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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

in an effort to be whole again by Cami M. '23

recovery

This past semester, I haven’t been taking much care of myself. Lately, I’ve been feeling very unwhole. Stuck, almost. Every week seems to run the same, where my Friday through Sunday is filled with 009, 009, and more 009.01 6.009 is Fundamentals of Python. It's usually the second or third computer science class you take at MIT and it features weekly labs (they're basically psets, we just call them labs) that take the average individual about 10 hours to complete. If you are on the better end of the CS scale, it'll take you maybe 5-7. If you are on the worse end of the CS scale, then you'll be around 10-12 hours. I've been essentially trying to squeeze these entire ten hour labs into three days so I don't have to worry about them during the week. Endless Python runs, the occasional five minute quick cry, frantic and frustrated key presses as I’m anxiously bent over my computer, staring at the screen and waiting for that green PASSED to show.

image of me passing all my test cases for a 009 lab

this is what i mean

Then my Mondays are spent relaxing a bit or catching up with 18.02. Mainly it’s just catching up with 18.02. This semester, I made the foolish mistake of taking two classes that occur at the same time, 8.021 and 18.02. I thought this would be okay because a) they’re both on P/NR for me and b) 18.02 is asynchronous, meaning I can watch lectures asynchronously and get all the content for the class. However, 18.02 hosts these helpful Q&A sessions at the time that class would normally occur (Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-2PM), when I am in 8.021 giving my full effort and brain power. Taking asynchronous classes also does a bit more damage than good because I also never…watch the lectures usually. By the time I finish all my work for my other classes, I’m usually too hosed to even bother watching lectures.

This is bad. This is very bad.

So essentially I’ve been doing somewhat okay in my three other classes (8.021, 21G.703, and 6.009…oh yes. I dropped two classes! Surprise!), but 18.02 has unfortunately been kind of left behind in my productivity study train. It’s been building and building and building and unfortunately I just haven’t had the time to dedicate to it. I often hop between classes to extracurriculars to just trying to find time to rest but really not…getting any.

This past month, I’ve also been hit with a slurry of health issues. I’ve been going in and out of MIT Medical for the past three weeks for a mix of private health issues, my ankle injury, and stress-induced eczema flare-ups.

When I was a kid, I had pretty severe eczema. My skin would dry up and get extremley red and I would scratch it to the point where my skin would become cracked, open and bloody. It was pretty mortifying as a kid, especially since my eczema made me feel very ugly and unlovable and I became very hyperconscious of my skin and my appearance as a result. For those of you who know me, you’ll know I have a somewhat vigorous skincare routine and I’m pretty adamant about moisturizing and lotion.

However, no amount of lotion can combat eczema when it’s caused by something that is constant and ongoing. One of my major causes of my eczema is stress. Generally just being stressed causes my scalp to flake, my face to break out, and, surprise surprise, my eczema to flare up! For the past two weeks, my eyes have been red and puffy and angry. I essentially looked like I had really poorly applied red eyeshadow on a large radius of my face and it was incredibly humiliating to have to Zoom into my classes like that.

This past weekend, when it kind of cleared up, I decided to take a day for myself and go out to Newbury. Funnily enough, I ran into Jeremy (the MIT AO!) there with his friend and we talked for a long time just about life, MIT, and existence in general. It was a very well needed break and I remember just being so awestruck by just being outside again. I remember walking down Newbury just the slightest bit teary-eyed because I was so amazed by how beautiful Boston was. I had nearly forgotten.

I had a good and wholesome day, getting breakfast at LA Burdicks before heading to walk around Newbury, running into Jeremy, and then going to Trident to work for the rest of the day.

And when I returned home, it felt like the end of a dream. Not quite like returning back to a cage, but more of just dropping back into reality. Back when I was on campus living at MIT, I would try to never study in Random. I found it was hard for me to study in the same areas that I slept and lived. I would try my best to leave and go to random cafes and to Stud5 (the fifth floor of our Student Center) to study. COVID took that away from me briefly, but going to Trident and sitting there for hours surrounded by the smell of sweet coffee and the quiet buzz of other college kids’ chatter reminded me of why I needed that environment in the first place.

The next day, I woke up and worked on 009. And more 009. And cried. And took a break to watch Howl’s Moving Castle in between bits of coding because I couldn’t stop crying. And more 009. And passed those test cases you saw up there, but that was at 2 in the morning (very early Monday morning) which meant I had spent the literal entire day coding. I felt defeated and exhausted and burned out.

The next morning, I didn’t wake up feeling any better. It just felt like any little movement, any small thing that could set me off, would set me off and I would just collapse back into crying. I knew this definitely was not normal so I became really wary of my mental state. It felt fragile and unstable, ready to just let go at any moment.

Then, later that night, I remember feeling the beginnings of a cold and my body erupted into itchiness all over, little rashes and patches of eczema encompassing my body. My arms, my legs, my eyes, my entire face even, my hands. And so I stared at the ceiling, red and itchy and gross and nauseous and with a raging migraine, and I just wanted to cry.

Which brings us here, to 5:27 on this fair Tuesday, where I am now sitting in a cafe in Back Bay and typing this very blogpost to talk about my mental health. In the time that has elapsed from my very bad Monday night to this current Tuesday evening, I have taken a lot of steps towards taking care of myself.

I woke up and went to MIT Medical for my orthopedic appointment. They gave me some good news and said my fracture had completely healed and if they hadn’t had any record of my fracture, they wouldn’t have even known I had had a fracture. Unfortunately, it still hurts a bit when pressure is placed on it, so I will have to wear the boot for the remaining two weeks, but at least I know I’m not broken anymore! Among all of these health issues and stressors and things, my 18.02 class scheduled an unmovable midterm during the same time and day as my Spanish oral assessment, which is…technically illegal (by MIT policy). When I tried explaining my conflict, 18.02 told me that ‘class conflicts’ were not a valid reason to miss a midterm. Thank you, 18.02. Very cool. Still kind of angry about this, especially amidst a pandemic, but what can ya do?

As I walked out of MIT Medical, I realized I still had my 18.02 midterm, which just made me want to crumple up and cry. I didn’t study for my 18.02 midterm because I was far too mentally drained from the hell that was 6.009 and far too physically drained from the angry red bumps that now covered my whole body. I then messaged in the Admissions Blogger slack if my stress-induced rashes/eczema was a valid enough reason to call S cubed, to which I received 4 very aggressive “YES”s. So when I got back to the apartment, I called S cubed, Student Support Services, and proceeded to go into their virtual office hours. I was then transferred over to the Dean on Call and I tried to explain my situation to him calmly, but ended up just breaking down in office hours. I hadn’t realized how tired I was or how close I was to crying, but merely just talking about my situation alone overwhelmed me.

He thankfully was able to get me an exception for my 18.02 midterm, moving it now to this Thursday, and after the call I went into my Spanish oral evaluation.

Afterwards, I went into my 8.021 lecture and learned about conductors. And then I played rhythm games on my MIT-issued iPad (thank you MIT). And then I headed out because I needed to get out again and feel that freedom and awe I felt when I walked down Newbury, which brings us here. To me sitting in Jaho in Back Bay surrounded by Northeastern students sipping their boba teas and iced coffees and working in Illustrator or catching a quick chat with a friend. And I feel somewhat at peace again.

This semester has taken much more from me than I originally anticipated. I felt myself giving and giving and giving, whether that was my time or my words or my emotions and feelings, and found very little time to regenerate all that was lost.

I am slowly working on trying to find that time again. I find it in little things, like playing Minecraft on the Nintendo Switch with my boyfriend, or playing guitar, or walking around Boston and breathing in air that doesn’t come out of my apartment’s AC units.

There are still lots of things I need to fix. I stopped working out briefly because of my ankle and I think that made things a lot worse. I’m going to start working out again, but keeping weight off of my ankle. This still upsets me a bit, since I really miss cardio, but my only option for cardio right now is swimming, and unfortunately there is no pool around me. I feel a bit heavier and more bloated and my body doesn’t look and feel right, but hopefully in these next two weeks my foot will heal alright and I’ll be able to work it all off.

(In fact, I just read Petey’s most recent post and I think it’s really incredible how much physical fitness, lifting, and working out is tied to my mental health. My mental health drop and all the Bad Things directly coincided with when I stopped working out. For the record, I stopped working out last Thursday because I knew my ankle appointment was coming up and I wanted to try and rest it up.)

I desperately would like my eczema to calm down, but hopefully with a couple days off and some relaxation, I’ll be able to get my skin back in check. My self esteem is…heavily tied to my skin (for better or for worse) so it’s definitely been really disheartening and ego-blowing to have my skin flare up like this.

I want this to be a good semester and so far it has the potential to be: I’m part of things I’m passionate about, I love all my TAs and my professors and my classes, I’m interested in what I’m learning. And I don’t really know where to go from here, or what the rest of the semester will look like, but I just hope it’s better. Or that I will get better and learn myself better and treat myself better, because that’s what I deserve.

happy wednesday. sending much love to you all in the middle of your week.

  1. 6.009 is Fundamentals of Python. It's usually the second or third computer science class you take at MIT and it features weekly labs (they're basically psets, we just call them labs) that take the average individual about 10 hours to complete. If you are on the better end of the CS scale, it'll take you maybe 5-7. If you are on the worse end of the CS scale, then you'll be around 10-12 hours. I've been essentially trying to squeeze these entire ten hour labs into three days so I don't have to worry about them during the week. back to text