My friend coined this one, speaking about a young adult who didn’t show up for a study group at college and started drinking at 11a instead. Why do college kids day drink, wake and bake, and fail? Why do they suicide, black out and wind up in rehab? This is serious folks. Boys get arrested for sexual assault on campus. Girls go home with PTSD. The fun and games of high school are over. There are serious consequences to blowing up college. Pay attention!

We know the obvious reasons for such issues: a family history, lack of support, too much freedom, lack of supervision, poor judgment, teen brain, etc.  There are also not enough mental health programs at colleges.  Yes it has improved over the years after various sport team sex scandals, etc.  However, short-term therapy is not necessarily enough on campus.  There need to be programs of help and awareness, support groups and prevention education for brewing addictions.  At my alma mater, for example, they have a large peer-to-peer counseling program which is a top model in the nation.  More like this should be replicated and well-funded (SUNY-Albany, “Middle Earth”).

Of course it’s a no-brainer for a university to PREVENT suicide rather than to react afterwards. Prevention is known to be tricky because it’s difficult to screen kids for depression and suicide.  Nevertheless when high schoolers are into “13 Reasons Why” and other morose media depictions of life and death, it’s no wonder that when they get to college there are profound problems. Kids of this age ask themselves, “What is my purpose?”, but also, they require self-care and common sense understanding of warning behaviors.  Building study breaks and special chairs and snacks into college life is cute, but much more is needed.

  • I had a client yesterday who was going around and around in a relationship that wouldn’t stick.  So frustrated, she was pulling her hair out and crying that she finally fixed her anxiety, now why wouldn’t this guy make a move?!  Just because you get help doesn’t mean you can stop!  She was looking for clues in her past as to why guys won’t commit. Or why she picks guys who won’t commit.  Or why guys just can’t commit. While these all may be helpful, sometimes there is no way to figure it out unless you push for it.  Or just stick with the ambiguity for a while.  So I encouraged her to tell the guy yet again how she feels.  “But he’ll simply repeat himself, saying that it’s too dangerous because we work together.”  Well maybe yes and maybe no, but at least you’ll know where you stand.  Isn’t that better than sitting around in despair?
  • Another client reported that she couldn’t get herself to study for an all-important test.  Well pretend you’re a robot, I said.  It doesn’t matter how you feel about it.  Just do it.  Get the piece of paper first, worry later.  But she ended up with so much worry and stress she didn’t even make it through the door.  She had to reschedule. This kind of avoidance and panic leads to more avoidance and panic (What if it happens again?).  The only way to get through these kinds of tests that our society is so fond of is to “just do it.”  Just do it even IF you feel anxious.  Do it anyway!

Here are three ways to make it through tough times, especially during FINALS!

  1.  Life is not a final exam.  Your are more than that!  You are not your tests.  But show up anyway.  It’s the game of life to get through these things.  Study up and pretend you wrote the test.  Answer how you think they want it, not how you think you want it.  Cancel out all unnecessary answers and get it down to two.  Choose and breathe.  Go slowly.  Check your work.  Once my very bright daughter did great on a test only to find out she messed up the bubbles.  Check again.  Tell yourself you will get a manicure after.  Your grades will be your ticket out.  Stay focused on you.  Your friends can wait.
  2. If you drink alone or to the point of blacking out on a regular basis, you have a problem.  If you have a family history of substance or alcohol abuse, you have a problem.  Seek help early and often.  Otherwise you will sabotage your education and handicap yourself for years to come.  I have a young adult client who is a performer who self-medicates before shows with alcohol just like lots of rock stars do.  This doesn’t work.  It so clearly and obviously doesn’t work.  Find another way.
  3. Take a risk to show up and try new things.  It is in the trying and even failing that you learn your strength and confidence.  You are not perfect.  Trying teaches you that life is tricky, unfair and even cruel.  Keep trying.  It gives you resilience and coping skills you didn’t even know you had, like getting through a hard situation.  Then you have that as a reference point for future challenges: I tried, I failed, I picked myself up and tried again. There is no other way out than through.  I’m not talking about tough love.  I’m talking about hard work.

So don’t ghost yourself: show up.