trigger warnings for mentions of depression, EDs, and anxiety
I don’t quite know where to start with this post. In fact, I’ve rewritten it so many times that there are, like, 4 different drafts of it sitting in WordPress right now. I think I’m just intimidated because it was something very intimate and personal, but now this post has transformed into more of a ~Here’s How I Take Care of Myself at one of the most stressful colleges in the world~.
Whether they voiced it or not, I knew my family was really worried about my decision to go to MIT. Of course they were proud of me, as it’s probably at one point or another some aspiring scientist’s dream to study at one of the most famous STEM institutions in the world. Yet, they also knew just how stressful the MIT culture is.
It’s not that the environment is overly competitive — MIT is probably one of the most collaborative places I’ve experienced and I’m eternally grateful that I don’t have to worry about grade backstabbing and all that here.
Instead, we typically fall into habits of isolation and academic overload and burnout and essentially everything in that whole “I just need this fucking degree but dear GOD I’m so tired of trying right now” area.
And my family, who knows that I haven’t had the greatest track record in terms of keeping mentally stable, obviously voiced a little hesitation. It took me a while to convince them I’d be okay, but I think they’re slowly realizing that I, in fact, will be okay.
Every day, though, my mom is sure to send me messages checking in.
(“Don’t forget to take your Vitamin D, Camille, it’ll help you with seasonal affective disorder. Take care of yourself.”
“Yes, mom. Thank you.”)
(“Have you been drinking a lot of water? Make sure you play guitar once in a while. Creative outlets~~”
“Got it, Mom. And yeah I drank like three bottles today.”
“You should be drinking FOUR.”
This isn’t the first time it’s been mentioned to me. In fact, someone reminded me of SAD just last Thursday. I was at the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair 70th Year Anniversary Gala, where the CEO’s husband had a quick chat with me.
“Where are you from?”
“Ah, I’m from California, too. You ever heard of seasonal affective disorder?”
“Yes, sir, I have.”
“Take care of yourself. Shit’s a tough one.”
There’s something very comforting in knowing that the world is changing and the stigma around mental health is slowly, but surely, being destroyed. I remember back in the fifth grade, after my first depressive episode, my mom had told me not to tell anyone at school that I had gone to therapy. Looking back on it now, I know she was doing that because the kids at my school were probably not going to handle the whole “My fifth grade classmate has depression” talk kindly, but the way she had said it made it feel like a dirty word. Like something I wasn’t supposed to talk about.
I don’t know exactly when I came to the realization that therapy’s not something bad or taboo, but I know that it definitely coincided with my discovery and increased use of social media. For example:
Growth, where the world is becoming less afraid of admitting that they’re not in the best state of mind. Growth, where we learn how we can best support those going through troubling times.
During my time at college, I’ve been trying my best to emphasize self care. I keep track of my water intake, I follow a good, healthy sleep schedule, I keep up with My roommate can attest to my numerous skincare products that sit nicely in line atop my dresser. There are...far too many and I kind of want to do a post on my skincare routine, but unsure if there's interest. Hm... It’s been doing wonders for my mental health (and my skin! Holy shit, I’m a glowing goddess), but it also reminds me of how far I’ve come.
I remember the sleepless nights in high school, staying up until 3 in the morning just to get one more page in, one more problem done, one more Khan Academy video. It felt like an endless cycle of useless repetition. Senior year, I focused on making a change to put less emphasis on academics, and instead, on my own social life and mental health.
I was worried coming into MIT that I would undergo the endless cycle once again. I would neglect my own mental wellbeing for the sake of a higher pset grade. I’m happy to say that I’ve been balancing my life pretty well. There are so many events on and off campus that students can participate in to take their mind off of the academic aspect of college and focus on the other parts of it! I think a lot of people, and sometimes myself included, forget that there’s a lot more to the college experience than classes and career development.
The Gym + Intro to Weightlifting for Women
This is a pretty big one for me actually. I grew up really hating the way I looked, as most growing girls in society do, unfortunately. I skipped a lot of meals throughout middle school and high school without really telling anyone. Every time I looked at food, my mind didn’t process it as food, but instead a number. Its calories. I never went to the gym out of fear that people would judge me for how weak I was and also just a blatant fear of anyone even seeing my body in those tight workout clothes. Overall, a super bad time.
It was really difficult for me to convince myself that my body does, in fact, need food to live and function and grow, but I remember reaching a point where I kind of grew angry at this thing and just said fuck it and ate whatever I wanted to eat and slowly taught myself not to feel guilty.
Now, I’m finding healthier ways to treat my body. I eat three meals a day with snacks in between and don’t feel any shame in it. Most of the time, I love the way I look. And on the days where I don’t, I learn to love it and no longer spiral into episodes of disgust and horror.
Coming to MIT, I made a decision that I was going to get my act together and get over some fears. I mentioned earlier that I got over my fear of needles. Well, I also conquered my fear of going to the gym. I registered for the Intro the Weightlifting for Women class for my PE credits and that class has helped my journey to self love and appreciation so, so much.
I learned how to properly weightlift and the class overall has not only helped me feel more good about my body and myself, but also gave me confidence to go to the Z-center and, well, not shit myself.
I think now I’m having to learn how to tackle other developing unhealthy habits, such as guilt whenever I skip a gym day, or skimping out on cardio and exercises. But I’m sure I’ll learn, one positive affirmation at a time.
Painting and art
Though I haven’t done much of this at MIT, I’m really excited to get back into it. I took art classes at some small art studio in my town for about 2 years, ultimately quitting
because I wanted to focus more on my academics, as usual. It’s something I’ve come to regret giving up, but now I’m finally starting to paint again. I went to the Bob Ross painting night a couple weeks ago hosted by SaveTFP, where I kind of ignored the Bob Ross tutorial and found a random acrylic paint YouTube tutorial.
I’m really proud of myself seeing as the last time I painted was July, and the time before that was probably back in freshman year. It was really nice to just sit and focus my mind on solely painting for an hour and I’d love to do it again. I’m actually hoping to drop by the arts and crafts store sometime this week to try and pick up some acrylic paints and canvases, and I’m also…mayhaps planning on buying a drawing tablet again. I gave my old one to my friend since she needed it more than I did, and I didn’t really see myself picking up art again, but well, here I am. It’s one of my old hobbies I’m really happy to explore again.
My relationship with music is kind of a love-hate one, as it’s just a topic for me that’s full of a lot of regrets. I took piano lessons for approximately 6 years, but I never ended up any good at it. I took guitar lessons for about maybe 2 months and taught myself ‘the rest of it’, and I love guitar, but I’m also…not too good at it. I love music production and making beats and songwriting, but, aha! You guessed it! I’m not good at it. I think that was the really frustrating part for me — I loved this one thing so much, but I wasn’t any good.
Now, I’m kind of sucking it up and just making myself pick it up again. I was originally supposed to join an acapella group this semester, but 1) got too scared to but also 2) I don’t really have much time to do it.
I’m happy to just practice on my own and I really want to start from the basics: learning beginner classical pieces for the piano, practicing fingerpicking for guitar, getting back into singing songs that are comfortably in my range. My mom always texts me to make sure I’m practicing, singing, playing because she says I need a creative outlet to function and exist. She is very, very correct.
Videomaking, Filming, and Graphic Design
This is one I haven’t dabbled in much, but know I want to dabble in it. I used to run a YouTube channel dedicated to my music covers as well as some college application related videos. But I never really got to dive into the creative aspect of videos and filming, which is something I’m really interested in. I really want to teach myself the rest of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. I only really have experience in Photoshop (thank you @ my old Tumblr for teaching me how to make gif edits) and Sony Vegas Pro (I’m dogshit at it). I’m hoping to maybe, maybe start making things for my Tumblr again just as a motivator to actually learn InDesign, AfterEffects, and Premiere. This is a goal/creative outlet I’m kind of iffy on, seeing as it’s really hard for me to pick up new skills. I really only learn in a class setting or format, which is why it’s been so hard for me to teach myself different languages or CAD since I’ve never had the opportunity to take a class that teaches me how to do it. But! I learned how to use Photoshop from YouTube and Tumblr.
I’ve been baking! So much! So so much! I don’t know if I have many pictures,
but I’ve been baking at least once a week or once every two weeks to get my mind off of things and also enjoy a happy snack. A Loop floor favorite is my aunt’s fudge crinkles recipe (not actually her recipe, but she introduced it to me), where fudge crinkles are cookies made from cake mix! The cake mix, with added shortening and eggs and flour, is rolled into small one-inch balls that are then coated with powdered sugar and baked in an oven. It results in a nice sugary outside coating with a moist cake-like inside that I (and many others) love!
I also made my aunt’s brownie recipe, but kind of shit all over it because I used Hershey cocoa powder instead of this fancy international cocoa powder that she swears by. Sorry, family. Regardless, the brownies were still delicious.
A (relatively well-known) brownie tip is to use some tablespoons of instant
coffee to bring out the chocolate taste more. Trust me.
Another Loop floor favorite is my aunt’s chocolate chip walnut banana bread recipe. I never knew I liked banana bread until I had this recipe. It’s so easy to make, the banana bread turns out nice and moist always, and the banana bread with Nutella slathered on top? A godsend. There are many recipes for banana bread, but my aunt’s will always reign supreme.
I’ll be honest in saying that I was really nervous about my own mental health coming into MIT. And I know for sure that there are far shittier times to come. And that there will be days where I don’t want to get out of bed, or I start entertaining the idea of transferring, or I just want to sit in all day and cry because of how much there is.
But it will be okay because I have these things, though they may seem small and little, they are My Things that I love. And I have my friends and family, My People that I love.
Bonus texts of my mom being her Mom Self:
- My roommate can attest to my numerous skincare products that sit nicely in line atop my dresser. There are...far too many and I kind of want to do a post on my skincare routine, but unsure if there's interest. Hm... back to text ↑