Oberlin Blogs

Support Is.......

March 22, 2015

Samantha Smylie ’17

I want to preface this blog by saying that I, as a blogger, try to be honest with you (the reader) without scaring you away. I want you all to know that what I talk about is from my experiences on campus as a Black, low-income, first generation woman. My perspective is based on these aspects of my identity. Every day, I experience something new because of these parts of my identity and I'm faced with new challenges. In this post, I will be discussing my experience with depression in college--specifically second semester of freshman year. For anyone who has experienced a period of depression or is clinically depressed, this blog might make you think about your own experiences--this is a trigger warning. A Trigger warning is a statement made to alert the reader that the material that they are interacting with might have some distressing material. Please proceed cautiously through the post and take care of yourself. Your mental health should always be your first priority.

I never experienced depression like this. My first time I have dealt with depression was in my sophomore year of high school. I was introspective and very sleepy. The second time was completely different. My second semester of freshman year was the hardest for me. A lot of things in my life were coming to an end while I was starting a new beginning. I had a really hard breakup with my high school sweetheart. Some of my friendships back home ended. Being away from my family was hard. I did not have a solid friend group, so if I did not interact with anyone for days no one would notice. I was stressed from my schoolwork because I wasn't mastering the material. I doubted my self-worth. I felt like I did not belong here because I kept telling myself that I wasn't smart enough. I thought: "I didn't go to private school, my public school didn't prepare me for this."

I was in a constant battle with imposter syndrome. Which is a consistent strain of thoughts where one believes that they will be found out for not being good enough at something. I remember saying that someone's going to figure out that I do not belong at this school. I silenced myself--I wouldn't participate in classes because I thought someone would figure out how ignorant I was. I was so fixated on comparing myself to other students at school that I lost a sense of my self. As a result, my sanity suffered because of it.

I did not know that my mental health had deteriorated at first. I felt fine. I ate every day, twice a day. I did my work. I talked to a couple of friends. I slept fine. Looking back now, I was really numb to everything that was happening. My interactions with people were small. I would rant/complain about everything that was wrong with Oberlin and some of my peers. I had a huge dorm room to myself where I closed all the blinds and did my work in darkness. I hardly did my work in the library because I was afraid of being around a lot of people. I was very anxious in my classes; I was constantly afraid that a professor would ask me to answer a question. I would eat breakfast and dinner by myself. My entire body felt tired all the time. I wanted to sleep in every day. It was hard preparing to go to classes. I tried to pretend that everything was okay and be that strong woman that my mom taught me to be. However, I failed at that and I wanted to leave Oberlin and never come back. I'm really happy that I had one person to look out for me.

I have a mentor/advisor that I have to meet up with every other week for my first two years at Oberlin as a requirement for the scholarship program that I am a part of. My mentor/advisor is an amazing Professor in the history department named Renee Romano. Not only is she an amazing scholar, who publishes amazing work, she is a kind-hearted woman who wants the best for people. Had it not been for her being blunt about the fact that I was depressed and should go see a psychologist at the counseling center, I would have not made it this far through college.

Going to the counseling center was the best choice that I made because having a neutral party to talk through my issues was very helpful. The psychologist that I was paired with validated my feelings and gave me tools to help me get through my period of depression. It was very refreshing. Every day I pushed myself to get through my dark time. Even now when I get a little sad, I know what to do to take care of myself.

You might be asking yourself: why is she telling me about her experience with depression? Well, I am using my experience to help prime you to think about support. It sounds like a fancy concept, but it really isn't. Support is finding people that will help assist you in stressful situations.

Before college I never thought about how someone could support me. I had my friends and family that motivated me and helped me through my tough times. They knew exactly what I needed and gave me what I wanted without asking. However, college is a totally different ball game, especially when you are away from home. You have to look for support and it might not come from just one person, but an entire community. I want to give you tips on what support looks like, places to look for support on campus, and help you think about the ways you need to be supported.

What Support Looks Like:

I like to think about support in the sense of a verb. Since I am a visual and tactile person, I need to know what it looks and to feel it. For me, support is packaged in many ways, which are listed in the following:

  • Weekly Emails
  • Check-in Phone calls
  • Thoughtful Text messages
  • Hugs
  • Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Bars (when I was sad one time, my friend brought me so many of these)
  • Dinner Dates
  • Study Dates
  • Watching weekly television shows
  • Baking Cookies

Places to look for support

There are many places where you can get support on campus. All you have to do is put in a little effort and it will take you a long way. Some places where I found support are:

  • Your academic advisor
  • People who participate in similar extracurricular activities
  • Other students in your classes
  • A counselor at the counseling center
  • Professors
  • Teacher Assistants
  • Tutors
  • Peer Advisors

Think about how you might need to be supported:

  1. Academically:
    1. What do you need from your professors?
      1. Extra help with homework? Understanding of how to apply theories in class to the real world? Maybe even extra credit?
      2. Recommendations for fellowships, internships, study abroad programs, grants, scholarships, or research opportunities?
  2. Personal--social life, mental health, physical health, etc:
    1. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? (This is key to knowing yourself.)
      1. Do you need time to recharge after interactions with people? How much time? What do you take care of yourself?
    2. Do you like to go to parties? If so, are you the type of person who wants to go out with friends or are you fine going solo?
    3. When you are sad/depressed how would you like for people to respond to you?
      1. Do you need someone to call, text or email you?
      2. Do you handle your issues privately until you need help?
      3. Would you mind going to counseling? If not, what are your creative outlets?

In conclusion,

Be honest with yourself. Say what you need but know that you have to be active in seeking support. Which takes some time to get. Nevertheless, searching for support is vital to staying mentally sane in college.

Also, call your parents. They need to hear your voice and you need them for advice. They love you even though they still treat you like you are 5.

Have a nice day.

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