You might flunk out

Q: My friend and I have been wondering about the "rules" of having pictures of your ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends stuck up on your walls. We've both started dating new guys this year at college, and they both have pictures of their ex-girlfriends stuck up on their bedroom walls.

A: My feelings are that you should pitch pictures of exes ASAP. There's no reason to keep old sentimental pictures around if the relationship is dead, it just makes you feel bad about things. It also makes your new significant other question your true feelings and wonder if things are REALLY over with the ex.

The idea that both your boyfriend and your friend's boyfriend keep pictures of exes displayed is kinda weird. I would keep my eye out for those dudes, cause it sounds to me that they have ladies at home and are trying to keep you two as their at-school, on-the-side girlfriends. That is just me. I have never heard of dudes keeping pictures of ex-girlfriends (unless they are naked pictures), and the concept of guys hanging pictures on the wall is so foreign to me I just don't know what the fuck. Be careful, it sounds too fishy to me.

Q: I have recently finished college, moved out of my Mom's house and
into my own apartment. It's great, I'm living with lovely people, have a
good part time job and I've met some really interesting people through work. But occasionally I have this panicky feeling and I start wondering whether I can cope and whether I'll be ok and I'll want to have a cry. I can't shake this worried feeling until I've seen someone I know or spoken to someone (not about the worrying, just generally) and then, I'm fine. It's not happening all the time, just enough to upset me. Any ideas how I can stop getting this feeling, or is it just something I'm going to have to learn to live with?

A: It sounds to me like you are just not used to living on your own. It is perfectly normal to feel a little lonely and unsure of your ability to support yourself for the first few months of living in your own place. Once it all becomes old hat, you will feel a lot more comfortable, and secure in your new home. If hanging out with your friends makes you feel better in the meantime, by all means, keep hanging out with your friends. Before you know it, you won't be able to imagine living with your parents again, and will completely relish every second of your independent life.

Q: I have been feeling really stressed out lately. I work so many hours, and have so much on my plate, that I feel like I can barely keep afloat. I have very little free time, and even when I do get a little time to relax, I can't relax! I feel stressed! So I told this to my doctor and broke into tears, and he diagnosed me with a depression/anxiety and gave me a prescription for some drugs.

I'm not super hip on the idea that I need to take drugs all the time to feel okay. I mean this is my life, and I think I need to be able to cope with my day-to-day existence without drugs. On the other hand, I knew a woman who had a similar problem and did not hesitate to take the prescription, and says she feels much better. My dilemma is that I want to FEEL okay, but I actually would prefer to BE okay. I don't want to use drugs as a crutch; I'd rather have a sustainable drug-free life. What do you think I should do?

A: So, your doctor diagnosed you with depression and anxiety, and you think that the medications you were prescribed are only a crutch?? When a diabetic is taking Insulin, is that a crutch? I am not sure how you think that you have the option of just not taking the medications because you think they are unsavory. Well, I guess you have the option of not taking them, but taking that path is not going to make you feel any better.

Taking medication for mental conditions is not something to feel ashamed about. Are you living a drug-free life right now? Are you going without pain pills when you have cramps? Do you go without cold medicine when you are so congested you can't breathe? Are you on birth control? The fact of the matter is that NOBODY is above mental illness. NOBODY. Nearly 20 million people are diagnosed with the same problems as you every year. Are you trying to dismiss all of their symptoms, too? Are they all just crutching along on their antidepressants because they are weak and can't handle living a drug-free life?

There is no difference between mental illness and other kinds of illness. You have to take responsibility for your own health, and if your doctor thinks you would benefit from taking antidepressants or antianxiety medications, you owe it to yourself to do the right thing. Ignoring the condition will not make you feel better at all, and may result in the problem spiralling out of control, and then you could end up on twice as many psych meds.

Q: I'm in my last year of highschool and I've always taken academics/school just as seriously as my social life. In september I thought I had strep throat. Then I really started lagging in my races (I am, or was, the captain of the track team and the school MVP). I got worse, fatigue, stopped eating, etc... It turns out I have Mono. Universities look at our marks at Christmas, I haven't been in class for weeks and the doctor just told me I'm getting worse (liver issues and spleen enlargement). I've been forbidden from going to class as well as my after-school job that I love.

When I am awake and coherent I get really depressed because I know I'm falling more and more behind every day. Not only that, but my friends stopped calling and no-one visits. I'm terrified that I'm going to flunk and not get into University.

A: Your number one priority right now is making sure you get better. Mono SUCKS, and takes a long time to get over. It sounds like you have an especially nasty case of it, too, so you are going to need to take even better care of yourself. No university is going to turn down your application because you were struck down by a viral infection. That doesn't reflect upon your academic ability in the least.

You might flunk out of school this year, but you can't expect to pass with flying colors when you have missed so much class, and it sounds like you will be missing even more. Have you thought about calling the school and seeing about getting study guides for the classes you are missing? Even if you don't have the energy to complete all the classwork, perusing the subject matter and having a general idea of what is going on in class will make it easier to catch up later.

Another thing to consider-- you don't have to start college in the fall. You can start in the second semester, which would give you the time to take summer school if needed. You can also talk to the admissions department of some of the schools you are interested in and let them know about your predicament, and they will probably be able to discuss your options with you as well.

School runs on a pretty tight schedule, but you will never be able to meet all those deadlines, especially if you let yourself get worked up and feel bad about it. You need to take care of yourself, and maybe do a little reading if you are feeling up to it. Nobody expects you to be able to do more than that. Even if you can't complete enough class to have grades to show universities this winter, you will have tons of excellent grades to show once you feel better and take the time to complete your studies at your own pace. It might not be this year, but you'll kick ass regardless.

Natalie Dee is a Columbus-based artist and writer whose work can be seen at To Ask Natalie, e-mail

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