10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Studying Psych in College With a Mental Illness
1. I am always afraid someone will realize I am similar to some of the case studies — that I might flinch when a word is mentioned or I can’t sit still in class. Or that my mood may change from day to day.
2. I’m even more worried about the professor judging me. This is an actual professional in the field. I’m sure they know I’m not OK.
3. But I should not have been worried about the professor knowing — because they often understand the most and will be OK with me wanting to do things like take my final in another room because I felt trapped in the room during the midterm and that is why I couldn’t focus. I had another professor notice I was different (I was having a depressive phase), and he took the time to work with me because I had almost given up. At least in my experience, my professors have been nothing but helpful and understanding.
4. You will become familiar with the nurses in health services — and they have your number on file. But they are really nice people, even if they can only give ibuprofen.
5. Sometimes what you are studying can cause your symptoms to relapse. Learning about derealization actually felt like I was watching someone learn about it.
6. Papers and projects, while still anxiety-provoking, can be comforting if you have test anxiety or feel trapped by test day seating. At least, they are for me because tests give me horrible anxiety.
7. There’s a small amount of overthinking, but that just means you are prepared. I started planning my post-college career before I even started my freshman year. But, I am prepared for every situation. I probably am a walking pharmacy/medical kit.
8. There’s a chance for an episode in class. I’ve had to leave classes in a hurry to run to the bathroom due to panic attacks and other times have been glued to my chair as students stare at me and wonder if they are going to witness a student having a heart attack.
9. There are days when you just mentally cannot handle class — but you may need to push through it. I know I have wanted to hide underneath the desks and just lie there for no explainable reason other than my depression was so horrible that I couldn’t function. But after class was over was when I hid in my bed.
10. Criticism and rejection are not the end of the world. I do not handle either very well. Criticism may always been hard to take, but you need to realize it can help you. I look at the essays I receive with fear and it is something I am still working on, but all you need to know is it is for your benefit. Rejection also does not mean the world is at a standstill. When I was not chosen to be an RA, I fell into a horrible depression. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with me at all. It was probably because of some small reason or just too many people applying. Either way, I moved on.
11. You need a support system. I am part of a sorority. I have two “littles,” a “twin” and a “big,” all of whom are utterly amazing, not to mention all the friends I’ve made while being in the club. I also have an amazing boyfriend who will stand by my side when I have these moments.
12. Lastly, make time for yourself. There might be times where there’s too much stress and it’s negatively affecting you. Please, don’t let yourself get caught in the world of abnormal psychology when you might need a mental break.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.