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How Something I Thought I’d Never Do Is Helping Me Manage My Mental Illness

As a young woman attending a local state univesity, taking this fall semester off was the right decision for me. This decision came to fruition because I was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. When I say recently I mean within the last month, although I’ve been living with it for three years.

A lot of people have said I suffer from schizophrenia. I would rather say I live with it. Learn with it. Learn to tame it. Learn to work around it, live beside it and within it. But I’ve never once suffered from it. I’ve never once been a victim of schizophrenia. After all of my turmoil, I am at least a survivor.

All that being said, yesterday I walked into the registrar’s office and withdrew from the semester for medical reasons. I’m not ashamed of withdrawing, although the experience was not without tears. I know this is the right thing for me to do, but I still feel a little scared — this is the first time I haven’t been a student since I was 4 years old. I never thought I’d be withdrawing from my university after three years. But that’s what I’m doing. I need to work on myself.

It’s time to learn to regulate my thoughts, function, self-care and love my own body and mind again. It’s time to get on the right dosages of the right medications. And those are things I cannot do while I’m struggling through a world of disorganized thoughts, self-destruction and advanced classwork. The actions of my unmedicated mind and a successful college student simply don’t go hand-in-hand.

There are a lot of positive writings about how we’re not defined by our mental illnesses, that even while coping with them, whether it be depression or schizophrenia, anxiety or agoraphobia, we can still go to school, we can still function, etc. All of this is important. We are not defined by our mental illnesses, and we can still accomplish great things in spite of them. 

But sometimes, after such a long battle with our own mind, not only should we take a break, but we deserve to. I’ve been grappling with the idea of taking a semester off for a year now. But it’s finally gotten to the point where my symptoms outweigh the possibility of continuing the semester. Taking a break is not giving up. Taking a break is the best way to manage my illness, which in the end will be the key to my success. If you feel like you need to take a break and have the resources to do so, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

I’ll use this time to seek counseling, write, blog, create art and destroy unhealthy habits. I have to rewrite my personality, my fears and my excitements. I have to uphold a level of commitment I haven’t yet encountered, but I’m my own testament to commitment, aren’t I? As long as I don’t give up, continue to face the fears of schizophrenia, find new ways to create happiness and let sadness in only when it’s healthy, I will and can recover to a point where I’m able to return to school and graduate. But all in due time. The healthier I become, the more likely I am to finally succeed and continue to fight the daily battles my mental illness presents to me. 

See more from Syrena at Art About Mental Illness and visit her Tumblr page