When the Mental Health System Failed Me, Online Communities Became My Coping Mechanisms
A closet cyber nerd since my pre-teen days, I started a blog on a whim during my sophomore year at the notoriously racist, sexist Dartmouth College. I used it to flesh out thoughts that consumed me about blackness in the US, campus racism, feminism(s), and mental health. I discovered words I didn’t know I’d needed to describe my experiences, thanks in large part to conversations I had with other people existing at the margins of our respective worlds. Tumblr kept me company on the nights I stayed up well past 5 am. My insomnia was born of anxiety; some days I was physically and psychologically incapable of leaving my room in the morning to face the interminable whiteness either of New Hampshire weather or of Dartmouth classrooms.
The internet had become a coping mechanism for me. It was better than what my “real world” could offer. Exhibit A: When I tried reaching out to campus health resources about my inertia, they scheduled an appointment with the only counselor available within four weeks. When the appointment finally did roll around, I found myself sitting across from a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man – one who forced me to make the case that yes, systematic racism does exist. Remember, he was supposed to be helping me.
The conversation made me feel crazy in a way my depression itself never had. He made me list detail after detail of finding racist graffiti in dorms, being called a “nigger bitch” to my face, having my hair (and the rest of my body) routinely prodded without consent, and so much more. I left the appointment feeling physically sick when I realized only the boldest of offenses even gave him pause. The rest were, as he put it, “perhaps difficult to navigate” but not evidence of a campus culture that refused to address its attitude toward bodies not included at its inception.
It is at best exhausting and at worst dehumanising to have to explain to a mental health professional why discrimination could have a negative effect on your mental health. I felt like I was once again defending my right to exist at a college to which I had been accepted. So I posted about it on Tumblr, disappeared into a vortex of 90s television jokes, and called it a night. I didn’t feel perfect, but I felt better.
Read more at the Guardian.