Entries Tagged as 'Sex and Relationships'

Dark Ages: Dealing with Depression as a Millennial

3.29.2015

By Austin Fisher

On a cold January night during my sophomore year at the University of Kansas, I’m lying awake in the pitch black of my bedroom at my father’s house in Lawrence. I should be asleep but I can’t stop worrying about school, money and family issues. After hours of thinking about how hopeless life seems, my legs tangled in my sheets and my mind as active as the moment I had lain down, a thought passes through me.

“Do I have enough money in my bank account to buy a gun?”

I was disturbed by the thought because I didn’t need to articulate those that would follow. I immediately knew what I was doing; I was considering suicide. Feeling trapped alone in the darkness, I woke up my dad, told him what was happening, and we agreed that I needed to seek help.

For a year and a half leading up to that night, I had been feeling what I now understand to be symptoms of depression. I am one of over 30 percent of college students who have felt so depressed in the last year that it was difficult to function. I can tell you this story because depression no longer has a stigma attached to it, which was an obstacle to me in seeking help.

Feeling sad or alone and need help? There are many resources available to you.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255
suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Headquarters Douglas County Crisis Line:
785-841-2345
headquarterscounselingcenter.org

KU Counseling and Psychological Services (for students):
785-864-2277
caps.ku.edu

“It’s no more anybody’s fault that they have depression than if they had diabetes or other physiological issues,” says Sara Barnes, who has been practicing family counseling for 17 years. “I think that there’s been a big change in the last 10 years.” She says people—especially younger generations—are more open to talk about depression. Studies show that while most college students try deal with stress themselves, 90 percent don’t see anything wrong with seeking help. Most delay seeking clinical treatment because they feel the stress they’re experiencing is normal, they feel they could handle it on their own or with help from friends and family.

However, sometimes depression itself can prevent one from sharing their feelings. “I consider my academics to be a really big part of my identity,” says Calvert Pfannenstiel, who was diagnosed with dysthymia, a mild but chronic form of depression, along with seasonal affective disorder in June. In 2012, returning to the U.S. from a liberating summer internship in Switzerland, Pfannenstiel’s grades were floundering as he had difficulty readjusting to normal life and “the disheartening dynamics of my family,” referring to his parents’ divorce. That winter he became more reclusive, stopped going to class, slept too much and was hiding it all from professors, friends and family because he felt embarrassed about not succeeding in school. Depressive feelings that were present before the internship became amplified by a return to reality. After he opened up to his girlfriend Kayla DuBois and others close to him, he briefly entered the KU Counseling and Psychological Services program before switching to a private therapist, from whom he learned about lifestyle changes like exercise, disciplined sleep and exposure to sunlight. He also started taking 150 mg of bupropion and krill oil supplements, which contain fatty acids that help regulate his mood and prevent him from slipping into a depressive mind set.

“The difference is surprisingly noticeable when I don’t take it for a day,” he says.

Pfannenstiel admits that at one point DuBois was his sole source of happiness and pride. They have helped each other through rough patches since they met two years ago. “Calvert is one of the only people that’s never made me feel like I’m broken,” she says. Since childhood DuBois has felt depressive symptoms, but she assumed her problems weren’t worth bringing up. Her family didn’t validate her feelings and told her not to share her depression. She started seeing a therapist in November 2012, but stopped after ten months. Talk therapy isn’t for her. “Sometimes they’ll grab something that you say and go off on this tangent that wasn’t what you were getting at.” In January she moved to Austin, Texas, where her brother Ryan gave her a room of her own and got her into yoga and group anxiety therapy where she learned that it’s okay to ask for help. Caring for her infant nephew, Archer, was deeply therapeutic. “I would look at him and he had all this faith in me that I didn’t have in myself.”

There are many types of depression, and they can increase a person’s risk of having other disorders. “A physician could look at someone recently diagnosed with diabetes and say it was caused by their earlier depression, but it could also be that both were caused by something in the background,” says Dr. William Eaton, a professor of mental health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Background causes of co-occurring disorders could include genes or childhood trauma. Eaton says the risk for depressive disorder peaks between 25 and 30 years of age for women, and 30 to 35 years for men. “Anxiety and depressive disorders are very much comorbid,” he says, meaning they tend to occur together. Pfannenstiel still experiences dysthymia and seasonal affective disorder, DuBois also suffers from fibromyalgia and panic attacks, while I have major depressive disorder and social anxiety disorder. Major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is typically a period of intense sadness and lack of motivation that lasts at least two weeks. Either way, talk or group therapy can help. Drugs can too, like with Pfannenstiel, but I chose to avoid them.

My introverted personality led me to stigmatize my own mental illness. Like DuBois, in the depths of my depression, I felt like my internal problems didn’t deserve to be expressed to the outside world, and sharing them would just burden others. This contributed to a mental isolation. I would be sitting next to an old friend but feel a nonexistent tension, like the space between us was filled with heat and static. At parties I would sit alone or never join conversations. But my friends and family were supportive when I started opening up. Many were surprised to hear that I was depressed; they told me I hadn’t shown any signs. I still struggle with why I stayed silent for so long. In 2007 only a quarter of adults with symptoms of mental illness believed that people were supportive while over half of all adults believed that people were supportive. Perhaps the stigma felt worse to me than it actually was.

Unable to tell anyone but my dad about my feelings, I went to the KU Psychological Clinic and started seeing a therapist, Katie. Initially I reported feelings of depression, loneliness, and infrequent, passive thoughts of suicide. Through therapy I would begin to understand why I was feeling this way.

SorryISpilledYourCoffee

Kayla DuBois made the above piece of art, called “Sorry I Spilled Your Coffee,” during her junior year of high school in 2009. There are about 200 different paintings underneath what you can see on the surface. While the original intent of the piece was different, DuBois says the process of making it was therapeutic for working through the events of an abusive relationship. The piece won a silver medal at the National Scholastic Arts Competition.

Part of the problem was I was still reflecting on the end of a three-month long relationship, over a year later. Ruminating on that and subsequent rejections led me to question my self-worth. Paradoxically I was both afraid of being close to someone again and of being alone forever. I wanted to forget the relationship, but I couldn’t move on. I also felt guilty for being so far away from my mother in Boston, who was unhappy with her job and begging me to come help her. I started questioning my worth as a son. By talking with Katie once a week, I would learn that I was obsessed with the past, unable to deal with the present, and unconcerned about the future. She found that I had increased emotional sensitivity, self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness, indecisiveness and a tendency to lose pleasure in things I once enjoyed. I had a general feeling of emptiness and lack of purpose. My grades had fallen, and I was questioning the entire prospect of being a writer. Before that hopeless night in my bedroom, my family dynamics, grades and sex life made me hate myself.

My therapy focused on changing my thoughts, attitudes and habits. I learned to recognize feelings of sadness or anger and to question these feelings, which forced me to consider how much control I have over them. Now I can recognize when I’m thinking in a depressive pattern, and try to get myself out of it. Getting enough sleep and exercising are now central to my well-being. Studies show that physical exercise does have an antidepressant effect for people suffering from mild to moderate depression. At Katie’s suggestion, I started running once a week, which became four times a week. This new habit, along with my own experiments with mindfulness meditation, made me healthier and improved my self-esteem.

For others, formal therapy just doesn’t work. Elliot Yochim has had clinical depression and bipolar disorder since the summer before he started college in 2011, when he also experienced a breakup. After having an emotional breakdown last year and losing interest in school, Elliot entered therapy for about a half a year until he felt like he wasn’t getting anything out of it anymore. “It was like talking to a wall. I didn’t get anything back except my own voice,” he says. For two months he was on antidepressants but they didn’t really help. Instead, he runs, writes, plays music and applies himself to his new major in theater design. “Having your life consumed by something you love is way better than just doing it on the weekends and between bathroom breaks.”

For anyone considering suicide, the causes are numerous and complicated. Unfortunately, people assume those considering suicide have reached that point because of character flaws. “The stigma about suicide is that this person is deeply troubled individually, and we often accredit all of that to their individual character rather than considering what’s going on around them,” says Jared Auten, a volunteer counselor for Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence. Auten works on a crisis line for Headquarters, where people can call if they feel depressed or are considering suicide. He gives callers a safe space to talk through problems and have their feelings validated and not judged. He joined Headquarters in the spring of 2013 both for the counseling experience and as a form of therapy and personal understanding. He lost his dad to suicide in 2006. He says he did experience grief, but not depression.

Like anyone else I have good days and bad, but now I know how to deal with the bad and appreciate the good. I no longer blame myself for everything that I don’t like about my life, and I see that people will support me. Overcoming depression is different for everyone, but the first step is the same: telling someone how you feel.

 

Edited by Erika Reals

The ABC’s of B.C.

12.04.2014

The pros and cons of birth control among college women

By Sex and Relationship Correspondent, Christine Stanwood

Untitled

As I sit in the gynecologist’s waiting room for my procedure to have an IUD inserted, I begin to wonder: Why is it my responsibility as a woman to be the one in charge of birth control? On that Friday afternoon, I awaited the pain of my cervix being stretched for the purpose of preventing a baby bump within the next five years. Meanwhile my male counterparts have already started drinking pitchers of Natty Light to kickoff the weekend.

While they don’t have to order birth control pills through their local CVS pharmacy or have an IUD procedure done, they do spend the occasional $14.99 for a 10-pack of Trojan condoms. But besides condoms, do collegiate men leave the pressure on women to prevent pregnancy? Professor Kim Warren of the Woman’s Studies Department at the University of Kansas believes sexual responsibility is inevitable.

The University of Kansas Watkins Student Health Services offers a free Women’s Health Clinic for those who need “confidential examinations, treatment, and information regarding all women’s health issues.” Multiple forms of contraception are available including: pill, ring, Depo-Provera, IUD, Necplanon, Patch, Diaphram, Condoms, and Emergency Contraception. Walk-In Hours are on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12 p.m.-3 p.m.

“I think there is added pressure, in general, for people to take an active role in the management of their health and their reproductive lives,” she says. “At the same time, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on women to manage their reproductive health, and then to manage childcare once children are in the picture.”

*Elizabeth, a senior at KU agrees with Professor Warren. “I think it is an added stress for women at times, but by no means do I think there is a sole individual to be held responsible.” However, she does go on to say that it would also be irresponsible for a guy to refuse to wear a condom and play the “blame game” within a pregnancy situation. The “P” word itself can make any college student shudder. According to a study conducted in 2011, the rate of unintended pregnancies among 20-24 year rose from 59% to 64%. Unfortunately, that means all dreams of a social life, potentially studying abroad, and a future career can flash before a woman’s eyes if faced with a pregnancy scare.

Thankfully, Sally, a senior at KU has not experienced a pregnancy scare but one member of her family had the unthinkable happen. “My sister actually got pregnant on birth control,” Sally recalls. “She wasn’t very good at taking the pill at the same time every day, which supposedly is a factor in how effective the pill is.”

There are many women like Elizabeth who live with a group of women. She knows that taking the daily pill can be forgotten with an ever-changing routine. “There have been a few instances where I’ll hear down the hall from my room, ‘Fuck, I forgot to take my birth control!’ she explains. “Because students’ schedules are typically more sporadic, I think we tend to be less responsible about it.”

Part of the reason why I chose to have an IUD (intrauterine contraceptive device) inserted was so I didn’t have to face the fear of having an accidental pregnancy during college. Too many times I forgot to take my birth control pill or went weeks without taking the pill because I didn’t have a sexual partner. By the off chance I wanted to have sex, I ran the risk of pregnancy. It was unfair and irresponsible to be unsafe, not only for myself but for the man I was having sex with.

After a poor experience with having multiple periods a month, bloating, and weight gain, *Sarah, a senior at KU decided to all together get off the pill. “I didn’t feel good about my body,” she adds. “I’ve been much happier since being off the pill.” Because Sarah isn’t on birth control, she is adamant that her partner wears a condom.

However, I was concerned when I found out that Sarah wasn’t using a second form of birth control. She explained to me: “There’s always the crazy story of a girl who was on the pill, or that used protection that got pregnant anyways,” she tells me. “It’s always a bit scary, but I don’t think not being on the pill is the reason for that.”

Sarah isn’t the only girl to run into problems with the pill. Several female college students have faced physical and mental obstacles with birth control in order to have sex. Elizabeth noticed an increase in hormones and emotions while taking the pill. “I’m typically not an emotional person,” she says. “But after getting on birth control I experienced extreme emotions over minuscule things and swift changes in my mood.”

Jamie, a senior at KU, also noticed a change within her emotions when first taking the pill as a junior in high school. “I got an Ovarian Cyst that ruptured and it was the most pain I’ve ever felt,” Jamie remembers. “The doctor said the cyst would return if I didn’t get on the pill.” Fortunately, because Jamie stayed on the pill, she no longer faces problems with her cysts.

But what if Jamie, like other women, wants to try an alternate form of birth control? Jamie tells me that she would consider trying another form but is reluctant to try something new with fear of the cysts returning. Turns out, other women aren’t opposed to the idea of switching but still prefer the pill. “An IUD would be ideal because of its lifespan and reliability but has its cons as well,” Elizabeth says. “Eventually I decided the pill was the best for me.” Based on data from the CDC, the pill is the leading contraceptive method among women from ages 15-29.

It wasn’t until I was laying legs apart in stirrups having the doctor buzz in another nurse when I knew this wasn’t a simple procedure. Getting an IUD was far from a simple procedure. The pain I felt within that 2-minute session felt like an hour. I gasped for air and screams came out of my body that I couldn’t control from what felt like a sharp cut inside me. “Hold her hand”, the doctor motioned the nurse toward me. With a swift step, she took my hand and didn’t break eye contact. She acted as a mother figure in a moment where all I wanted was my mom.

Reflecting back on that day, I’m glad I was able to make an adult decision for myself. I would encourage women to become familiar with all options for birth control. And men, continue to appreciate your condoms.

*These women chose to remain anonymous based on conversations about sexual and personal decisions

 

Photo by Christine Stanwood

Edited by Katie Gilbaugh

Anal: The New Black?

11.09.2014

By Callan Reilly

black

It seems anal sex is taking over, with articles being written everywhere about what was referred to as “the road less traveled.” But still, beliefs behind the popular sex trend are complicated.

GQ, Cosmo and even Huffington Post have all dabbled in the hot topic — whether it’s a how-to guide or persuasive essay.

“I think it’s the fact that we are getting a little older that it’s not such a weird thing,” said Annie*, a junior from Overland Park. “Even a year or so ago I had heard a friend of mine had done it, and I thought it was so weird,” she said. “Now it’s not such a big deal.”

According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that polled people between the ages of 15 and 44, 36 percent of straight women and 44 percent of straight men admitted to having had anal sex at least once in their lives. Additionally, the Journal of Sexual Medicine announced in 2010 the number of 18 to 19 year-olds who’ve been anally penetrated rose by 20 percent between 1992 and 2010.

Though anal sex play seems increasingly popular, the topic is still holding onto some taboo stereotypes.

“From a girl’s point of view it’s looked down upon as slutty or trashy,” said Katie*, a senior from Leawood. “I also feel like guys like taking a new virginity from someone again. It’s almost like a game.”

This is what University of Kansas professor emeritus and sex therapist Dennis Dailey calls “sexual male bravado,” which he describes as men bragging or competing with sexual activity — whether it’s oral, vaginal or anal.

A Live Science study also reinforces Dailey’s point. One hundred thirty teens ages 16 to 18 from diverse backgrounds were interviewed on their opinions of sexual experiences in August. Males in the study appeared to perceive having anal as a competition. Even though not all the young men in the study said they wanted to have anal sex, many of them said men encourage one another to try the practice. The teens also expected men to find pleasure in anal sex, whereas women were mostly expected to endure the negative aspects of anal sex, such as pain or a damaged reputation.

So, does this make the increasingly-popular anal sex “degrading?”

“I think any sexual behavior if expressed in a certain way can be degrading,” Dailey said. “Even though there’s more openness about anal sex play, it’s still 30 or 40 percent of people who get involved with that with any kind of regularity. I think those who do it do so as part of a pleasurable experience with each other. I don’t think it’s naturally a degrading experience.”

Despite the conflicting reasons behind performing the act, it is happening.

“I think it has to do with a general level of comfort with sexuality,” Dailey said. “I think that what’s changed is not that there’s more of it, but more comfort or more openness in talking about it. Over the last several decades there’s been a small incremental change and openness about sexuality, even though there’s still a lot of people who struggle with issues and problems.”

Ben*, a senior from Kansas City, Kan., is open to anal sex. I asked him if a woman who is also open to anal sex play affects his opinion of her. “Absolutely not,” he said. “If anything it’s a bonus because it shows she’s open to different things. If the girl wants it I have no problem doing it every once in a while.”

Ben says he prefers vaginal sex over anal, but describes himself as always having an open mind.

“If my partner is really into it I’ll cater to her needs, but I personally won’t ask for it more than a couple times a month,” he said. “I am open to everything, who am I to judge? To me sex has never been just about doing a few select things.”

 

*Names changed

Edited by Katie Gilbaugh

 

Butt Why? The Return of the Backside

10.05.2014

By Christine Stanwood

It’s a breezy, 75-degree day outside and I decide it’s the perfect time for a joyride. I roll down my windows and turn on the radio. Jason Derulo is crooning, “You know what to do with that big fat butt,” over the airwaves. Not quite feeling the popular tune, I quickly turn off the radio and focus my attention to the newly yellow leaves on the trees throughout campus. Ah, Jayhawk Boulevard! Free at las—asses, more asses. Yoga pants and high-waisted jean shorts quickly blur my vision. I drive back home and turn on MTV only to find Nicki Minaj twerking in a neon pink thong to her newest hit, “Anaconda.” Face palm, America.

I can’t be the only one crazy to think that this ass obsession is getting out of control. Butt why?

Recent articles in the New York Times and even Vogue are saying that butts are back in style. Having a juicy butt could be comparable to flannel for fall. Patricia Garcia, associate culture editor of Vogue says in an article, “In music videos, in Instagram photos, and on today’s most popular celebrities, the measure of sex appeal is inextricably linked to the prominence of a woman’s behind.”

Here to stay
Being attracted to a big butt isn’t just a fad. David Buss, Ph.D., psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin discussed the topic in a recent interview for Men’s Health Magazine. He talked about why the attraction of a butt is primal. He states in the article that, “If a woman has a full tush, that’s a signal to your primitive brain that she’s probably carrying enough fat to become pregnant.”

Is it possible that we could credit this recent exposure to, dare I say it, men? We know the age-old trick: men are taught from a young age to hold open the door for women, to not only be polite but to also get a quick peek at her behind. Will Webber, junior at the University of Kansas says that men are helpless to the allure of the big backside.

“We’ve been taught since the stone age to seek out wide birthing hips and start big families with big butts,” Webber said. “Personally, I believe this evolutionary trait is obsolete—much like the presence of wisdom teeth—because I’m not trying to have any kids in the near future.”

If men’s views on butts are shaping pop culture, are women changing their lifestyles to shape their butts? Bianca Fugate, senior at KU doesn’t think so.

“I personally do not focus on my butt when I go to the gym,” she said. “I figure that if I’m working on my body as a whole, my butt will do what it’s supposed to.”

Fugate believes the focus on butts varies from woman to woman.

“Some people like their butts more than anything else on their bodies, so for them showing off their butt makes them feel more confident with themselves,” she said.

However, not all men are on board with this trend. At least in collegiate culture, often times you’ll overhear guys discussing their preference of being a “tits guy” versus an “ass-man.” Collins Uwagba, a senior in the KU Pharmacy school explains that being a “tits guy” can trump the butt trend.

“I like tall slim girls, and that doesn’t really come with them having a big ass,” he said. “A big ass doesn’t really excite or entice me.”

Regardless, we all know that trends are cyclical and next year could easily be the “Return of the Rack” and cleavage could be the new black. But Webber doesn’t think the butt obsession is going away anytime soon.

“I think it’s probably here to stay,” he says. “Or who knows, maybe men will soon come to the realization that girls do, in fact, poop.”

 

Photo by Allie Welch

Edited by Katie Gilbaugh

She’s Just Not That Into You…Or Is She?

7.16.2014

By Emma McElhaney

George-Costanza

It’s a common trope — the clueless guy who doesn’t take any of the hints an interested girl is sending him, even when they’re in capital neon letters. Before she made it clear she was into him, Emily Pinkston struggled to snag her current boyfriend’s attention.

“I sat behind him in class, and after I decided I was interested in him, I tried multiple times to walk with him after class,” said Pinkston, a University of Kansas senior.

He would either leave the room immediately, giving her no chance to show interest, or he would be engrossed in a conversation with someone else and she “would have looked dumb waiting for him,” she said.

“I would also try to talk to him before class about homework or other stuff, but it rarely extended beyond homework chat,” Pinkston said. “Finally, one day he turned to me and started talking to me after class to ask about my plans.”

For many guys, reading into a situation is risky — what if she’s just being friendly? But missing an opportunity could be equally as disappointing.

Doug Lawson*, a KU sophomore, said body language, such as a girl touching your shoulder or hands or giving you playful pushes, are good indicators of interest.

“If she feels comfortable enough with you to touch you, that’s a pretty good sign,” Lawson said. “If she hangs around — spends a longer amount of time with you specifically — or goes out of her way to continue a conversation with you, then she’s probably into you.”

It may be tempting to overanalyze all the signs, like body language or text messages, searching for a clear and obvious green light. However, Daniel Packard, professional love coach and touring speaker, said this isn’t a useful strategy.

“Nobody’s smart enough to think their way to love,” Packard said. “It’s too complicated; people are crazy.”

Sometimes life is uncomfortable, Packard said. You may be waiting around forever for an explicit, “Yes, I’m interested.”

“Things take courage, and people try to avoid courage, to try to skip that step and think their way through,” Packard said. “Even if you know what to say or not to say, if you walk up to her with the approach of, ‘I have to get this right,’ you’ve already lost the battle.”

Packard suggests focusing less on the outcome. Don’t be so caught up in whether they give you a yes or a no.

“Make your measurement of success be how you showed up. Were you courageous? Did you take a risk? Did you own what you want? These things make you proud of you. Then, no matter what they say, you walk away from the interaction feeling better about yourself,” Packard said.

Putting yourself out there can be scary, but through trial and error, Lawson said, you eventually figure it out. And sometimes it just takes courage.

“If you’re interested, ask her out,” Packard said. “People say no for a million reasons and none of them have anything to do with your worth. Just go for it.”

 

*name changed

 

Edited by Hannah Swank

    Older Entries »