Photo from Humanosphere.com
By Jen Cooper
Perhaps it was that you would not believe me. Perhaps it was easier. But at 6:15 this morning, during my third panic attack in 24 hours, I emailed a professor and some classmates that I could not make it to our ‘hell’ class that day. Then I went back to sleep.
When I woke up two hours later, the professor replied. ‘Feel better and make sure to bring in a doctor’s note.’
How was I to get a note for crippling anxiety?
Which brought me to the beep beep dial to the student health center to get a note for a very serious and not very visible illness.
I dragged myself over there and after describing my symptoms– stomach cramps, fatigue, nausea and vomiting– which I knew were because of anxiety. The doctor rustled up the diagnosis of the stomach virus. I got my Pepto-Bismol, doctor’s note and got out of there.
On my walk back to my dorm, I pondered the events that had just happened. If I were able to fake enough to have a ‘real,’ ‘physical’ illness, why was my anxiety not an illness enough? It was more real than any stomach virus I have had, but “sorry professor, I can’t make class because I’m having a panic attack,” somewhat is not enough.
Through the Disability Support Services, I am allowed absence accommodations. That line gets very blurry when they are medical absences, and what counts as excused and unexcused. I also should not have to owe my professors a detailed psychiatric history– my registration with DSS should be enough.
But, alas, it is not sometimes. The amount of work I do to keep my mental health as good as it can be is not enough, and the amount I devote to academia, friends, clubs and work is never enough, and I am never enough. I am working so hard to tell myself and believe that I am enough. But these so-called “understanding” and “progressive” professors do not give a hoot about just how deeply crippling my mental illnesses are.
I am enough, and I am doing enough despite how hard it is to take a breath in the morning. Professors need to be more sympathetic. They should have more realistic expectations of their students. Especially in situations where they have all of the proper documentation about their illnesses. Enough is enough on this campus. I am sick of no empathy or compassion.
The real world is not like that? Well, my generation, and some people sure as hell are.