Initially, I joined it to help people like myself—people whose rough transition into and experience of college was only compounded by their mental illnesses. I joined it to become the very person I needed, figuring that if I couldn’t find that support for myself, I may as well help to provide it for others.
But, after only one training, I quickly discovered something: a community that I never knew existed. I had entered not only a classroom, but a safe space. A place where I could reference my therapist, my depression, or my anxiety without the bat of an eye, and without a single judgment—in fact, usually with nods of compassion or laughs of understanding. PL, I found, is a place where you are allowed to have a hard time. Where “I can’t get out of bed in the morning” or “I’m self-destructing from stress” is not considered “some flimsy excuse.” A place that doesn’t make fun of “trigger warnings.” A place where everyone takes seriously your need to heal, and will never call you lazy for prioritizing yourself over your work, because everyone understands that need. There was a comfort that I had never felt before in this newfound sense of camaraderie.
At home, in high school, even in the first few months of Georgetown before I joined, I never could have imagined that mental illness touched so many people. Hearing that “you’re not alone” is incredibly different from feeling it—and feel it I did, and still do. Though not everyone chooses to share their story, there is an unspoken understanding among trainees and trainers alike that we are all here for somehow related reasons, that we all intimately share some secret identity.
For me, PL was not just about learning the skills to listen and to comfort. It was about changing my world view. While I’m aware that my struggles are still uniquely my own, I’m now also aware that there is a whole group of people I can reach out to who can empathize, not only in Georgetown but in all walks and reaches of life. I am so thankful to have found this organization, to have found my niche, and to have found a new confidence with myself.