I am a Senior in Political Science with an emphasis in political strategy and minor in communications. I have been diagnosed with a million things, but the latest is Major Depression Disorder, Severe Generalized Anxiety, Moderate social anxiety, and ADHD. I also have moderate scoliosis in my back and degenerative disc disease, I am also currently going through the process of being diagnosed with a neurological disorder. And I am replying to this, in hope of helping someone else. I also release all my words for publication. Also, please let me know if you need anymore information.
It felt like BYU didn’t WANT to help me. Until my husband or I pushed for something, then BYU HAD to help me.
I originally didn’t know that there were accommodations for people with mental illness until my friend at BYU-I suggested it, because she got some for ADHD. I made an appointment, but it took me weeks to get in. By the time I got in my mental health was a wreck. I came in crying and hyperventilating with doctors’ notes and he still tried to push me into having less accommodations. I was at a breaking point, and I finally got the accommodations that I so desperately needed.
Not at first, but as time went on yes. I initially saw an “intern”, who tried to tell me it was in my head and wasn’t following my health very well. Then I requested a change to an actual counselor, that’s when things get tricky. At this point my health digressed and I was only able to get an appointment once a month or sometimes every other month. He also didn’t seem to keep track of my progress, as I felt I had to constantly re-explain what was going on, and he very rarely got to the tools, or behavioral actions I use to help myself. Next, I tried Biofeedback and loved my one on one appointments! This was about once a week, until over the summer; it became months. This is when I finally turned to an outside counselor in Sandy, UT for help, because I didn’t know what else to do. CAPS was not equipped to help those with long term serious illness, but more for seasonal depression, or test anxiety.
With my diseases being invisible, it was difficult with some professors to get them to recognize my diseases. But in reality, I had the hardest time at BYUSA. I was an executive director in Clubs and seemed that my health was always completely dismissed. It got to a point where I was asking for extensions from professors because of my health, because my BYUSA executives wouldn’t give me the support or help that I needed. BYUSA was the least understanding of every facet of BYU, of my invisible diseases.
I had some amazing professors though. All of them were hesitant, but once they saw I was a dedicated student who just needed a little help, they were happy too. Some of these professors were Michael Barber, Quin Monson, Tyler Griffin, Chris Karpowitz, and many more I thank God for. Some professors even went beyond the call of duty of the letter, in counseling me and being extra flexible with me.
Students really didn’t know or understand. I was an actress for five years with a tough sister and mom; so I knew how to hide it. My husband was even shocked to discover the actual physical ramifications of my “invisible” disease. So, if someone discovered that the reason, I went to the bathroom was to get sick because of my anxiety; they were shocked to see how well I pulled it off. Students, especially members of the Church, looked at me as a weak link or liability especially in classes and group projects. I guess its because they didn’t care if “I was sad today”, or “if I just couldn’t push through the pain”, in the end it was about results and their grades.
Physical campus was very very hard on me. I couldn’t walk because of back pain and chronic fatigue, so we would park and there was only parking at the RB after 9am. There were many days where I considered skipping class while standing at the bottom of those steps, because I just didn’t know if I could do it. Some days my husband would half carry me up the steps, so I could just make it to class on time. Many days my husband had to convince the security guard at the Hinckley Center to let him drop me off because I was in so much pain. The pain of being on campus, made it that much more difficult for my brain to want to go to school at all.
Social aspects were minimal. Due to all the above reasons, I had very little social life on campus. It became physically, mentally, and emotionally scarring to be on campus; because it didn’t feel safe. I had no safe haven on campus (except the UAC lab in the library towards the end of my time there). There was no room I could step into and study in, to find relief from the anxiety. There wasn’t always somewhere to sit, so I found myself sitting on the stairs or floor, to avoid passing out or pain. I didn’t have a safe place on campus, it seemed like no matter where I was, I was being judged.
An extra point I want to make that I am very passionate about. I had a professor who taught a GE class, and taught the class well. So well, that the school asked him to make it harder on the students and to make it more demanding. I also heard about this with religion classes, which in my mind were supposed to be there to help me grow spiritually, not academically. This made me weep, because I realized BYU wasn’t there to help me learn, but to stay competitive. Here I was, pushing through everyday and there were departments that were being asked to make my life harder. They say enter to learn and go forth to serve, but I learned very little outside of fear while at BYU.
Somedays the only reason I stayed at BYU was because of the devotionals, I absolutely loved them, and they made me feel safe and cared for. However, I didn’t feel that way during forums and would have liked them all to be devotionals and forums be a separate time.
I came to a breaking point in October of 2018. I had dropped all extracurriculars and had just school and was barely full-time. However, in October I got so close to the edge of suicide that my husband and I decided to send me back home to regain a feeling of safety and health. After hearing about the suicide on campus, I cried for days because I knew how she felt, and I wish I could have gotten her somewhere safe and I thanked God for my family who protected me from that. I still cannot work on school for longer than an hour without severe repercussions, because of the trauma I experienced at BYU. However, I have had certain friends stand by me and some wonderful teachers who are allowing me to finish school from home, not pushing. I also know that some of this is part of my illnesses, but I also know that something had to trigger these reactions. I love BYU, but if a friend of mine with a disability asked if they should go. My answer would be a resounding, no.
I did have amazing experiences at BYU though. I met my husband and some of the most loyal friends. I was able to travel to DC for a weekend to network on scholarship. I was able to serve those who needed it. I was also able to feel the Spirit so strongly sometimes.
I have come to peace with my time at BYU and will walk in April. I really hope you can see the good things I pointed out as well.