To My College Roommate Who 'Jumped in the Fire' of Mental Illness With Me
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
To My Beautiful Roommate,
We met last summer and texted periodically through the end of our senior year up until move-in day. I felt like we would get along well and you seemed like a really cool person. Yet, somewhere in the pit of my stomach, I felt like I was lying to you. How do you tell someone you’ve had social anxiety since you were a kid? How do you tell someone that you spent so many nights shaking, crying yourself to sleep? How do you tell someone you’ve wanted to die and have come so close to doing so by your own hand? How do you tell someone about the scars on your wrist? How in the world do you do that?
But I knew I had to tell you. It wouldn’t have been fair to you not to. I knew this meant I would potentially have to find a different roommate, but you seemed like a super accepting person and I knew honesty was key. So, one night I texted you and gave you the basic rundown. I didn’t share specifics, but I told you how depression and anxiety are things I’ve been struggling with for a long time and while I know how to manage them better now than I did five years ago, there are still bad days. I told you I understood if you didn’t want to room with me because of it and there would be no hard feelings.
You responded beautifully. You told me jokingly that I couldn’t get rid of you that easily and if I ever wanted to talk, you were there. I exhaled in relief.
Then, school started. Well, “welcome week” started. We were at an info session for something, but my anxiety began to skyrocket. I needed to leave. So, after what felt like hours of contemplating this, I quietly left the room to “go to the bathroom.” I walked outside and calmed myself down. After realizing I left my water bottle there, I texted you asking you if you could bring it back to the room. You said of course and asked if I was OK or if I needed you. I don’t remember the excuse I gave, but I remember being overwhelmed with gratitude for you.
When you came back, I thanked you and we both made a cup of coffee and began to talk. I have no idea how the subject came up, but we started talking about mental illness. You told me how you didn’t always know how to respond and when your friends in high school first experienced it, you didn’t respond in the best way. But, you learned from it. I don’t know how much I shared with you, but I told you I had left that session because of anxiety and you said you had suspected that, but didn’t want to push anything. You told me you were there for me and if I needed anything to just let you know. My heart was overflowing with the compassion you showed me. To this day, those few hours of just drinking coffee and talking is one of my favorite and most comforting memories.
My transition to college was much more difficult than I anticipated. I quickly was surrounded by self-harm urges and the depression was overbearing. I frequently left the room to go on walks in the middle of the night to clear my head. Through our first semester, you were so kind to me. You were so helpful. You did so much more for me than you will ever know. You took away sharp things I had so I wouldn’t be tempted. You talked me through my moments of weakness. You were just there. And you were great.
Over winter break, I felt like we were growing apart, anxiety plagued my mind and I thought you didn’t want to live with me anymore. I made a New Year’s resolution to be a better roommate to you. I told myself I would keep all the mental health stuff separate from you. Well, unfortunately my plan didn’t work out too well when on the first day back, I had probably the worst anxiety attack of my life and had to call a friend to come up to our room. I didn’t want you to have to see that. I didn’t want you to feel like you had to do this again. I felt awful.
Later in the semester, you heard me purge. The shower had been on and I didn’t think you heard me — you hadn’t when I had done it in the past. But, I came out and you texted me saying “hi.” I responded “hi.” And you asked how I was. I said I was fine and asked how you were. You told me you heard me make myself sick and didn’t know what to do or say, but you wanted to help.
I explained to you I didn’t mean for it to happen and I was trying to stop. I told you I was OK and I thanked you for caring. Over the next couple months, you were there when I struggled with my self-image issues. And you stood by me through it all.
Slowly over the semester, I realized there was no use trying to completely separate this from you. I was significantly better than I had been first semester and I didn’t need to rely on you as much, but when I did, I knew I could.
So to my dear, dear college roommate, thank you. Thank you for hugging me when I cried. Thank you for kicking people out of the room when my anxiety was at a high. Thank you for asking me if I’m OK every time I leave the room to go on a walk. Thank you for being there for me through it all when you have no obligation to do anything. Thank you for laughing with me over the dumbest stuff. Thank you for binging Netflix, drinking coffee and obsessing over snow. Though you had little experience with mental illness, thank you for jumping into that fire with me. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being the best.
I love you,
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Thinkstock photo via Bojan89.