Brain Waves: Letter from the Editor

Kathryne LeBell, Views Editor

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Brain Waves came from the idea that sharing students’ personal stories on mental health sheds light on issues affecting our campus on the larger level. Ignoring poor mental health has resulted in unnecessary death and heartache. In the wake of those tragedies, Tulane has made administrative strides to fix the holes in mental health services. But the stigma is still there. With brave writers coming forward each week to share their stories, the negative perception of mental health is slowly being chipped away. With this work, in the future we will have a happier and more successful student body.

As the editor of the section Brain Waves runs in, I hope for the success of the column and it’s writers. I do, however, also have a personal connection with the stories that are being told.

My freshman year, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I had dealt with it in high school, but could never put a name to it. Suicidal feelings and dropping grades sent me to Counseling and Psychological Services, where I received sub-par health services, being shuffled between therapists every other session. I didn’t feel better coming out of it. I felt profoundly alone in my problems. None of my friends had mental health issues, or at least identified as neurotypical. Talking to them about my feelings resulted in blank expressions of attempted empathy, or worse, a reprimand to “stop being so sad,” as I was told.

Eventually, I met with the appropriate psychiatrist and was put on medication, something I was incredibly embarrassed about. Normal people didn’t have to take medicine to feel content. I couldn’t share my feelings with therapists I disliked, friends who didn’t understand or my parents who only wanted the best for me. So I tamped it down and dealt with it by not dealing with it.

Things grew easier my sophomore year, as I met others who knew what it meant to be depressed and anxious. When I described panic attacks they nodded understandingly, instead of looking at me as if I was a danger to myself. I stopped feeling like I was a freak and recovery seemed like a possibility, not a pipedream.

That’s not to say that I was magically cured when I had friends with depression. That’s not how it works. But there’s a sense of solidarity in hardship and understanding. It’s someone to walk with you to your appointments, who understands what it’s like in those offices. It’s art and music and crying with people who just get it.

Brain Waves isn’t exactly the same, but it’s something that I didn’t have as a new student, floundering in new social situations with a medical condition that I didn’t think was real. Reading these stories, I am so grateful for these experiences. Anyone who feels alone and scared can read these and perhaps see a future of recovery for themselves. As one can see by reading through these stories of hope, recovery is a journey. It takes hard work, but knowing that there’s someone else out there lightens that burden. And I hope that anyone reading this now, who feels like there is nothing else out there for them, can see that there is.

This semester, Brain Waves has seen much success. These stories have reached far and in the future we hope to see it expand even further. There will be a podcast portion introduced in the Spring, with student and professional speakers. But all of this could not be possible without sincere contributions. In this, I deeply thank all of the writers who have helped spread this message.