, these other motherfuckers don’t know how to love you, but I do. We can’t trust anyone else. No, we can’t. We can’t, they will use us and kill you. Let me the fuck out so I can jump out the window and kill you because I love you, I love you so much, you don’t know how much I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you. You need to hear that from someone, and I’m here for you.” Imagine her voice screaming in your mind, like it does in mine. Each word not a whisper, but a shout. It’s so loud you have to cover your ears, but it does you no good. How do you explain that? What room is there for understanding if you haven’t had this experience? What would you think of someone who hears that – and so much worse – outside of their control? Even in the most understanding of people, I still sense judgment on their end.

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How to Help A Friend by Anonymous

My relationship with my friend, we’ll call her Kate, has grown increasingly complicated. Her now extended journey with substance abuse began at the end of our senior year of highschool, as did her separation from our group of friends. It started with weed. Kate happened to make friends with a group of people who smoked. It started with once a week, then twice, then whenever she was available. She would go to the park near our houses and smoke with her new friends, and was once chased off the park property after the park closed by the local police. She then began to drink while high. Drinking wasn’t new to Kate, but the frequency increased dramatically with her access to marijuana. We would invite her to hang out with us for dinner, see a movie, or go to the mall, but she would decline as she had to go smoke weed instead. We began to see less and less of her, as she often left the social events she did attend early in search of alcohol or marijuana. As each of us began to trickle off to college, Kate reached for ecstasy as her new high. My friends and I were worried, but hoped that when she went off to school, she would avoid some of the harder drugs. The next time I saw Kate was during Christmas break. She was thinner, with sullen eyes and a Juul she clutched in her hands throughout the entire meal we ate together. She told me about her first quarter, although the subject never left the topics of parties and drugs. Kate said that she felt very in shape, since smoking weed prevented her from feeling hungry and thus helped her limit what she ate. She proudly told me that while drunk, she had tried shrooms multiple times and woken up the next morning in houses she didn’t recognize. She said she liked shrooms, and when I voiced my concern, she assured me that they were totally safe. Kate seemed adamant, and – knowing her stubborn personality – I knew that she believed she was completely right. I was worried, but after not seeing her for many months, I didn’t feel as if I could suggest that she might need to pull back for her safety. I didn’t see Kate again until this past summer break. When I saw her for the first time this summer for a friend’s birthday dinner, she looked the same but was covered in faded bruises and cuts. When asked, she said that she had done cocaine while high on weed and drunk and blacked out. She remembered waking up the next morning in her room, covered in cuts and bruises with no memory of how she got home. Her roommate, Isabelle, told her that she had fallen down a hill when she passed out, and that people had called her to come help carryKate back to their room. Kate said that while the bruises hurt, she loved

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the happiness that cocaine brought her and was a regular user now, and that she had a stash in her room at home. My friends and I were increasingly worried; this was not the Kate we remembered, and while we recognized that people change when away at school, she had the potential to really hurt herself. My friend, Anne, gently suggested that Kate should pull back a little bit on the cocaine, but Kate began to yell at her, saying that Anne was judging her and that it wasn’t fair. Having witnessed this interaction, my friends and I were unsure of how to respond or how tointervene. As the summer continued, Kate grew further apart from the rest of us. She would leave birthday dinners or lunch halfway through to smoke cigarettes (her new vice) or would refuse to go to people’s houses if alcohol was not involved. We found out that she would drink and smoke, and then drive through town at night. She was unconcerned about this habit, claiming she had practice. I wasn’t okay with it, and told her so, knowing my little sister was also driving the same roads. She ignored me for a week as a result. We would tell her not to smoke or use around us, as substance use made us uncomfortable, but it seemed as if she lacked the awareness of the social scene she was in. We navigated the situation as best we could, attempting to salvage the strings of our remaining friendship with Kate, but she grew increasingly difficult to be around. The final straw occurred when Kate smoked a joint in front of my friend’s eight-year-old sister and blew the smoke in her face, making the little sister cry. My friend yelled at her and told Kate she needed to leave her house. Kate refused a ride home, and we were unable to stop her from driving home high that night. I wish I had resorted to enough physical intervention to stop her, but I wasn’t sure where the line lay anymore. I haven’t seen Kate since then. I still worry about her though. Kate has changed a lot, but she is still my friend. I feel the urge to help her in any way I can, but I now struggle to relate to her and find a way to truly speak to her. I feel as if there is a wall in the way; Kate hears us, but she doesn’t truly hear us. Her stubborn personality and the way she stands by her ideas is one of the reasons I was great friends with Kate and loved her as a friend. But now, that personality characteristic and her personal opinion that she is safe and not abusing substances is what is disintegrating our relationship. Kate doesn’t believe that she needs help, and because of that, I struggle to confront her and find a way to intervene. I still worry about her safety, and I feel that I hold a piece of responsibility if anything ever were to happen to her because I was unable to just talk to her. But I am glad she has friends at school who truly care about her, like the ones who brought her back to her room and called her mom that night. And I’m already planning to try and catch up with her over winter break just to see how she’s doing.

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This semester I decided to withdraw from classes to focus on my mental health and overall wellbeing. Although I know this is the right decision for me, it is one that has left me with feelings of failure, disappointment, and overall guilt. I will explain those feelings later, but let me first back up to explain how I got here. It all started with a rough summer. The true catalyst was my first overseas trip by myself to Sri Lanka. Although excited for this opportunity to travel across the world to an absolutely beautiful place, I was paralyzed by fear the second I checked in for my flight at the airport. That feeling continued and each day I was there, I tried reminding myself that it was okay and normal to be scared and I just needed some time to adjust. I talked to my parents every night through the multiple panic attacks I was having and about a week in to the trip, I got physically sick. Puking, not eating, and sleeping my days away left me at a breaking point where I knew it was no longer healthy mentally or physically to be there. Many conversations and an endless cycle of thoughts later, I was told I “wasn’t cut out for a program like this,” by one of my peers, my dad changed my return flight for the next day, and I was headed back to the states. I found myself crying off and on for the full 30 hours it took to get back home. I was overwhelmed with feelings of failure. It felt like I had wasted the months I took planning, the money spent, and the experience for which I was so excited. My mom was there to pick me up at the airport, and the second I saw her I felt like a disappointment. Everyone had been so excited for me, and I mentally and physically could not handle being there. My self-confidence was shattered and I feared the judgment I would receive from friends, family and outsiders. Once I was home, I did not really express these feelings to anyone. I continued to let these emotions build up internally, which led to continued panic attacks at home. As I was still fighting this mental battle, more physical battles were on the horizon. Soon after returning home, I was dealing with an upper respiratory tract infection. I recovered from that and then I noticed myself starting to feel some discomfort in my back. I ignored it until it was strong enough to wake me up in the middle of the night. I went to my parents’ room, woke up my mom, and within the hour was headed to the ER. After some scans, the doctor came in to let me know that I had a kidney stone. Besides the pain that comes with a kidney stone, the worst part about it in my opinion is the waiting game. Waiting for it to pass and to see if my doctor thought I would need surgery to get it out was, and has been, incredibly anxiety-provoking. After a follow up

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scan, the doctor let me know it was still in there, but he did not think it was something that needed to be addressed immediately. I now am waiting until December to go back to see if it is still in my body, so that the doctor can make a decision of what will be best. At this point, I felt as though I had been completely pushed over the edge when one more cherry came to top off this cake. I went to the dentist just for them to tell me that I had four cavities in the four corners of my mouth. Because of that, they would have to numb my entire mouth to fill them. Two days before my flight back to Ann Arbor, I was getting those cavities filled, feeling completely out of control and exhausted from this entire summer and knowing I would be thrown back into school a couple of days later. I got to Ann Arbor and I honestly felt excited for the year. I was able to see all of my friends again, the classes I had signed up for were ones I could not wait for, and being in Ann Arbor just made me happy. I pushed all of the negativity from the summer down and I felt ready to tackle the ambitious schedule of 18 credits, a mentoring job that would take eight to ten hours of my week, a couple of organizations, and anything else that would come up. The semester started and the familiar wave of being overwhelmed rushed back, but this time it felt heavier. I kept trudging along thinking I just needed to adjust back to life on campus, but the weight of the things that happened in the summer combined with the weight of being a student at UofM all became too much leading me to a full fledged breakdown. I was waking up nearly every day having panic attacks, uncontrollably sobbing, heart racing, limbs numb, and in full crisis mode. I was crying on the phone with my parents, sleeping at my friend’s houses just so I wouldn’t be alone, and I no longer cared or was able to get to class. Very quickly, it was important for me to see the doctor to talk about my medication, and, more importantly, my therapist to work through it. Within the first week of talking to these professionals, we all decided it was best for me to withdraw from the semester to take the time to fully heal and take care of myself. Although I knew I made the best decision, it did not come without feelings of fear and failure. For as long as I can remember, one of my strongest identities was the fact that I was a student, and I had taken that away from myself. I feared the judgment of my friends, my family, and myself. I felt like a disappointment – someone who was weak and incapable of handling distressing events. I felt guilty knowing that my graduation date would most likely change and the excitement I would give my family when they came to watch me in my cap and gown in May of 2019 would dissipate. I just felt like a complete failure. I sit here about halfway through the semester with some of those same feelings of guilt, shame, disappointment, and failure. I feel vulnerable and worry about people’s perceptions of me because of this bump in my road. Although met with these negative cognitions, I know I have made the right choice. Starting this semester I felt absolutely exhausted and trapped, and taking this semester off is giving me the time to truly heal, build my resilience, and learn how to cope. Twice a week I am seeing my therapist, and once a week I have invested in a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills class. I desperately want to wrap this piece up with an “everything gets better” message, but I am not there yet. I am still in my process of healing and that is scary to admit, but I am learning to be patient and kind with myself. This particular battle has been incredibly bumpy, exhausting, and isolating, but it is one I will continue to work through because although I am still not okay, I know one day soon I will be.

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I do not care about my deadbeat dad at all. my friends never really feel like my friends anymore. Despite all the other people I have dated, I have been in love with the same person for two years. I had a miscarriage. I’m bisexual. Self harm is my only coping mechanism. My family does not know that I am bisexual.

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Whenever I have the opportunity, I go through my friends’ text messages and look for conversations about me. I have serious Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I’M SO ANGRY! I like a lot of true crime shows and movies I still love so many people. I drink way too much.

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I couldn’t tell you the first time I realized I liked a girl. I’ve had crushes and loves as far back as I can remember. Of course, I didn’t recognize them as such, though — they were just really close friends, or celebrities I admired. My head took a long time to realize what my heart already knew. During my sophomore year of high school, the year that I realized for sure, I also instantly knew that I couldn’t tell. I knew the confusion — and, in some cases, rage — that would come from those closest to me. So I kept it to myself. For a long time. During my freshman year of college I fell for yet another girl, and it was unlike all the other times. This time brought with it the most intense feelings I’d ever felt before. She was my first thought waking up every morning, and thoughts of her, like a ghost, floated around in my head throughout the day. The feelings were too intense to keep to myself, so I told my closest friend at the time. She didn’t react with confusion, or rage, or vague betrayal, as I had feared. She thought it was adorable. Within a minute, she had moved on, talking about her job. But I had not moved on. I was still shaking. When I got back to my room, I cried for half an hour, barely knowing why. The lingering fear was diffusing out of me, I think. But also exhaustion: the weight was released, and I was just exhausted. Each time after it was still scary, but it got easier and easier. Each time, I was more convinced that it was normal, that — opposed to that notion ground deep into me like a fossilized leaf — I was normal, normal. It has been a process, and it will continue to be one, but each time I feel that I can sigh a bit deeper, feel a bit more at ease with myself. There are still some people I cannot tell. Certainly not my father, not ever. And I do not think my mother’s ready yet. So I can’t yet be “out” in the public sense, I don’t think — I have to tread carefully. It’s more of a selective secret now. But to those I have told, it’s been such a relief, and I’ve found that I’m not alone. The summer after freshman year, my best friend from high school came out to me just before I came out to her. It was honestly really beautiful — even though we didn’t know this trait about each other, or ourselves; it was like our hearts already knew, again, and gravitated towards each other. Even when we keep secrets from ourselves, it’s amazing how we still know and can recognize ourselves in each other on some implicit level, without having to say anything at all.

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The Science of Secrets By Anonymous

Why must we keep our secrets hidden from the world? Possibly because they can bring back feelings of darkness, embarrassment, and despondency, so we make the executive decision that it’s best to not let anyone in. We cast away our feelings because they are too painful and we don’t want to burden others. However, not all secrets have to be bad and can be something like a moment from our childhood that we eventually end up sharing. Nonetheless, the amount of energy we exert to keep certain secrets buried can have some daunting effects on our mental health. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) conduct ed a survey that found the average number of secrets people keep are around thirteen, five of which are never confessed. The secrets never told are usually ones that are stigmatized or looked down upon by society such as a crime, sexual orientation, or cheating in a relationship. According to Gopal Chopra, CEO of PingMD, an app that facilitates communication between doctors and patients, every time you think about a deeply held secret, stress hormones such as cortisol can surge, impacting your memory, blood pressure, and metabolism. They can also affect norepinephrine hormones which affect the attention and response controls in your brain. Secrets also heighten anxiety, influencing anything from the quality of our sleep to the strength of our immune system. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Anxiety disorders are the most common group of mental illnesses in the U.S., affecting 40 million people and with only 37% receiving proper treatment. According to John Hopkins Medicine, in a given year, approximately 18% of people ages 18-54 have an anxiety disorder. It has become more and more apparent that the way we view our insecurities and morals is a reflection of how society perceives them. However, it is not acceptable for our most intimate and somber secrets to consume our mental health just because we think society can impose its judgment upon us. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., or 43.8 million people, experience mental illness in a given year. Mental illnesses range from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, eating disorders, and more. The University of Michigan provides free confidential services through Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) through therapy, workshops, online screenings, and more. Just call 734.764.8312 any time of day to receive help.

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The Happiest People.. “You’re always so happy.”

I’ve heard this statement – with many synonyms in place of ‘happy’ – an endless amount of times. As far back as I can remember, people have always told me that I’m welcoming, optimistic, and peppy. For a long time, I let people continue seeing me this way. It’s hard to tell that I’ve been suffering from constant self-hate for years. It all started when I was a small child. My parents were never the outwardly supportive ones that my peers all had. Whenever I received a good grade, they never praised me since it was expected. They were never present for school or social functions. Whether it was a school play I was a part of or fifth grade graduation, they were always missing in the crowd of smiling parents. In elementary school, it became a joke that I “didn’t have parents” since they were never seen. Despite how much it hurt me, I just smiled and laughed off the joke, saying that although they wished to attend, they were simply too busy with work. Along with the missing parental figures in my life, I never had a loving extended family. Being one of the youngest cousins, I was always picked on by the older ones. They constantly insulted me and even went as far as replacing my name with a rude degradation. The adults never did anything unless somebody was physically violent, which rarely happened. As a result, the insults were endless. After spending some wasted effort trying to tell them to stop, I smiled and accepted the constant criticism. Much like a bully, I found that they were particularly harsh when I showed how hurt I was. As I became accustomed to hearing comments such as “fat”, “ugly”, “stupid”, et cetera, I started to believe them as the truth. By middle school, I was ashamed of the way that I looked. However, it seemed that I wasn’t the only one. Although I kept quiet about my own feelings, people around me started openly admitting their dissatisfaction of their looks. That was the first time I witnessed selfharm. One of my close friends reached a breaking point and cut their wrist. Students quickly alerted their teachers who alerted the counselor. Soon enough, that friend’s parents were called into school and she was sent to therapy. There were whispers around me of people who thought that my friend was crazy for doing something so obvious. Worse, some students thought it was done for attention. The message was loud and clear: don’t do it. Unfortunately, that was not the message that I received from the incident. I lost sight of the similarities that I had with my peers as one glaring difference stood out to me: my parents would not have had that same reaction. I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be, but I found out quickly. A year after my close friend’s incident, I reached a breaking point – one of many to come. That was the very first time I tried to cut my wrist. No blood was drawn, but there were marks present. These marks are what led a classmate to tell the counselor, who told my parents. Unlike my friend’s parents, my parents didn’t know what to do. As a result, they did

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nothing, and I was left to my own devices. I hid my dissatisfaction from my parents with a smile, believing that, like this incident, they wouldn’t understand what to do. By high school, I was a mess. I was no longer just dissatisfied with the way I looked. On the contrary, I hated every aspect of my appearance. There was nothing that I found remotely attractive. With the toxicity that was high school, it was not a place for an insecure person to be. That was when I truly started practicing self-harm. Scissors and razor blades were the most accessible and easiest to use. Soon enough, my wrists were covered in scars and scabs that I constantly covered with bracelets and happiness. This continued for a couple years and spread to other places on my body until I met one of my best friends now. With their help, I was able to talk through my problems, which halted the self-harm for a little bit. Although the physical harm stopped, my mind continued to run rampant in negativity. Fast forward to college where I was allowed to redefine myself in a space where virtually nobody knew me. By now, the crippling insecurity I felt was no longer just in regards to my appearance. It had festered into every aspect of my being. Although my grades begged to differ, I was under the impression that I was absolutely stupid. Despite the smile I always had plastered on my lips, I was in distress. Without my friend who had helped me in high school, I began my downward spiral. Due to sharing my room with somebody else, I didn’t have the necessary space to break down my fake happiness. The self-harm returned, and new cuts joined the healed scabs and scars. It all blew up when I added alcohol to the mix. I broke down crying in front of my new friends and spilled all the secrets that I had carefully hidden for years. As you would expect, somebody was notified about my behavior, and I was able to talk it about with somebody new that understood. As the relationships with my new friends have developed, I’m working on being able to one by one share my true self with them. Instead of the constantly smiling and happy person that I show on the exterior, I’m trying to show them the self-conscious and insecurity-ridden interior. Although I cannot say that the self-harm chapter of my life has closed permanently, I can say that the solution that I’ve found has helped me put a halt to the harmful coping mechanism for the time being. Instead of hiding behind a mask of smiling, I’m slowly learning to share my inner thoughts. I am finding the middle ground between always putting on a show and being myself, which is the key for me to stay in the healthy place that I’ve found myself in for the past few years.

You’re allowed to be sad. 17


what's that diagnosis?

diagnosis: borderline personality disorder

diagnosis: schizophrenia

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diagnosis: dissociative identity disorder

diagnosis: post-traumatic stress disorder

diagnosis: bipolar disorder

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should you hold onto your secret, or let it go?


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If you or someone you know struggles with mental health, there are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for yourself or a loved one.

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“Although I am still not okay, I know one day soon I will be.” -Anonymous

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The Secrets We Keep Updated  

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