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Opinion: OU Counseling Psychology Clinic's impending closure unacceptable, will leave students without vital resource

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Audra Brulc (copy)

Audra Brulc.

I’ve gone back and forth for months over whether or not to write this. 

I’ve had months to mourn. Months to be angry. Months, and nothing has changed. 

I didn’t know if I should write this because it doesn’t seem like there’s anything I can do to fix it, and that hurts. It seems like every year, some sort of progress report on my mental health appears in The Daily, which will probably be very useful to my future psychiatrist but, at this point, is just making me a little frustrated.

On May 10, the OU Counseling Psychology Clinic will close. To put it bluntly, in the past four years that I’ve spent dealing with my mental health challenges as an OU student, the Counseling Psychology Clinic is the only place where I received consistently quality care.

I started seeing a counselor at the clinic after an almost yearlong break from therapy. I had just returned from a semester abroad, and the semester before that, I’d been too frustrated with Goddard’s inconsistent and infrequent appointments to bother going back.

When I started seeing my counselor, I didn’t think I was doing that badly. I thought I was choosing to be proactive about my mental health, and I never could have imagined the rewards it would bring. As I sat on the couch for my intake appointment, I cried more than I had over the past year. I cried about my family. I cried about a breakup I still hadn’t been able to shake. I cried about how empty I felt inside, how looking into the mirror felt like looking into empty space. The woman across from me was gentle and soft-spoken, and when I left, I was equal parts terrified about the amount of “crazy” I had just let loose, and relieved in the deepest parts of my chest.

I came back the next week, and the week after that, and every week for the rest of the semester. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was a whole person. I didn’t beat myself up for the time I lost during depressive episodes. I stopped dreaming about my ex. I started actually liking the person I had become and believing that maybe she could change the world after all.

Last semester, when I heard one of my colleagues at The Daily mention that the clinic was closing, it felt like a punch to the gut. I immediately thought back to my last session in May and the way my therapist and I had both teared up as it came time to part ways. I thought about the closure I felt when she told me that, from my first appointment, she hadn’t thought I was crazy at all. No, she thought I was brave. Brave for reaching out. Brave for trusting. Brave for letting myself be vulnerable. 

There’s no other way to express it  my heart hurts. My heart hurts for my friends who will still need the clinic’s services when it closes next month. It hurts for the person I was a year and a half ago, standing on the edge of a great and terrible precipice and choosing to continue forward into the fullness of life. My heart hurts for the students, for the professors, for the warm and friendly girls who always worked the desk and didn’t mind if I paid with two different cards when I was down to my last $20.

My heart hurts  because I know what it’s like to feel lost and finally find what you need. When I called Goddard for a counseling appointment at the beginning of this past September, I was told the closest available appointment was four weeks away. Four weeks is an eternity to someone who is suffering.

My heart hurts  because this is considered acceptable. At a university with so many material resources, which we flaunt in glossy brochures and whittle down to chipper sound bites, it is acceptable for students who are experiencing emotional and spiritual agony to wait a month or more for 50 minutes of relief. I don’t blame the staff. I don’t blame the faculty. I don’t know who to blame.

But I know I’m not the only one hurting. At the very least, thanks to the woman I spent an hour with each week last year, I feel motivation to continue advocating for people like me. But my heart still hurts, and I simply don’t know what to do with that.

Audra Brulc is an international studies senior and a Daily alumna.

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