“There’s no excuse to miss class”, “you are a student first”, “Hamilton pays for you to be here”. Many students have typical reasons for missing class. They’re sick or they have a paper due or its too cold to leave their room.
Last year, I realized that there is more to students than their physical health. As a woman of color, mental health has never been a topic of discussion or something I believe in. I sit here staring at the screen. I type. Then I stop. Then I type. Sometimes I will be in class and my mind will take me worlds away. I have never paid attention to my mind and my feelings until I felt separated from my body in the Fall of last year. I struggled with the “D” word. I couldn’t even come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t eating or leaving my room. Worse, I found myself wide awake during the day with my lights off, shutters down and missing class. Usually I would feel awful for missing a class or feel some sort of guilt but that semester I felt absolutely nothing. Food wasn’t appetizing. People were painful to talk to and I just didn’t have energy.
I wanted freedom. I wanted to breathe and the only place I could do that was in my room. By myself, with the lights off. During that semester I did not come to terms with what I was feeling. I kept telling myself I just needed to go home and rejuvenate or I needed to take a walk and reflect but nothing worked. I cried. I had trouble sleeping and I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what I was feeling. Not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to express what was going on in my mind. I never knew how much control my mind had over my body until I felt it. I felt my mind telling my body to stay in bed. I felt my mind telling my body that the people around me were fake and uninterested in how I was really feeling. I felt my mind telling my body that food was not worth it. Food was not worth the 3 minute walk to Commons. Class was not worth the 7 minute walk to KJ.
I couldn’t talk about depression because the community of color does not believe in depression. I cannot talk about something I know nothing about. As a woman of color, it is easy to trivialize my feelings and actions. It is easy to say ” I was just having a bad day” and thats exactly what happened last Wednesday.
On Tuesday night I could not get any work done. I reverted back to the self that could not leave her bed last Fall. I reverted back to the self that had no feeling. I was empty. I missed class because I had too much going on and I just broke. It happens less often but there are times where I feel empty and have nothing to give or offer. I needed to take time to myself and breathe. Mental health is something I take seriously now. Last Fall, I finally acknowledged that once I treat my mind with love and respect, my body will respond and I will be whole. I want to be whole this semester. I want to be whole from now on and I plan to keep to that goal.