I currently live in a town that is home to a small state university. School will be in session within the next two weeks once more. As a result, several thousand college students will be coming back and this town will really come back to life from it’s annual summer hibernation. Even though I graduated from ten years ago, and had a failed experiment that was grad school, I still enjoy seeing the college students returning and resuming what, for many Americans, has become a rite of passage into adulthood.
All of this has me remembering when I went through during these years, not only in college but also as my mental illness progressed and eventually stabilized into some predictable cycles. When I started college in the fall of 1999 ( I know, practically the dark ages to kids now coming of age), the internet was still in it’s early stages and almost no students had lap top computers, let alone got laptops just for enrolling. The iPod would still be a few years away, so we still carted around tons of music CDs. The best parties, get togethers, etc. were always thrown by people who had massive stereo systems that had the capacity to change dozens of CDs without having to do it manually. No quicker way to kill a party than having to change discs when the music ran out. Like I said, it would be seen as the dark ages to kids just starting out now.
One thing I did have even back in the late 90s and early 2000s that helped me a great deal was the free use of my college’s counseling service. I was in the early stages of what I would later find out was my mental illness when I grudgingly went to a counselor. I had my mind full of the stereotyped visions of lying on a leather couch, confessing my darkest secrets to a Sigmund Freud look alike, looking a ink blot cards, and having to talk about my relationships with my family. What I found was simply someone who would actually listen to my problems and issues. The good part was that, in college, no one really knew or even made an issue of me going to counseling. At my counselor’s urging, I saw a psychiatrist to do some evaluations. I also underwent complete physical evaluations, including a scan on my brain and brain waves to rule out anything physically causing those problems. After all these evaluations, from which I missed quite a lot of classes, I was given a diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia.
I didn’t consider a diagnosis to be devastating. For me, it explained a lot of why I had problems socially and was going through what I was. It was a confirmation that I wasn’t making these problems up to attract attention or just feeling sorry for myself. Yes, it did put some of a damper on my social life, social activities, and did force me to give up my dream of going into medical research. But, I still managed to graduate from college, have several friends, learn some things I wouldn’t have had to, or bothered to, otherwise. I’m glad for the experiences of my college years. I’m glad I made the friends I did. I’m glad for the counseling services at my college. I only hope that students who are going into college for the first time find their niche, make some good friends, seek out help if and when they need it, and come out ready to face the challenges we all face in adulthood.