When the School System Fails Someone Struggling With Mental Illness


“I love learning, but what if learning doesn’t love me back?”

In the privacy of her office, I sit close to tears as my psychiatrist reminds me that all this is temporary.

Now before you tell me, “Don’t be silly, Daphnée. Learning loves everyone back,” let me rephrase this into, “I love school, but what if the system isn’t working for me anymore? What if I’m not meant to be a part of the academic world, no matter how much I want to be?”

These are the kind of questions I struggled with this past semester. Questions I’m sure lots of students ask themselves every day.

The storyline goes like this: I had to defer an English course and withdraw from two other courses due to my deteriorating mental health this past term. The system worked for me until it didn’t anymore. And I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed with the system. I’m disappointed with the society I live. But mostly, I’m disappointed with myself. Even though I know deep down I shouldn’t be.

Really, what saddens me the most is feeling as if my brain has failed me, like I can’t trust my mind as much as I used to. But mostly, I miss being able to entertain myself and count on my brain’s loyalty to keep making the world an interesting place. And it bothers me, running into so many people I know on campus who ask me the required, “How are you?”

At times, I don’t have the strength to tell them the truth.

But maybe it’s not only my brain that failed me. Maybe it’s time to hold the system accountable, and ask our society to take responsibility.

Because here’s the truth: we often sacrifice our own well-being. We fail to take breaks and we fail to take care of ourselves. We thrive on unresolved inner turmoil and sleepless nights. We are desperately looking for help, and not receiving it. And I’m sick and tired of it. The endless pursuit of perfection, the lack of balance and the growing number of mental health issues are now hallmarks of academia.

Once, a psychiatrist told me that I had already accomplished great things in my life just by getting admitted into university. Like many kids who attend my school, I grew up being told I was “full of promise.” I had a life plan. I had specific goals, big dreams and would obviously graduate in four years. But now that I see what sacrifices it takes to meet the definition of academic “success,” I’m starting to doubt myself.

I’ve always dreamed of being a part of that world. But now? I’m not so sure.

I’m going back to school for second term. I’m fully aware that I’m throwing myself back into a toxic environment. And I’m scared. But I’ve learned that even though I may not be able to change the system or my circumstances, I can choose my attitude toward them.

I’m committed to living wholeheartedly. I’m committed to finding a peace of mind, and I am willing to put myself, and my health, first.

I would invite you to do the same.

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Thinkstock photo via Design Pics. 


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