Jamila: “My Roommate and My (Non-Existent) Boyfriend are Driving Me Crazy!”

I’m in therapy. Sort-of.

I was having trouble sleeping and concentrating, and having phantom pain (or, at least I hope it’s just phantom) in my chest. The pain started in the last few weeks and has been getting worse. After having my gallbladder removed 2 months there were no complications, but recently this pain started. I think I’m also experiencing what I suspect are extremely mild panic attacks.

So I went to the student health center to speak with counselor in the hopes the talking about my problems with a professional will be all I need to avoid having a full-fledged breakdown at some point in the future. We talked about my roommate, who has been living in my apartment for two-and-a-half months and has only managed to pay $100 in rent. Not to mention the fact that she had the nerve to be upset with me over paying me $100. As I’m a generally non-confrontational person, it took me some weeks to work up the nerve to address the situation with her and I’m sure that my reluctance to address the issue is what largely precipitated my anxiety. I didn’t want to be looked upon as a “mean” person or “bitch” for telling her that she needs to get her crap together or get out of my apartment.

To compound my struggles I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about the last guy that I was interested in. He and I decided to never speak to each other again, but not before he told me that I was too much like his ex (my “skin color,” my “height”), whom he described as a “bitch,” for us to ever be in a relationship and that his new girlfriend–now pregnant with his child–was “totally different.”

Somehow my brain wired my experience with my (present) roommate to my (past, but not too long ago) experience of having that guy putting me in the same boat as his ex. This is what the counselor told me, and as soon as my counselor said this it made perfect sense. According to Mr. Counselor, sometimes when we are experiencing a present problem the pain and anxiety of the situation will re-animate old hurts and pains where we experienced the same emotion. We may not even be aware of the connection between the past and the present, but our body and mind will know and make the connection, and this magnifies our current pain and anxiety without us knowing exactly how and why.

After having the “emergency” session with a counselor, which lasted about 45 minutes, I felt better about my problems and at least had a greater understanding of why I was feeling the way that I felt. A day or two later I spoke with my roommate about our living arrangements and also told her that she had to move out before next semester began. I feel much better, although she seems to have an attitude with me now. Oh well.

I say all of this to stress to you how important it is to seek therapy (or you can call it “counseling,” if you prefer) if you feel you may need it.

Next week I’ll have a real intake session and probably end up seeing the counselor a few more times to ensure that I work through the things that are bothering me and learn how to deal with them.

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Last week 50-year-old nanny Yoselyn Ortega injured herself after stabbing two of the three children she was responsible. Marina Krim, the mother of the two children, returned to her home on New York city’s Upper West Side with her third child, whom she had taken to a swimming lesson, to find her two children bloodied in the bathtub. Police are now reporting that Ortega began to stab herself once Ms. Krim entered the bathroom.

The Krim family had been close to Ms. Ortega, even taking a family trip to visit the nannies’ family in the Dominican Republic. As of yet, police have not been able to confirm why Ms. Ortega killed the children and no charges have been filed. No one can say for sure what caused the attack, although there has been plenty of ill-timed and offensive speculation. There is no such thing as a sufficient or valid reason to stab children to death.

The murder of the children and subsequent hospitalization of the nanny have spurred many people–not without reason–to speculate on the mental health of the nanny. Why would a middle-aged nanny decide to stab two children who adored her? I think the important thing for us outsiders to do at this moment is send our prayers to the family and to take the opportunity to shine a light on the seriousness and potential danger of mental instability.

Thank God I am nowhere near unstable enough to harm myself or children. But the point is that for many people there is never any clear sign to outsiders that the person is sick enough to commit murder–just little incidents here and there that give off a faint scent of ‘something is not quite right.’ And at the first sniff of ‘not quite right,’ a person should get some outside help is the problem continues. Outside help could be something as simple as speaking to a good friend, or in my case, going to the counseling center for two or three sessions.

Virtually everyone will be unhappy, sad, angry, or depressed at some point and the vast majority of those people will get over it without any serious repercussions. If you don’t think you are getting over it fast enough, or if you see someone else who is not getting over it fast enough, it’s OK to suggest they get some outside help and then see to it that the person follows through on your suggestion.

The Man Myth