All posts tagged: mental illness

Butterfly at the Museum of Natural History. Photo Credit: Jess Silfa

On (Necessary) Self Care

When I was six years old, I started seeing a therapist. There were many reasons why I was in Doctor Davis’ care—an overactive imagination, inappropriate concern for World War III, existential dread—but the majority of our sessions revolved around relaxation. He and I played this game where we would try to relax as much as possible, calling out the names of the body parts as we felt them loosen and unwind: my neck is now relaxed, my shoulders are now relaxed, now my arms. I would never get past my knees before blurting out something like, “What if Russia invades us?” And then to lighten the mood: “Do you know how hard it is to learn Russian?” Twenty-five years later I still have trouble getting myself to relax (and surprisingly I’m still worried about Russia). I didn’t change who I was when I entered the MFA. My life didn’t get magically amazing; my insecurities didn’t disappear; my neurochemistry didn’t become more typical. But that’s me. The truth is even if you’re not mentally ill, grad school is …

Nazia Jannat Introduction – Columbia University ’17

I winged my way into grad school. Yup, you heard me crystal clear. I didn’t prepare for the GRE, I took a nosedive into the process during senior year of college, my fucking submission packet fucking came in late after the fucking deadline, I only applied to 3 schools, and I definitely didn’t try for fully funded magical realms like Iowa. Instead, I poured my heart out and took a chance on the little things that made me weird. While I’m not as weird (or funny) as my role model Al Yankovic, there are still a couple of peculiarities I’m comfortable admitting.

Something Beautiful: Mental Health and the MFA

What do we talk about when we talk about depression and writing? It’s hard to begin, not least because the pairing of these topics can feel almost overly familiar. They’re a classic combo, really—a sort of burger and fries, peanut butter and jelly, Lennon and McCartney of the literary world. From The Bell Jar to Darkness Visible, writers writing about depression has become practically a trope. It’s archetypal: the tortured writer loopy at his desk, popping pills and chugging whiskey. But ultimately, my story isn’t about an archetype. It’s about me, and as my struggle with mental illness collides with my MFA experience, there is no well-trod trajectory for what will happen next. I’m just weeks away from starting my graduate program at Temple University, and I’m doing so while grappling with severe depressive symptoms. Think hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, excessive fatigue, and spontaneous tears. These are pieces of who I am right now, and, like it or not, they’re probably coming with me when I hit the North Philadelphia pavement next month. I’ll be teaching …