Introducing Handle with Care, a Column on Mental Health at Haverford

Contact Haverford Clerk Columnist Tay Levine at mtlevine@haverford.edu for any and all input, whatever form it may take. Submissions will always remain confidential.

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”— Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani, as quoted in the Talmudic tractate Berakhot

My mom paints watercolors. She can visualize images better than anyone in my family. My sister started to dance early in her life and if it were not for torn ligaments in her knee, would probably still be giving me the chills with her choreography. My brother is made of logic and analytics. My father and I write. I wish I could have all of their talents. I was born in the morning, 9AM but eerily dark. A little light shone through the crack in the doorway and from the bathroom in the hospital. I very quickly learned how to speak. Once I learned to write, my fingers would draw letters in the air all day for years. I was spit out into a world with which I had to no choice, and I believe that since then I have been in constant need to find my words. My words, which are no one else’s, and which might give me some understanding as to why this is all happening.

What else is there to life? Our own perspective alters everything we do in life. As I write this piece, it is September 11th, a 15 year mark from a day that wreaked havoc in New York City. Yesterday, September 10th, was World Suicide Prevention Day. What a weekend, am I right? Yet at the same time, our days this weekend all differed drastically in respect to the awareness we had of these dates. Our perspective is the way we experience daily life. Our predispositions and mental “check lists” are all different. We are, in the ways we process the world, incomparable. You will get to know who I am and the way I view my world at a later date. But, I will divulge that perspective is a hard topic for me. Self-awareness has been a relevant factor to my overall mental health since my brain started to suppress memories. This leaves me at a disadvantage when trying to get perspective on my emotions.

 

What am I talking about? Someone’s paying attention. One in five people in the world are considered to have some form of mental illness or disease. At Haverford, that means there are probably around 230 of us who have, at one point in their life, been told they have a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder, an attention disorder, had a stroke, a Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s gene, cerebral palsy, or a textbook-sized list of other mental and neurological ailments. And alas, for a number of us, one mental illness was just not quite enough for our little brains.
Handle With Care will be a piece dedicated to Fords with mental illness. However, whether or not you are a part of that one in five, Handle With Care seeks to give Fords a reminder of, for lack of better words, the things worth living for. This can happen in a myriad of ways. One goal of this column is to share with readers the things that make all of our lives worth living. I seek to do this in any and every way that seems most familiar for those who wish to share. Submit a list of things that make you happy or make your life beautiful. This is a great exercise to do over the course of a few weeks or a month, so don’t feel rushed, but when you are ready, my email is open. Make this list for you. And stay tuned for my list later.

But what gives me the knowledge or position to remind you that you are worthwhile? First of all, I hope that you can remind me what makes life here most meaningful to you. Submit, submit, submit. In my opinion, I have no place to be the pathfinder on these issues. At the same time, I do desire that this column will stay with you if ever a reason need to be given. My experience with mental illness, like many of us, began in my home. Either through compliance to certain behaviors displayed by my family, rejection of other behaviors around me as a child, genetics, or a combination of the three, I (and we all) have grown up with certain feelings and experiences related to mental illness.

I also recognize that there still exists a delay for some people between the appearance of their symptoms and when they receive treatment for these symptoms. For some of you, a diagnosis has not been (and possibly need not be) given to you by a psychiatrist. Know that the challenges you overcome are no less significant because a human being has not diagnosed you.

As previously mentioned, Handle With Care is a piece that is meant to apply to all. Lets face it, the degree of my depression on any given day is likely to compare relatively to that of others who have never even seen a therapist. I would like to believe that, as unfortunate as it might be, mental illness is something everyone is partially familiar with. If that is true, then Handle With Care is truly just a column about making life suck a little less for all of us.

Title of this column inspired by https://oconnornicole.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/handle-with-care/

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