What is it like to have a mental illness while attending a bible college?
- It’s wanting to stay in bed but not wanting to miss classes.
- It’s wanting to make friends and not be alone but being too afraid of what they might think.
- It’s wanting to get perfect grades but having no energy to try.
- It’s wanting to get involved but not feeling valued.
- It’s wanting to be vulnerable but feeling unloved as a result.
These are just a few of things that I noticed while in school. A constant cycle of wanting something but then something gets in the way. A wall. My mental self has built up this barrier that no one and nothing can get through. My body screams for someone to notice but they can’t see past this wall. I imagine it being the most beautiful brick wall with roses crawling up the side. Anyone who sees it can’t help but stop to notice the joy that exudes from its crimson bricks. They are too distracted by the false exterior that they forget that someone lives behind that wall. The other side of the wall is crumbling apart. Dust clouds form from the fallen clay that once held the brick together. The flowers have wilted and lost their colour from the lack of sun. But no one can see this side unless they take time to walk around the wall and seek out what is real.
So often during college, everyone is so focused on their own school work and their own dreams. Do they just forget that other people are around them? Perhaps. But maybe they too have built up a wall so high that they can’t see around it. We are all walking around pretending everything is okay but no one is acknowledging the fact that it’s not. We are not all okay.
I come to school expecting to feel happy and uplifted. Seeing my friends. Hearing laughter ringing through the halls. It seems like the most joyful place. Yet, I sit here and watch all these familiar faces pass. I know their face but I don’t know their story. Where is the intimacy that is supposed to be found in this body of believers? Where is the trust that is so often lacking? I see so many smiling faces answering shallow questions of “how are you?” with a vague “good.” Where is the honesty of what is going on? Where is the vulnerability of who we are? These are people that I see daily and I don’t know them. I don’t know anyone that surrounds me. Maybe I haven’t made a big enough effort. Maybe I could do more. But, they don’t know me either. Somehow we are all supposed to be in this together. Studying, laughing, living, breathing together but we are too afraid of what may happen as a result of being honest.
Mental health is more than just “self-care” or “take time for you.” Mental health is a community effort. We are not in this alone. We are not expected to carry all of our own burdens. Breaking down walls won’t just happen from the inside. Don’t give up on people who hide themselves because you don’t know the brokenness that has plagued the other side.
College is stressful, yes. But would it not lessen the stress if we all agreed that we are not okay and that is okay.