Sex and the Ivy

When I Was 20

Filed under: All About Elle, Blogging, Dating/Relationships, Depression, Harvard, Mental Health — Elle January 11, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

My friends have a tendency to categorize my college experience as pre- and post-Patrick (or pre- and post-domestication-of-formerly-unruly-sex-blogger), but I think the split really occurs not when I met the current roomie, but two Christmases ago. I’m referring to those infamous nude photos, whose surfacing and aftermath have been neatly summarized in a recent piece in a Canadian paper. It felt strange to comment on the incident for the article, given how much time has passed and how young I was then (not that I’m much older now). But though many things have changed since, I don’t know if I’d handle it any differently today, which is probably why I seemed “remarkably blase” in the interview. I think I did the best I could at the time.

In the winter of 2007, I was single and living alone in Currier House, still blogging primarily on Sex and the Ivy, and seriously considering writing a memoir (which has long been shelved in favor of my senior thesis). At 20 years old, I was completely unprepared to deal with such a deep invasion of privacy, though I wonder if that’s the sort of thing one is ever prepared to handle gracefully. It wasn’t about the fact that I was naked on the Internet nor was it about the sociopathic ex who I’d long written off. I was never ashamed of my body or of people seeing it, but rather, I felt victimized because I had been exposed without consent and doubly victimized by those who wrote salaciously about the incident. The initial IvyGate post was how most of my classmates found out about the photos, and the subsequent coverage on Fleshbot, Bostonist, who knows where else, informed the world beyond Cambridge.

In the weeks after, I encountered little sympathy and plenty of mockery. It was easy for strangers online to say that I was “asking for it” when they weren’t in my shoes, freaking the fuck out (quite literally, in the form of panic attacks), and very much certain that I didn’t ask for this shit. However, I was mostly appalled by the way I was treated by other Harvard students, who had no moral qualms about Googling the photos and sending them to one another. It wasn’t the first or last time I felt totally alienated, isolated, and violated by the campus at large, but it was easily the worst time because I was going at it alone. Unlike romantic troubles or an uncalled-for rude encounter, this was a situation that literally no one in my life could understand or empathize with.

So how did I get over it? By leaving Harvard. I made the best of finals and submitted multiple late papers thanks to a note from my therapist. I got a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication I never ended up taking. I went to Switzerland for nine days with two girlfriends, hiked uphill in snow to reach the peak of the world’s longest sled run, and had a lot of sex with someone who was not a sociopath. Thankfully, I emerged from my depressive haze without the least bit of generalized hatred toward men, since I met Patrick, a.k.a. “the Guy”, shortly thereafter. In the subsequent months of my junior year, I transitioned slowly away from my old blog and into this one. Mid-semester, sleuthing e-stalkers unmasked and defamed “the Guy”, pretty much cementing my belief that I could never return to writing openly about my own sex life. I also moved, for all intents and purposes, into Patrick’s then-apartment and never once looked back at the option of living on campus. By the time I got Ad Boarded for not turning in two final papers, I was just completely done with Harvard. Everyone was telling me to finish the damn papers — which were completely doable — and I was thinking, “What’s so bad about having to take a year off, anyway? I freaking hate this place.” When I left Harvard at the end of May, I had already long checked out emotionally. I hadn’t even slept in Currier for months and only showed up to move-out in order to shove things into boxes. Two months later, I turned 21 halfway around the world from Cambridge. I went back to Boston a few weeks later and moved in with Patrick, with whom I lived during my year off. Harvard has never felt like home again, not even after I returned as a student this fall.

This is all to say that even if I appeared “remarkably blase about the incident” in my interview for the aforementioned article, it was hardly an insignificant event in my life. I’ve said most, though not all, of the above before, and often, it feels like I’m repeating myself when I discuss this topic. Maybe that’s because I’m still grappling with what happened. The reaction to those photos simultaneously defined and epitomized my college experience, which often felt like a circus act performed before sadistic spectators. Someday, I’ll have to post the “reflective” essay I submitted to get readmitted to Harvard. It was more a condemnation of my classmates than it was an expression of remorse, and if the administration ever had doubts about how cruel Ivy League students can be … well, now they know. Back then, I was also very much of the mindset that the bloggers and reporters who wrote about the photos were simply doing their job: writing about the news. Only in the year afterward did I realize that having a sex blog hardly makes one newsworthy and that furthermore, gossip is not news. It would have saved my sanity had a few individuals simply thought twice about clicking “Post Entry”. In retrospect, I regret that I wasn’t more critical of the writers who exploited the source of my personal anguish for page views.

In a few short months, I’ll have a Harvard degree in addition to hundreds of unfavorable Google search results to show for all this trouble, yet I’ve never quite forgiven or forgotten the on- and off-line masses who judged, dissected, and mocked my younger self. In a coming-of-age film, the above drama might be characterized as the experience necessary for eventual personal growth or finding Mr. Right or whatever. Winding up with a bulldog-owning Yalie is kind of the perfect happy ending to the Ivy League version of Sex And The City. But outside of HBO world, no one needs to nearly get their life ruined in order to emerge triumphant. The reality is that people are often mean without justification, you may or may not learn from this stuff, and the guy you end up with in the aftermath is not necessarily the pay-off for putting up with bullshit. Though I survived my ordeal more or less intact, with a boyfriend and a puppy dog to boot, I have never regained my former faith in others’ inherent goodness. Which is good, because I was really just being naive. The crazy ex who posted those photos could have easily been written off as a psychotic exception to the generally sane population at large, but what happened in the aftermath demonstrated to me how thoughtless, judgmental, and unkind normal individuals can be and that this tends to be the rule, not the exception, and that Harvard kids with all their privilege are not exempt from moral failings despite being in a position where they should theoretically “know better”.

And that realization, not Patrick, is what really prompted some rather radical changes in my life. Harvard has a knack for fooling its students into becoming incredibly invested in their peers. The cult of the Ivy and all that. The belief that your success is mine and vice versa. Even at its rawest, my blog up until that point reflected a painful desire to be liked. I was well-aware that my subject matter was slightly edgy and my reputation slightly soiled, but hardly unsalvageable, nothing a book deal couldn’t fix. It wasn’t until the ugly aftermath of the photos that I started to question what I was trying to prove and who I was trying to prove it to. It was then that I stopped participating in superficial social interactions, ceased going to anonymous parties, and completely disengaged from communal college life. In other words, I no longer viewed my classmates as flawless individuals who I should be grateful to know.

Up until then, my go-to future plan had always been Move To New York, Write A Memoir, Become Carrie 2.0. Now that graduation is actually on the horizon, I don’t find any of the above particularly appealing. I will almost certainly stay in Boston, at least in the short-term, and perhaps I will still publish a book, but not because I feel the need to apologize for my sordid past by seeking redemption via commercial literary success. As for Carrie 2.0, I’d rather aspire to be Jessica Valenti. But the truth is that I don’t even have New Year’s resolutions, not to speak of a multi-year life plan. I don’t have any idea how 2010 will turn out, since I didn’t do corporate recruiting in the fall, haven’t looked for a job, failed to apply to grad schools or take the GRE, and have no real intention to think about post-graduation life until I actually graduate (or at least until I finish my thesis). Two years ago, this would’ve struck me as terribly complacent, perhaps even boring, but right now,it just feels liberating.

Reminiscence

Filed under: All About Elle, Blogging, Depression, Harvard, Mental Health, Uncategorized — Elle July 17, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am. I am. I am.

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Right now, I want to disappear. I haven’t felt this in a long time, perhaps because in the past year, I more or less succeeded in doing precisely that. I traded in Sex and the Ivy for a far less personal tumblelog. I left school and then the country. When I returned, I moved to Beacon Hill and avoided campus, final clubs, and the Class of 2009. My already shrunken circle of friends shrank even more. Agents asked me if I still wanted to write a book, and I would say this really isn’t the right time, but it’s on my mind and I’ll get in touch on my own, thank you. I guess it was reassuring to know that I was, in fact, still relevant. But for once, that mattered less than the sliver of privacy I’d found. Public and private life finally seemed distinguishable, and I was happy. I am happy.

When Harvard kicked me out of school last spring, I felt like the Ad Board didn’t believe or care about my story. Sure, I never did well in college, and hell, I admit that I was a pretty mediocre honors student in high school, but there’s a reason why I went from getting abysmal grades to simply not passing a class. That doesn’t just happen on its own. The problem is, I don’t know how I could have expected anyone at the time to believe me when even I thought my story was unbelievable. It was so unbelievable, in fact, that I called it a “story”. I thought of it as a book, perhaps because I was trying to write one, but also because there wasn’t any possible way that it was actually happening in real life. Yet it was.

I started Sex and the Ivy in the beginning of my sophomore year. At first, it was exhilarating to feel inspired enough to write everyday. It was the biggest high I’d ever felt and I still sometimes fear I’ll never replicate it again. But what I initially considered an incredible creative phase soon turned into the worst period of my life up to that point. Because I believed in the best in people, I wrote naively and with abandon. I wrote about my fears and my uncertainties and my insecurities. I always wrote the truth. Most of the feedback was positive but some people were critical, not in a constructive way, but in a purposely hurtful, malicious way. Judgments were made about my character based on the presumed number of sexual partners I’d had. Strangers felt justified in calling me a “slut”. Their IP addresses suggested they were posting from a computer connected to the campus network. For a period of about six months, I went through a series of highs and lows. Most of my blogging was done when I was in a slightly manic state. The rest of the time, I slept a lot, missed class frequently, and tried to extricate myself from most social activities. Someone, a professional, suggested I might be struggling with a high-functioning form of bipolar disorder. I met with a psychiatrist, decided I wasn’t that crazy (at least not yet), and promptly went back into hibernation mode until the spring. By then, I was doing better and just wanted to finish the school year so I could spend summer in New York. None of what I’m writing here is new. I’ve said it all before, so many times before that it doesn’t feel real now to look back on it.

Sometimes when I spoke to my junior year therapist about this, I felt like she didn’t believe me either. I felt like no one believed me, or at least they couldn’t feel what I felt. Back then, I thought I was going crazy, not crazy enough to take pills, but enough to question whether this constant feeling of being watched and judged was merely a mental affliction. I almost wanted to ask Sara if she thought I was actually making this all up in my head. In retrospect, what I considered unconfirmed paranoia at the time was pretty much confirmed by my junior year. I just didn’t want to believe it. But then you hear enough people whisper your name (or something that vaguely sounds like it) whenever you’re in the vicinity. You catch enough people looking at you. You catch pointing. And sometimes, you overhear something that no one intended for you to hear. What you used to wonder about, you come to expect. But I never learned the full extent of it and I never will, which is why I thought for so long that I was crazy in a very literal sense.

I want to point out that I have never, ever been harassed in person. None of these people who gossip and say or think or write terrible things about me would ever have the courage to publicly stand by their words. Every time anyone has approached me, they’ve been gracious and kind and polite; and though I am grateful for this, it also terrifies me, because I can’t put an identifiable face on my attackers. And yes, I do feel attacked.

It may have been an unhinged ex-boyfriend who put nude photos of me online two Christmases ago, but their dissemination was a collaborative effort between IvyGate and my peers. I know for a fact that people who personally knew me — as well as others who didn’t –  were sending those photos around while I was in hysterics at the end of fall term and struggling to finish papers just so I could finish them, just so I could leave the school and the country and all this inexplicable malice behind. When Patrick and I started dating last spring, I didn’t tell anyone but my closest friends about him. I actually kept my relationship a secret from the majority of my acquaintances. And yet, someone who knew the both of us, someone who must’ve seen us in public together or something, outed him on JuicyCampus. When it got picked up on AutoAdmit, online vigilantes decided to take matters into their own hands and send indignant emails to Harvard professors and administrators demanding that Patrick be kicked out of his Ph.D program for a breach of ethics that never occurred. Thank god he was in a five-year relationship during the entire time he taught me or people might’ve actually not believed us.

I suppose the fact that I’m still blogging is a testament to my emotional strength or to my stupidity. To be honest, I’m terrified of returning to school this fall because I’m running out of the former. I’m tired of being strong and I’m tired of having to just put up with it and I’m worried that what’s happened thus far is the beginning, not the end. In retrospect, I’m surprised my 19-year-old self lasted as long as she did. I’m turning 22 next month and I’m getting too old for this. I used to get so many sexist or downright misogynistic comments that I became numb to them. I hit delete, delete, delete and moved on to the next entry. And now? When I read something terrible that a stranger has to say about me,  I stop and think about it. I think about them and the person they might be. I think about myself and what I’ve done to deserve this kind of scrutiny. I think about how a website could provoke concerted efforts by other human beings to make my life miserable.

Maybe blogging about my personal life means I’m “asking for it” but if my only crime is writing openly and honestly about sex and not having the decency to feel ashamed of myself, then yes, I suppose I asked for it. I realize now, two years late, that I was incredibly naive for expecting better out of people, out of humanity, as dramatic as that sounds. When I was 19, I didn’t think anyone understood me. Not my mother, who didn’t know about my blog. Not my therapist, who nodded at the right times and knew my secret resentments. Not my friends, who were often the ones I resented. And now I know there’s at least one person in the world who understands me, pretty completely, and I’m still miserable, just because a stranger decided to be shockingly inhumane tonight. How did I do it at 19? How can I ever write that candidly again if even a mere comment (or in this case, 15 of them in a span of minutes) conjures up all the unpleasant memories I’ve pushed to the recesses of my mind? I have never once regretted writing Sex and the Ivy, but it’s not until now that I’ve acknowledged the full extent of what I lost because of it. I spent most of college disassociating myself from my peers, physically running away (to New York, to Philadelphia, abroad), and questioning my own sanity. And sure, I was defiant, and more importantly, I was in the right. But what good is being right when you’re an unhappy, suspicious person? Now that I know the alternative, I could care less about my writing or what others see in it or what they see in me. I’d rather be happy than defiant on principle.

None of these people who have done me wrong will get their comeuppance. There’s no such thing as god or karma and even if there were, I’m not looking for justice. I’m looking for happiness, and thus far, I’ve only found it in a private life. I could wait endlessly for divine retribution, or I could try to be happy knowing what I know about human nature and what people are capable of. I could try to be happy the one way I know how. I could try to disappear.

The Last Entry For A While

Filed under: All About Elle — Elle January 5, 2008 @ 6:56 am

(Got back from Vegas last night. I started this entry a few days ago and I’m finally posting it. It’s a monster of an explanation and VERY stream of consciousness, but basically, it’s going to be quiet around here for the next few weeks.)

I’m finally making good on a promise I made myself.

I’m currently in my third night in Vegas and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the future. I take these trips with my friends from home twice a year, once during late summer and once during the holidays. Right now, it’s just me and ten of my high school friends getting drunk and high, having a surprising number of intense conversations, and taking long, hard looks at each other and ourselves. We don’t really look the same as we did at 17, and this is the first time I’ve noticed. These are the friends I count on to stay the same, to freeze frame while I run off to my East Coast life, but the wheels keep moving when I’m not watching and sometime in between, things changed. We got older.

Whenever I doubt myself, coming home always brings me back. It was like that last Christmas, when I flew back after a season of discontent and confusion. I had just started therapy in October for the blog I began writing in September and I was convinced that I was bipolar. Two weeks prior to boarding my flight for the holidays, I landed in Stillman Infirmary after drinking myself half to death, puking within the first hour of the Tri-House Formal, and passing out on a random couch in the Faculty Club. After that, I moved to the Quad to live with Kennedy because I couldn’t handle seeing Aidan in Mather after he broke my heart and I couldn’t shake the constant feeling of being watched by strangers who read my blog. And even after I relocated to Cabot and ditched partying in final clubs, my classmates would still report on BoredatLamont that they saw me on the shuttles and in Quad dining halls and they would speculate about who I was with and what I was like in bed. I was paranoid and crying all the time and just so far from okay.

Being home for the holidays in 2006 was the first time I felt normal for months. When I recounted to my California friends the unlikely events of the school year thus far, I was given no reaction whatsoever. All people did at Harvard was meet me with gaping mouths and questions and fascination. I expected shock or disbelief or something from the friends who had known me since adolescence, but to them, I hadn’t changed even if the circumstances of my life had. And that was when things started to get better.

California is the one thing that consistently keeps me grounded, and I have always felt that my trips here are deeply important because they remind me of where I came from. This is the first time I’ve come home since leaving for Harvard that I feel like things are in flux, that people and feelings and relationships are evolving. Maybe this is change for the better, maybe this is growth, but I whatever it is, I know I didn’t expect anything like this when I returned. Most of my high school friends stayed here for college and live at home when they’re not in school, so there is a world we have built around each other that has stayed still and stable for years. But now half of them are graduating in June and the rest in a year and a half and suddenly even the trips I’ve come to take granted as sure things are going to be harder to plan as we get jobs and real lives. My best friend Joanna is leaving for a semester in Shanghai in February. It’ll be the longest time she’s been apart from her boyfriend of 5+ years. There is a lot I have always counted on to stay the same here, but I can’t depend on sameness anymore.

I am sure that everyone goes through this, that there is always a jarring moment of realization that childhood is over and your friends stopped being kids a long time ago. But for me, this clarity is all the scarier because their changing means that I’m changing, except I don’t know what I’m changing into or who I want to be. I don’t even know who I am right now. Kennedy told me last spring that she was terrified of me losing track of my own identity. She could feel me slipping away. I don’t remember what I told her, but I’m sure it was defensive. No one wants to admit that they’re not in control who of they’re turning into and that they can’t even decipher for themselves who they are anymore. Every now and then, I blink and I can no longer differentiate between my public persona and my private self. Everything I write is the truth but taken together, it rings perfectly false. This sounds ridiculous but I’ll write an entry that is completely honest and by morning, I won’t be able to recognize the girl who chose those words so carefully the night before. Depending on my mood, my blog is at times entirely too truthful and simultaneously not frank enough. It’s a piece of me, a very imperfect piece that has recently only displayed the frivolous and flighty and sexually flamboyant part of myself. And it is far, far from enough, but I just don’t remember how to voice anything else anymore. That’s why this is all very troubling. Being home is the only time I really feel like I’m just “me” with no footnotes or explanations but if my friends aren’t “them” anymore, well then who the hell am I?

Right now, I am not only removed from Harvard but also removed from everyone I’m involved with. It brings a lot of clarity to the table. I’m beginning to get sick of how one-dimensional I seem online. I was much more honest when I first began writing this thing. I reveal a hell of a lot less about my personal life nowadays and when I do address relationships, I talk about guys I couldn’t give a damn about. It is a world’s difference from last fall when I blogged my heartache and panic practically in real time. But I got sick fast of letting everyone witness the shit show that was my life and when I’m honest, everyone looks ugly, most of all myself, so I stopped painting such thorough portraits. Lorna, my friend from California, told me that the ugly parts of my blog are what keeps it real. “This isn’t a fairy tale,” she said. But how can I help it? I didn’t like the weak, teary, helpless mess I was when I started this blog so when I stopped caring about the criticism or Aidan and grew stronger and prouder, I moved on. I don’t cry anymore. And the rare times when I do, I don’t write about it.

The tears came at a price I don’t want to pay ever again and right now, I’m doing so well that I don’t want to fuck it up. By “so well” I don’t even really mean that well; I’m fine, just fine but it is a state that was formerly unimaginable. So I’m sorry that I no longer take risks, because breaking down scares me and I don’t want to think hard about the things that hurt. I’m sorry to my readers, even more sorry to myself, because despite the divisive attitudes about my blog, what everyone seems to agree with is that it does take a high degree of vulnerability to do this well. I don’t think I’m doing this well anymore. I can barely admit nowadays that someone’s hurt me and I am too scared of screwing up other people’s lives to write honestly about mine.It’s easy to judge people based on filtered information so trust me when I say that this is not the whole story. The truth? This is part of it: I spent my Christmas night telling Mark’s girlfriend what happened between us in July. He met me my freshman spring and we’ve hooked up sporadically since, except she’s been around for over a year and I didn’t have any idea she existed.

Here’s another part: the only person in my family who knows about my blog is my little sister and I’m terrified that she hates me for the reputation I left behind in high school. It kills me when people ask whether she looks up to me, her big sister who goes to Harvard, and I know that she is probably more embarrassed than anything else.

More truth: My friends have known for months how uncomfortable I am about Sam, the ex who posted naked photographs on me online. He spent the past eight months leaving harassing comments on my blogs and trying to contact me through email, IMs, text messages, and phone calls. I realized at the end of our relationship that he was a compulsive liar and emotional manipulator, but I never wrote about that part of him because I wanted to forget as quickly as possible that he existed. Sam left such a bad taste in my mouth that it was only recently that I stopped changing the subject whenever my friends mentioned him.

But not even that experience fucked me up as much as Riley, the guy I went out with briefly last April only to discover he had been dating an old friend of mine for almost three months. Riley was my year at Harvard and as well-adjusted as you could get for the Ivy League.A mutual pal introduced him to me as the nicest guy he knew. He was refreshingly laidback and had a great sense of humor. He made my heart race before he kissed me even though I had stopped getting excited about this sort of thing a long time ago. When I found out that he was screwing around another girl’s back with me and when I found out just who she was, that was when things really changed, when I really changed. I started to think that there was something wrong with me.

It’s not that I don’t believe in love anymore. I just don’t believe in love for myself. I’ve started to think of it as something for other people, for my best friend Joanna who’s probably marrying her boyfriend someday, for CeCe who found it in Hanover, New Hampshire of all places, for my beautiful blockmates, for Jason, for Kennedy. Actually, all of my best friends — the pair in college and the pair back home — are in love at this moment. And the fact that I’m not even close to it, that I have such bad luck that I have ended more relationships this year as the other woman than I’ve started in all of college … well, it’s a little hard to believe that there isn’t a curse over my head.

And then there is this ridiculous perfectionism that has me thinking what I’ve written is not good enough or honest enough, that I can do better and all in all, life is just peachy in the sense that I am still standing but it is not quite what it should be, not yet. 2007 has been pretty incredible, but at the end of it all, I’m not sure I like who I’ve become and I’m not sure that I can be the writer I want to be if I keep plowing on ignorantly and without focus or introspection. Things have changed so much in 12 months and I have accomplished a lot but I am not happy with myself and I’m terrified something is going to go wrong. I can’t help but wonder what will happen if I ever fall in love, if my mom finds out about this blog, if one day I fuck up in even greater proportions than I already have multiple times over the past year. There is a lot about my life that is not normal and not okay and simply not healthy; and no matter how much I insist that it’s not because I write this blog, some portion of the blame — probably the larger portion — does fall on it. I am scared that I am changing for the worse, that I am losing my focus when it comes to writing, and most of all, that the incredible progress I’ve made in terms of my mental and emotional health has its costs. A year’s time. And what’s the difference? I don’t cry over guys, I don’t waste my time, and I don’t give a damn about what people think. I really don’t. Harder, better, faster, stronger just like Kanye says. Criticism doesn’t affect me; nothing hurts anymore. I’m unapologetic about my actions and I consider all men taken until proven single.

So there you have it. My truly fucked up relationships? My fear of never being loved? My overwhelming cynicism and dissatisfaction with myself? That’s the truth. And there’s more. The whole story is a lot sadder, a lot angrier, and a lot more surprising than you might expect. But I can’t tell it all, not yet at least, because as much as people say that they admire me for my honesty, the truth is that there are plenty of things even I am too scared to acknowledge with words.

I’ll be in San Francisco by Saturday morning. I’ll want to write something on my blog about the places I go or the people I meet. I’ll want to treat this trip as an adventure. But I’m going to resist the urge and save my words rather than waste them on something unworthy. I’m going to take a break, figure out if what I want to write and who I want to be are reconcilable goals. I’m going to live life blogless for a little while, indefinitely. I’ll keep on writing but not here, not publicly. Maybe I’ll resurrect this thing after Switzerland at the end of January. Maybe I’ll wait for an appropriate occasion (Valentine’s?) for a dramatic comeback. I don’t know. I really don’t want to do this, but what I want to do even less is to keep writing and living without consequence. I’ve changed a lot in a year, for the better, for the worse. I’m no longer afraid of being hated and I don’t even think I’m scared of never being loved, but if someone is going to hate me or love me, then they might as well do so for who I really am. If I’m going to defend this thing to death, then I better damn well know what I’m defending. I owe myself that much.

Good luck on your resolutions (I’ll be working on mine),

Lena

If you want to get in touch in the meantime, all the resources you need are on the sidebar or under contact. Pictures, quotes, inspirations will be here, but no original writing.

A History of Depression

Filed under: All About Elle, Depression — Elle November 5, 2006 @ 5:14 pm

Before I left Los Angeles for Cambridge over a year ago, my best friend told me that Harvard might finally be my chance to get help. I have struggled on-and-off with bouts of depression all my life, but I never deemed these occasional periods of discontent serious enough to warrant medical attention. I never thought my family needed to know how badly I needed help. I never believed that others should get involved. Besides, even though some days of my early adolescence were impossible to get through, I was for the most part okay. According to my transcript, I was better than okay. These intermittent rough patches were but momentary lapses in an otherwise flawless existence.

It wasn’t until recently that I finally sought help for an ailment a lifetime in the making. I was a decade late but I had to start somewhere. The Bureau of Study Counsel was as good a place as any. So a few weeks ago, I booked an appointment with the only name I knew there. He came with the recommendation of two friends.

At the time, I was doing wonderfully – at least on paper. I was taking five classes, working three internships, and comping two organizations while heavily involved in two others. It was overambitious, but I had the time and energy to do it all. I even went to office hours twice a week. I was on top of things. I was in control.

It was a much better start to the year than the disconnect that dominated my freshman fall. My lack of academic direction then was only exacerbated by a major heartbreak which left me unable to concentrate on anything remotely productive for the rest of the year. I spent the next nine months drinking, fucking, and partying as much as possible. Academics were just an excuse to be in college. Weekends were an excuse to forget the other five days.

But this summer, I changed. I dated a guy who was remarkably good at being a boyfriend. I started talking to my mother about everything. I became fascinated by finance, discovered a knack for PR, and started compiling writing opportunities. I was more focused, more stable, and more self-sufficient than I had been in over a year, than I had been possibly my whole life. In the days before I left California, I was never more confident in my newfound ability to keep it together. This year, I promised myself, I would not fall apart.

And at first, I didn’t. My personality remained the same — as fun-loving and outrageous as ever — but I acted with much more responsibility. Though I went out every Thursday through Saturday, I didn’t drink for the wrong reasons, entertain random hookups, or skip classes. My friends took notice of the new me almost immediately. The difference was palpable.

What didn’t change was my apparent predisposition for depression. For all the progress I had made, biology and learned response remained unaltered by a summer at home. The trigger came three weeks into school after a rough night followed by a rougher morning. The blog was exploding just as my personal life was imploding. For a tense 24-hour period, I was certain that there would be no end to the profound hopelessness that consumed me. It was then that this newly put-together Lena decided it was time to seek solutions to the problem that plagued her entire life.

I went to the Bureau of Study Counsel once before switching over to a therapist at Mental Health Services on the recommendation of my sophomore adviser. My problems are not academic and the concept of exam anxiety is laughable when compared to my life anxiety. I realize these biweekly therapy sessions can only do so much, but for me I think it might just be enough. All year, I have found myself unable to cry, too scared to succumb to emotion. On Friday morning, my voice cracked in front of my therapist and though I swallowed back my tears, I didn’t feel unsafe for the first time in a long while.

I am writing this entry now because I lost part of that safety yesterday morning when I woke up certain that a trigger had gone off. The entire day, I skimmed the surface of sanity, wondering when it would okay to let myself cry, whether I would ever be able to let my guard down and experience sadness without letting it consume me.

I explained to my blockmates that I couldn’t bring myself to write last night because I was afraid I’d break down in the process. Just as I expected, they said, “It’s okay to break down sometimes.” These girls, my best friends here, mean well but they cannot even begin to understand that for me, “breaking down” is a scary, intense, and crippling process. A good cry could lead to consequences I am not prepared to deal with. In the midst of all my commitments and responsibilities, I cannot afford to let myself fall apart. I don’t know how long it would take to put myself back together again.

This is a journey that will take many more morning sessions on the fourth floor of UHS. Despite the productive weeks that past without incident, there are moments that surface in between, that make living almost unbearable. There are times when I feel myself slipping, days like yesterday when I can hardly get out of bed and venturing beyond Mather might as well be a pipe dream. On these occasions, just getting by takes too much effort. On these occasions, mornings are lost to oversleeping, afternoons to sluggishness, and evenings to plots of mischief meant solely to distract from the nagging discomfort at the back of my head. I screen phone calls from my closest friends and leave text messages unanswered. Lifting my head to acknowledge my roommates is itself an exhausting task. On these occasions, I feel so utterly alone and yet there is nothing more I’d like than to be left alone. On these occasions, I am so incapable of tackling even simple conversation that life seems like an impossibly ambitious endeavor.

I don’t know if what I need is a pill. I don’t know if what I need is a conversation. What I do know is that the waiting game I’ve played for 19 years has been largely ineffective. I will never be happy if I keep deluding myself into believing that my problems can be fixed by chick flicks and ice cream. I am not feeling blue. I didn’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I am not having a bad day. My whole life has been one long series of bad days. I am struggling with depression — a case less devastating than Plath’s, less medicated than Wurtzel’s, but every bit as intimidating and debilitating.

The truth is that I have never loved writing frivolous things. 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 read “The Bell Jar” at age 14 and felt like this woman, dead and buried decades ago, was the first person who ever understood me. I read “Prozac Nation” at 15 and I cried as much for Wurtzel as I did for myself. These are the women I admire and relate to, not Carrie Bradshaw. This blog may not be a literary masterpiece but I like to think that there are moments when I write something that resonates with others in a similar manner.

People believe because of this website that my sense of self is so overinflated that I am unable to see beyond bedroom mishaps and therapy of the retail variety. They believe I have the luxury of being vain and superficial, that courting fame is akin to a carefree existence, that stilettos and flings must make life damn charming. What they don’t understand is that I am trying so hard to keep it together, that I have only recently begun to seek help, that I consider my appointments at Mental Health Services to be monumental and possibly lifesaving. Sometimes, people surprise me with their own history of depression, and maybe I’m surprising you. Or maybe I’m not. I don’t wear a sign around my neck that says I am depressed, that informs others of a past eating disorder, that reveals my resentment toward my father … and even my mother. Unless people dig hard, it is easy to overlook the fact that I have my own problems and issues, that I am just as or even more susceptible to stress and pain as the next person, that life — though often portrayed as a constant party — is also difficult and challenging and just plain depressing sometimes.

The Truth About My Sex Life

Filed under: Aidan, All About Elle, Berklee, JB, Sex, Sue, Terra, ZAP — Elle October 30, 2006 @ 3:16 am

Last week at Winthrop Stein Club, someone I met called me a “sex goddess.” Quite the compliment considering that he’s never so much as seen the inside of my bedroom. But I suppose he was making an educated remark, considering that I do write a sex blog after all. Unfortunately, he and most other people have no idea just how stale my sex life is. Other than my roommates, who are privy to what (and who) goes down, no one knows that I’m gunning for Santa’s nice list this year.

The common perception among readers seems to be that I have an uncommonly active and satisfying sex life, that I’m a tiger in the sack, and that I’m always up for more action. If only. While freshman girls have called me their “hero,” “idol,” and “role model” (actual quotes!), the truth is that my sophomore self really hasn’t done anything — or anyone — worth emulating. Believe it or not, my sex life is actually really boring.

I have had sex maybe five times in the past two months, possibly less but definitely not more. The number of partners? A grand total of two, one of whom is Berklee (an ex who really shouldn’t count because we slept together in the most platonic manner ever). Promiscuous? Hardly. Everyone seems to think that my hypothetical bedpost has been whittled down to nothing when it is actually several notches short of scandalous.

What’s even more unbelievable is that I haven’t even indulged in the occasional casual hookup. Apparently, kissing with tongue has became a huge deal to me, because I can no longer handle friendly lip-to-lip action, even when drunk. I’ve turned down every single guy who’s tried to hook up with me this semester, Aidan included. Call me a control freak, but I only let things happen on my own terms. This wasn’t last year’s mindset. Making out with someone never caused such a fuss before, yet the only person I’ve kissed without hesitation so far is the ever-sexy Miss Sue and I don’t think she counts.

Public hookups were my freshman forte, but kissing someone mid-dance floor now seems inconceivable. I don’t even grind with guys anymore. The only dance partners I’m comfortable getting dirty with are either gay (Rody), platonic (ZAP), or so-not-an-option (one of Aidan’s roommates) that my vagina doesn’t feel threatened. In fact, I’ve noticed that I purposely avoid situations where someone might try to hook up with me. Alone with a boy in his bedroom? Rare. Alone with a boy in mine? Never. When did I become such a prude?

Just about the only nights I do have sex are weekends, and usually I’m several sheets to the wind (i.e. drunk). Alcohol is my aphrodisiac, sad to say. Without it, I’d be hopeless. Maybe I have performance anxiety, but I’m just not particularly confident in my sexual prowess when sober, nor am I keen on initiating. But thanks to the liberating effects of liquid courage, I pounce without shame. I’m also much louder than usual — great for my partner, not so great for his roommates or my red-faced self come morning. I never had problems with summoning my inner minx before. Could it be that I’ve actually developed a sense of modesty? It’s a shame.

My blockmates are the ones who should really be writing a sex blog. They’re doing far better in bed than I am. One pal’s still in the honeymoon period with her new boyfriend so I can only imagine the ferocity with which they hook up. JB’s informed me that his sex sessions with the BU beau are quite … vocal. Hell, even Terra’s pulled crazier shit than I have this year. The Brit’s publicly made out with not one but two young gents from a certain club that will remain nameless.

What’s worse than my lack of activity is my lack of desire. Usually, I’m not horny at all. My sexual appetite has been crushed under the heavy weight of my extracurricular commitments. Sleep, not sex, is the prevailing desire nowadays. Even if I’ve got company in bed, I’m more apt to cuddle than I am to fuck. At the end of the night, who has the energy to engage in multi-hour romps when last-minute reading awaits in the morning?

So I guess my point is that my sex life is more myth than truth. To the girls out there: you’re probably better off looking up to one of my blockmates. And to the guys: sorry, I’m afraid I have an early section.

Next Page >>>