2016, indeed the entire decade, has been a time of heightened awareness, where Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are standing up and voicing the issues they face as part of their identity. In that spirit, I will use this column to outline an issue that is very important to me personally, and one that I believe deserves more visibility and understanding. This is the issue of mental health. Like many issues, it is particularly important on a college campus because of the less-than-savory image the mentally ill have been given in the U.S. media, and the all-too-real tragedies that have become ingrained in the American mindset, particularly in the lifetime of students. Ideally, I wish to use this column to share the experiences of those who struggle with mental health issues and offer a more balanced view of the issue as a whole, and, perhaps, to provide at times more light hearted atmosphere within a medium that, at least on the national stage, has become very hard to stomach on a day-to-day basis.
All of that being said, I will begin this column by sharing my own experiences and struggles with mental illness. I have always been a bit quirky. I have a tendency to rock when I sit, or sway back and forth when I stand. I play with random objects when I’m bored (my current obsession is a piece of putty I bought online), and have difficulty paying attention. I am also incredibly shy and usually isolate myself from fear of oters hating me or finding me annoying.
Flash back to my sophomore year, I suffered an episode of depression which took me until my junior year to recover from. I did this with the help of counseling and medication, but this path led me to an interesting discovery. All of those quirks I had displayed all my life were not actually quirks at all, but symptoms of something called Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is essentially a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder that shows many of the hyperactive and social symptoms of Autism, but none of the issues with development or learning. We can still have large differences in interest, which cause us to excel in certain subjects but struggle in others.
Personally, some of my current obsessions include World War I, ancient history and mental illness. On the flipside I struggle to comprehend math past roughly eighth grade level and any science that involves complex equations. Honestly, I don’t see my Asperger’s as a health issue or a disability of any kind. In fact, I tend to share the opinion of someone who commented on a TED talks video about autism. They saw autism not as an illness, but as a superpower. In my mind, that makes a lot of sense. Incredible focus and intelligence regarding whatever subject they happen to be interested in (not to brag or anything) and, ultimately, a struggle to blend into society. That definitely sounds like a superhero to me. In closing, I want to encourage you all to look at mental illness as a whole and try to maybe learn more about it if you can. Also, I want to encourage those who struggle with mental illness to write to the paper and share their stories. I would be happy to post your letter in this column.