Sex and the Ivy

Putting It All Into Perspective

Filed under: Depression, Life — Elle April 27, 2007 @ 10:15 pm

Life isn’t really as terrible as it seems. I have to remind myself of that constantly, but trite as it is, it’s true. Everything happens for a reason, and even if it’s difficult to make sense of it at the moment, events that later unfold eventually elucidate the past.

April is Mental Health Awareness Month. After my entry on depression hit the Internet, I felt like I had become the poster child for mental health at Harvard. It was a role I was unprepared for, but I’m glad it landed on my lap. I wrote way back in November, “Sex blogs and dating columns are entertaining endeavors, but what I have wanted most is to make a difference by putting into words what some people are unable or afraid to express for themselves.”

I didn’t think at the time that I was doing precisely that by posting about my own experience with alienation and sadness on this campus. In the weeks immediately after my entry went up, countless readers reached out via comments, emails, instant messages, just about any medium you could think of. Some of them were speaking from an older and wiser perspective, many were current or former Harvard students who understood disillusionment well, and others were just young people elsewhere in the world who shared the same struggle. Even today, months after having written that post, I still get the occasional email every couple weeks from someone who is trying to make sense of what is going on in their lives and empathized with me enough to put their feelings down into words. This is the single most resonating piece of writing I have ever produced.

When I wrote it, I was beginning therapy just as my life was beginning to unravel. The blog had become overwhelming, stifling, much more than I could handle on my own. My personal life had all but imploded. Things with Aidan ended, my friends didn’t understand anything, my best friend just started a new relationship, and I couldn’t tell my mother the truth about a single aspect of my life. I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

I wrote the entry partially because I was miserable, partially because I needed to articulate what my day-to-day struggle felt like, but mostly because I resented everyone for regarding me as some sort of sex-crazed freakshow when really I was just a girl who couldn’t quite get a grip on life at Harvard. At the time, all I could think about was running away, whether it meant from Mather to the Quad, from Boston to New York, or from Harvard to Penn. On campus, I lived in a constant state of panic and anxiety. I was too paranoid about being recognized to leave my room. I stopped eating. I couldn’t talk to my friends without having difficulty breathing. I told more to Kyle, someone I had casual sex with, than I did to my roommates. I had no idea how to make it to the next day.

It wasn’t until January, when I had gained perspective from a weekend in New York and a trip back home, that I finally reached a leveling off point. Somehow, through the tumultuous holidays and a few therapy sessions, I had learned to keep my emotions under control, to deal with the unexpected consequences of celebrity, to pick and choose who I wanted to have in my life. I also came to learn that even though a lot of my problems stemmed from my blog, what I went through (and am still going through) was both a unique and a common experience. Expressing that experience and sharing my journey with a public audience has been more gratifying than almost anything else I’ve done.

I am better now. I am in a better place today than I could’ve imagined six months ago, than I could’ve ever thought possible as a freshman. And despite the unfortunate events that have transpired in the past few weeks, despite the multiple conversations I wish I never had to engage in, despite frustrations and disappointments, I am more capable of managing life on my own than I have ever been. I did not ask a lot out of therapy. Happiness was never a request of mine. Today, I simply can function. And that is a blessing that I cannot even begin to explain.

I write this now because I spent the past two months becoming invested in someone who turned out to not be who I thought. I spent the past week getting to know someone else who was just as deceitful. In four months, I have met more distraught ex-girlfriends than I care to meet for the rest of my life. Perhaps this is karmic; perhaps it is bad fortune. Whatever the case, it’s hard for anyone in this position to not begin thinking that they’re cursed.

Which brings me back to my point. Putting it all into perspective, this website is one of the best things that has happened to me despite my having to change the way I live in order to cope with its consequences. Depression was one of the best things that has happened to me because I needed to feel that low in order to get the help I’ve always needed. I understand that now. Months and months later, it has all been worth it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I fell hard for someone recently and he made me believe in things I never thought I would. He told me that I was beautiful, that I was much more than a sexual object. He appreciated my intelligence, my ambition, my devotion to those important in my life. He wanted me to realize my own worth, to not give myself away emotionally or physically so easily to others, to respect myself. Not too long after I actually began to take his words to heart, I found out that he had been lying to me for weeks about his involvement with another girl. He had been lying to both of us. I haven’t spoken to him since.

But I still believe every word he said to me.

Such a large part of our relationship was a fabrication that it would be easy to discount what we had altogether, but I would never take it back if only because he taught me such valuable lessons. He is the reason why I only want to sleep with someone I really care about. Given some perspective, being with him served a very important function, one I could’ve never predicted and one I value despite the way things played out.

I’m writing this entry to someone specific, someone who I think understands precisely where I am coming from, who knows what it means to hurt and to need. Perhaps this is just me being romantic, but I think that there must’ve been something that you could’ve taken away from the two of you that was vital and important. There must’ve been something he made you feel, something he added to your notion of self. Whatever it was, I don’t want you to lose that. Months from now, I hope whatever happened between you still matters and has some impact no matter how vague.

People speak of regrets far too often. I am too drained to regret what has already been done. Take it. Change it. Be better for it.

7 Responses to “Putting It All Into Perspective”

  1. ER Says:

    It is so, so reassuring to know I’m not the only one unhappy here. Thank you!

  2. 132 Says:

    I totally agree - no matter how you get hurt, you learn from it, and grow from it. I cared a lot about someone a while back, and he wasn’t what I thought at all, but he made me see what it is to really love someone, how different everything is with that. And I’ve been a lot more discerning since (I think), which can only be good.
    So yeah, none of it is a waste.

  3. Sky Says:

    You can never leave regret behind, it stays with us in creeping silence at the back of our memory; every once in a while it slips and we remember.

    I dated a girl once who said that she hadn’t regretted anything she’d done in the past, and considering what she had done, especially to me, that hurt a lot.

    I never really understood that.

    But there’s a difference between having regrets and living with them.

    I regret my past. It seems like every week that passes I have my regrets. Some are larger than others, but they’re always there. From the littlest details to the largest transgressions, the regrets come to pass and I have to live with them. But though I have my regrets, I don’t live in them.

    I learn from them.

    And move on.

    So, in short, I agree.

  4. Vivivane Says:

    It is a complicated balancing act, but you will learn what to include and keep out of your blog.

    Your readers need to understand that your blog is not YOU, and that by reading it, they must understand a little more about you but it is not you in your totality.

    See you in NY, pengyou.

  5. Sarah Says:

    wow. i relate to this so much.
    you really should’ve won the Bloggie, by the way.
    i’m in a grad school affiliated with the ol’ Big H…and i’m itching to meet some new guys. *grumbles about recent relationship woes*. do you recommend any places in particular?

  6. Sam Says:

    Nothing wrong with that sentiment–the world would be a rather better place if it was the more romantic!

  7. joy Says:

    i agree :) live with no regrets. take something away from every experience. sleep only with someone who means a lot to you :P

    you’d better believe every word he said to you, hun, because he was right. you really are worth more than you generally give yourself credit for.

    lastly, everyone here feels alone once in a while. in fact, i’d say most of us feel alone a lot. fortunately, i’ve found, there are also a good number of people willing to listen and to hold you so long as you let them. :)

    love,
    joy

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