I have spent seven very long, very difficult and very wonderful years walking the Mizzou campus. As I finish up my graduate programs, I think about my time that I have spent at this university and how different my life has become since I arrived in August 2007. Many who know me know about my struggles with mental illness. I have had obsessive-compulsive disorder since I was 7 years old, and at 21, I was also diagnosed with severe recurring major depressive disorder. It was also at 21, while an undergraduate student at Mizzou, that I wanted nothing more than to end my life.
If you knew me during this time, you would not have known that I was suffering. I went to class, did my homework, and I was involved on campus. I had a stellar résumé. I was a peer educator with the Wellness Resource Center, I was a part of Active Minds, I did undergraduate research, I volunteered in the community, and I even received one of the Chancellor’s Excellence Awards in 2010.
These things sound like I could instantly land a job, but I did not care about my future; I did not want one. I was trying to distract myself from my worsening depression and obsession with ending my life. My reality started each day with me lying in the shower hopeful that I would somehow drown, and it ended with me praying that the god I believed in would have mercy on me and let me die in my sleep. It was during my third and fourth years of college that my depression took over my life, and my thoughts of suicide were endless.
When I came to Mizzou as a bright-eyed freshman with plans for a 4.0 and to one day become a doctor, I had no idea that things would turn out as they did. At 18, I had no idea that one day I would plan my own death. Most of all, I had no idea that I would eventually have to admit to myself that I could not manage my mental illness without treatment.
Mizzou did not fail me in my time of need. I was involuntarily committed during my fourth year of college for suicide observation. After my release from the hospital, I sent a short but honest email to each of my professors that semester, and I was shocked at the responses. One of my professors even admitted to me that they were once suicidal as well, but they learned to love life, and they wanted me to know that it can get better. These kind and genuine emails gave me hope after such a hopeless period in my life. Those professors still have no idea, but they played a part in saving my life. Also, after my release, I began to see a counselor at the MU Counseling Center, who did more for me in a year than other doctors did in six years.
I remember when I decided to attend Mizzou, and my parents discouraged me because of the size. “You will be just a number, Sarah. An anonymous face in a large crowd.” I wish I could go back and tell them that it would have been a mistake to go anywhere else. I have watched Mizzou become a closer family in the past seven years, and it gives me hope. When my mental illness was at its worst, the family at Mizzou helped me to understand that I was not alone and that I had a support system that I did not know existed until I was in need.
For those of you who struggle for whatever reason, I urge you to seek help. Mizzou is full of resources and they are there to be used. Those resources can be terrifying at first, but they can be life changing. Getting help was not easy, but after I did it, I finished college with a couple of bachelor’s degrees, and I ended up going on to work on a couple of master’s. I did not get a 4.0, and I am not going to be a doctor, but I can admit that I am lucky I had people here who cared about my life. A potentially very sad story turned out to be one that ends in another proud Mizzou graduate who is excited and ready to hear more stories of how great the amazing family at Mizzou can be. My challenge to this campus as I prepare to leave is to tell the people in your life on this campus that you care about them. You never know, it might just save their life. If you need a friend to go with you to the Counseling Center, send me an email. We're family, and I would love to be there for you.
— Sarah Nussbaum,