Today is the 30th Anniversary of My Graduation From College #MentalHealthAwareness

On this date, 30 long years ago, I graduated from Marymount University with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science. May 3, 1992.

I remember the day in little flashes. I was remaining on campus for the summer months, working at the University’s conference center and preparing to head to Louisiana in the fall to begin graduate school. I was relieved to graduate, but pretty sure that I wasn’t really meant for graduate school – still, there was no other choice. Or at least none that made sense to me.

I was terrified. I could see nothing definitive ahead of me. Did I want to teach? Did I want to be a lawyer? Did I have the energy to keep running away from the darkness of my childhood? So I stuffed all the down and focused on taking photos with my friends at the ceremony and then moving the contents of my door room across campus. We went out for a lovely dinner at a very fancy restaurant – the sort that doesn’t print the prices on the menus of anyone except the Dad.

Flurries of good-byes ensued, promises to keep in touch. And that was that. I was graduated.

Now I’m on the far side of my life span and still very much using those hard fought political science skills. I’m a political blogger, I’m co-chair of the Pittsburgh LGBTQIA+ Commission, I’m a woman and queer person staring down the barrel of the dismantling of Roe v Wade. My wife is a City employee of more than 23 years so a lot of dinner conversation is about municipal and state affairs.

I was exhibiting symptoms of my mental illness throughout college and before. The precipice of graduation and the void looming after commencement were part of those untreated symptoms. I got a lot from my college experience, but help with my mental health was not one of those things. While I knew intuitively that graduate school was not the right place for me, it was only at LSU that I finally was able to access the student health center, therapy, and medication.

So I stumbled into a support system, as if my unconscious mind was steering me to the path that was an unlikely opportunity to get help.

30 years later, I’m still learning about my mental health and working to manage my symptoms. It is not easy. I guess though that it has also been 30 years since I saw my first therapist in October 1992. That hadn’t occured to me until I wrote this.

That seed of hope helps me as I reel from the SCOTUS news about dismanting Roe v Wade. I’m scared. I’m weary so mustering up for a battle feels overwhelming. But I could realistically be writing another post 30 years from now, hopefully, I guess. So let me mark this moment as a day where I feel connected to that young woman graduating from college and that woman down the road whom I haven’t yet met.

I won’t say it is hope or optimism so much as an acknowledgement that survival in innate to my DNA. Hopefully, I guess.

One good thing is that thanks to Facebook, I am in touch with quite a few of my Marymount friends. And this photo is of my dear friend BJ. She is the first person who ever recognized how much I was suffering and tried to get help for me. We’ve had a million adventures since then, but I will never forget that specific support. She followed me through the bowls of our dormitory as I ranted and kept quietly insisting. She kept coming for me. I turned around and she was there. That’s how she is in adult life, too.

Marymount University graduation
Me and BJ, May 3, 1992. College graduation.

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