Hello, dear Reader,
I’m pleased to say there’s a lot of great content awaiting you this issue. The first installment of Kirsten’s long-awaited review of the Bachelorette has finally arrived, and if you enjoy the show you’re sure to enjoy her analysis. We have some thought-provoking opinion pieces about online learning, as well as two new contributors whose articles on a disastrous tech conference and the greatest NBA players of all time you should definitely check out.
We also have an exciting new opportunity for the musically-inclined. The Iron Warrior is looking to collaborate on a project, either on a one-month basis or as a continuing position. You can message @theironwarrior_uw on Instagram or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more.
While there is a dearth of campus life to comment on, I did, last week, notably complete the pilgrimage to St. Jacob’s market that one customarily undertakes in their first year. I had intended to take the trip while the summery temperatures held up, but as it turned out, the market was pleasant in the cool weather. If you’re planning to attend, be sure to check out the florists: You can find some really lovely sunflowers this time of year.
There are measures in place at St. Jacob’s market to prevent the spread of Covid-19: An attendant at the gates regulates the flow of people, the concrete walkways are marked with arrows to direct traffic, and sanitizer is available throughout. Despite the best intentions of the organizers, however, it is difficult to follow social distancing guidelines at all times. Visiting at off-peak hours is probably your safest bet.
I’d like to devote the rest of this letter to the topic of mental health, which has been at the forefront of discussion since the tragic passing of Jason Arbour this Tuesday. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased, and I wish them peace.
As always, Campus Wellness, Student Medical Services, and MATES, are available on-campus, online, and over the phone for anyone who requires support or counselling services.
There’s a lot of support for people who struggle with mental health, and help is there for those who need it. However, I know that despite the constant reminder that mental health services are available, it can be difficult to make the first step and reach out, or even acknowledge to yourself that you ought to reach out.
I want to write about my own experience – not because I think it is particularly moving or poignant, but because I want to avoid writing about mental health in the broad and unspecific sense. There’s plenty of really good, really well-meaning advice that I ignored when I was struggling with mental health issues because it felt as though I was being offered platitudes. I was grateful for the students who wrote words of affirmation on sticky-notes and put positive messages around campus, and I really believed that they thought everyone was worth it, but I felt as though I was an obvious exception because I was deeply, fundamentally unlikeable. It’s very easy to see a list of mental health resources and mistakenly think, “This is for people who actually need it, not me.”
In my first semester at Waterloo — among other periods in my life — I felt as though any classmates who I tried to talk to were putting up with me for the sake of politeness; I was perpetually tired, socially withdrawn, and lived mostly in my bedroom because I thought my roommates found me weird. Schoolwork was overwhelming, but I couldn’t bring myself to show up to office hours or ask for help. I could have really used a mentor, but the idea of a likeable, straight-A student who ran seventeen clubs spending their time helping me out made me feel guilty. I cried often; I didn’t know how else to deal with how I felt. I responded to my peers’ attempts at friendship like a feral kitten who hadn’t yet learned to do anything but hiss.
It’s not a lifestyle that gets you out of bed with a smile every morning. The good news is that part of it — the part where you feel inadequate, burdensome, and unlovable — is really “all in your head”, as much as that saying has been criticized over the last few years. Recognizing that the negative self-perception I had was a reflection of my struggle with mental health, not an immutable part of my character and reputation, helped me take steps toward living a better life. I’m doing much better nowadays, and I’m grateful for my friends and family who supported me in my time of need.
Hopefully, in sharing my experience, I’ve reached somebody who can relate. As James Baldwin once said: “You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone.”
I’m no Dostoyevsky, and I certainly don’t expect the reader to feel any great liberation after finishing this letter. If what I wrote, though, has made you feel as though you can relate, I hope you reach out — be it to a friend, a family member, or a mental health professional. You can reach out to me any time, be it through the Iron Warrior or on social media (I’m “Nela Jankechova” on everything). I’m always down to talk.
Take care, and have an enjoyable weekend.