This is based on my personal experience with Mental Health, UPD, and others during my time at PSU. This is not meant to offend, harass, or target any group, but to bring awareness to what I dealt with during, arguably, one of the most trying times of my life.
Shirk Hall is extremely cold during the winter months, especially in early November. But the cold seemed to twist itself into my bones after hour one. After hour two, I was exhausted, my phone was dying, and the only thing keeping me awake was the anxiety in my heart. After hour three, the burning on my hips was the only thing keeping me warm.
This day, arguably, had been one of the worst. It started off fine. It began with a therapy appointment at the Student Health Center. This was my third or fourth appointment. I had started my medication and was trying out other medications to hopefully help me sleep. My therapist diagnosed a variety of different anxiety disorders and depression.
Throughout the session that morning, I detailed arguably the most traumatic event I have gone through. I described every moment, every movement, everything that happened to me, and how I dealt with it. After that, I was essentially told, ‘see you in a month!’ and was sent on my own way.
I told the story of how at thirteen, one evening I was molested by my stepfather. After a discussion with him the following day, I was told his actions were my fault, because I walked through the house in a towel, I wore certain things, it was my fault that he climbed into my bed. He said if I told anyone, he would kill himself, so to keep my family from imploding, I kept it to myself.
I kept this ‘dirty little secret’ from my family, to keep them safe. Whatever I thought I knew that night, was changed forever. In my mind, I couldn’t justify the damage to my family, so, I acted like nothing happened. I lived with the man who molested me for three years. I dealt with him taking pictures of me, stealing my clothing, among other things.
Throughout the rest of the day, I started to spiral. I became obsessed for the first time, trying to figure out why. Why had this happened to me? Why was this grown man attracted to a child? I started to investigate the myriad variety of pedophiles populating this world; what makes them different, and why do they do what they do. I wanted, I needed, to know the answer to the question that I had ignored for so many years. Why me?
As the day continued, the spiral morphed into me asking why I was still here. Why was I still letting myself continue to be hurt? Why did I stay here, when there seemed to only be pain?
I started by writing, hoping that by writing out my feelings I could stop spiraling, but my writings turned out to be multiple suicide notes. After that, I tried to figure out how I would split my assets. How would I leave my family and friends better off? If I meant nothing to the man who took me as his own child, how could I mean anything to anyone?
I continued to spiral to the point where my best friend became alarmed and refused to leave my side. I didn’t realize how bad I was. I thought I was keeping it contained, but I was concerning my friend enough to the point where she had contacted her advisor, asking what to do. A resident assistant at the dorm I lived in came to my door. I was confused by their questions and pretended that I was fine. When I shut the door behind me, my first reaction was anger. I was furious at my best friend for letting someone know that I needed help, even though I clearly needed it.
I grabbed my keys and went for a drive – just to leave the building. My friend followed behind. We ended up at Target in Joplin where we bought matching pajama pants, a new journal, and a sketchbook. When we finally made it back to the dorms, I was slightly better. I wasn’t actively thinking about killing myself, but there was still this constant numbness throughout my body. I didn’t want to be alive, but I was too tired to go through with the act. The ‘threat’ of me killing myself, had passed, to some degree.
We were gone from Pittsburg for at least an hour and a half, maybe two. During that time, I drove back, and we had a very long conversation. We planned on a sleepover, but we both needed a little alone time. In the shower, I self-harmed. In hopes to feel something besides this just constant numbness that floated through my whole body.
By the time I got out of the shower, and was dressed, I left my room, only to find my best friend, resident assistant, the area coordinator, and two police officers from UPD in front of my RA’s room, in the hallway. The amount of anxiety I felt in my body nearly made me fall to the ground. But, anger, the pure rage was right underneath that feeling of anxiety. My best friend and RA looked like they were about to cry, while the UPD officers asked how I felt. I said fine. They then told me that they had heard otherwise, my anger seemed to top my anxiety at that moment. I was exhausted, mentally and emotionally drained, and now, running on fumes.
I was told that I had to talk to a mental health professional to make sure that I’m ‘okay.’ I turned my back to the officers, area coordinator, RA, and my best friend, and made the walk to Shirk Hall.
There, I sat for three hours, waiting to talk to a mental health professional. I sat mostly by myself in a conference room, leaving me to wonder how it had made it to this point. I was anxious, angry, enraged, depressed, but most of all, tired. The numbness that had been with me most of the day was even starting to fade. As I heard each tick on the clock, I could only get angrier and angrier. Whatever had been holding me back from pulling the metaphorical trigger, was leaving my body.
Ironically, I was more prepared to kill myself while sitting in the basement of Shirk Hall, than I was while describing a grown man in my bed as a child or investigating what differentiates one pedophile from the next. I could only see myself as pathetic, a waste of space; just a body for someone else to use.
I was finally able to meet with someone via Zoom. We had a 10-minute discussion, she read off of a script. I lied. I downplayed. I said whatever I needed to say to go home. We planned on what I should do to “feel better.” I signed a written action plan, and finally I was able to go home. My boyfriend made the drive to Pittsburg in record time, and I didn’t get to kill myself. That is my story.
Let me make this clear, I hold no ill will toward Crawford County Mental Health, UPD, the housing staff, or my therapist. Mental health is a difficult subject to handle, no case will ever be the same, and it’s hard to have a game plan. The point of writing this article is to try and showcase what can still happen to people, even when we mean it well. If it wasn’t for my best friend refusing to leave my side, I would not be here today. I implore everyone reading this, to not expect someone else to do something. My best friend did not expect me to magically feel better, or for UPD to have all the right answers. She knew that all she could do was sit beside me during my most trying day. And all that I can ask, is that you be that person for someone else. Maybe not in the same way, you don’t have to stop someone from killing themselves, you can help them before they get to that point.