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What I Would Tell Anyone With a Mental Illness Who Needs to Take a Break From School

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I stopped going to school in the fall of 2012. It was too much. I was busy with classes and had two jobs. But really, I stopped because my symptoms were too debilitating and I had more and more incompletes. Finally, I dropped out so I could get treatment for my schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type.

Yet even when I was in treatment and seeing a psychiatrist regularly, I wasn’t really doing anything. I was just home watching television all day. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning and it was hard for me to get up at a certain time, get dressed, have breakfast and make it out the door.

My psychiatrist finally suggested I try volunteer work and she told me about a website I should check out. As I looked at all the entries, one jumped out at me. There was an organization looking for people to mentor students who were going back to college. I said, let me look at it. I didn’t think I could be a mentor, but maybe I could be one of the mentees. That’s how I found the program that helped me go back to school. I am so grateful I did.

At first, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed and get to College Re-Entry on time. That first morning I woke up at 5 a.m. and said to myself, “I have to make it. This is a great opportunity and I can’t mess up.” I think I treated it as a class. I told myself I had to make it happen. Early on I missed one or two days because I was going to bible study, which ended around 10 p.m. I was getting to bed too late. Because I wanted to make College Re-Entry a priority, I stopped going to bible class for a little while so I could go to bed earlier. That helped. I learned to go to bed early so I could get up early. It’s a lot easier now that I learned how to do it.

Having somewhere to go to where I was around other people also helped. When you are with other people, you never know what kind of conversations you’ll have. Meeting people with similar experiences helped, but it was more just being around other people. Just completing a class also made it better. I took a composition class to refresh and learn new writing skills. Working with my coach gave me the confidence to know I could do it. It’s funny because I failed English twice before, but now I know that I can go and conquer an English class.

Last month, I went back to school. I am only taking one class to start but I am excited. I look forward to doing the things I learned to do at College Re-Entry like writing all the due dates on a calendar, making a binder and getting everything organized before class starts.

To other people who are going through the same struggles I went through, I would say: Reach out. Being at home could be holding you back more than you think. The way to get better is to be active. You never know how hard something will be until you try. For me, once I got in the habit, it got easier. As it got easier, I got more confident. I didn’t even think I could get up in the morning, but I did it. I didn’t think I could get through College Re-Entry. I was doubting myself, but I did it. Joining programs or volunteering makes you feel like you’re a person again and not just a mental health patient.

It feels good.

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Thinkstock photo via Digital Vision.

Originally published: October 11, 2017
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