By KEVIN MEISELMAN
Student at Quinnipiac University ’20
I struggle with mental illness. There, I said it.
I was eight years old when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Even with a supportive family and all the resources in the world to get the help that I needed, my childhood consisted of mood swings, temper tantrums, crying spells, and social anxiety that crippled me from functioning in school. My struggles got so bad that in eighth grade, I’d wake up terrified of public middle school and the 600 people that, in my eyes, thought I was the weirdest person on the face of the earth. On the days I did go to school, it would rarely be without crying in some counselors’ office. I’ll never forget the one day I sprinted out of math class. I really was trying to keep it together. The room was spinning around me, then it felt like it was collapsing, and then I just couldn’t take it anymore. I ran into the bathroom, slammed the stall behind me, sat down and started crying my eyes out. I had never felt so trapped. After a while, the teacher came looking for me and told me I had been gone for twenty minutes, and all I did was keep crying. I had to be dragged out of the bathroom. Later that afternoon, my mom picked me up, for what was probably the 50th time that year.
The final months of eighth grade were not pleasant. I was excused from school for all of May and June, and didn’t show up to my graduation. I spent much of my time with therapists, psychiatrists, and educational consultants who tried to find the right boarding school for me. Yes, even I knew that was the only choice. Public high school with 2,000 kids was certainly not a viable option, and the private schools in the area were either far too competitive or far too remedial for me at the time. My parents and I eventually found a tiny boarding school in Kent, Connecticut with only 150 kids; The Marvelwood School. I wasn’t 100% sure that going there would work out for me, but I knew I had to try, and for that I’ll always give myself credit.
That September, at the age of 14, I had left all my comforts of home behind. I had never seen my dad cry until the day he and my mom dropped me off. I cried too, the second they left. How was I supposed to leave my best friend? My coach for years. The one who took me to countless sporting events and was right there for the best memories of my life. And my mom. Every time I thought the world was going to end and I’d cry until no more tears were left, my mom was there, assuring me that things would get better. From my first therapy sessions as a young child, to every new psychiatrist we’d look to for help, my mom was right there next to me. She gave me that tiny glimpse of hope during my darkest days. But I left anyway. I left it all behind. My family, my friends, my four dogs, because I knew it was my best shot to live a happy, healthy and productive life.
I wish I could tell you that right when I got to Marvelwood, everything was perfect and all my problems went away. But that didn’t happen. Not even close. It was a love-hate relationship from the beginning to the end, but I can attribute most of my current happiness and my ability to function in college to the life lessons I learned from some of the faculty there. They weren’t just teachers. They were supporters, and I needed that more than anything in the world. The students there, the ones I liked at least, weren’t judgmental. They were good people who had problems of their own, and some of them are still close friends to this day. Ultimately, my four years away at boarding school taught me how to analyze my feelings, manage my stress and my triggers and prevent them from turning into severe moments of rage or long periods of depression. I picked up tools that I still use as a senior in college, and that I’ll probably use for the rest of my life. Knowing what I know now, spending four years at that little school was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. Now I’m finishing up my senior year at Quinnipiac University, and I am using what I’ve learned as a journalism major to do everything I can to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Truth is one of humanity’s most powerful tools. When well-intended, truth can change lives, and in some cases, save them.
Truth is one of humanity’s most powerful tools. When well-intended, truth can change lives, and in some cases, save them. I’ve seen this first hand, as a mental health advocate and the creator and host of the mental health podcast, Behind the Mind. This show’s mission is to raise mental health awareness and reduce stigma, by interviewing guests who have experienced their own struggles. I’ve shared my story for the world to see many times and through many different mediums. The response I’ve gotten from friends, family and strangers has been overwhelming. People are constantly opening up to me about their mental health struggles now, and telling me that my content helps them feel a little bit better about what they are dealing with.
If my truth is powerful enough to make others more comfortable with theirs, then why wouldn’t I keep sharing it?
Kevin Meiselman is a class of 2020 graduate of Quinnipiac University’s School of Communications. While pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism, Kevin raised mental health awareness at his school and beyond. He is the host and creator of the mental health podcast, Behind the Mind, which features notable guests who have struggled with mental illness. As a passionate mental health advocate, Kevin’s mission in life is to use his communications skills to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and save lives.