As you are reading this I am packing up my bag and best breathing exercises, finding a place to put the thoughts of doom, despair, and anxiety and making my way back to school.
I love the idea of school, the pens, books, note taking, coffee, the learning. The idea of it all is really exciting, and I absolutely love what I’m learning and knowing that it’s ultimately taking me to the job I want. HOWEVER even just sitting here in the comfort of my own room writing this has my heart racing a million beats per minute, and palms sweaty just thinking about having to go back to it. It makes me SO anxious.
The whole school thing used to be something I was really good at, and the one thing I could remain in control of. When my mental health started deteriorating so did my academic performance.
This was especially evident in my second year of university when I was in the midst of a particularly awful depressive episode, and I ultimately had to drop two of my classes to be healthy both academically and physically. This then means that while I should be starting my final year of my undergrad, I actually have one extra semester to do. Bummer – major.
It was during the time that I was dropping courses that I was encouraged to have a visit with Student Accessibility Services AND was also registered as a “disabled person” in the eyes of the government.
So now on top of all of the pre existing fears and anxieties, I am not graduating on time because of my illness, all of my professors know about my illness, and the government and therefore the rest of the universe see me as disabled. AWESOME.
This quickly and furiously became all encompassing shame.
I know that I needed to drop courses in order to be even a slightly functioning human being in society, I could barely get out of bed to brush my teeth let alone get out of bed to go to class, so I know that it was the right decision and has allowed me time and space to breathe and heal.
Being with accessibility services has been a lifesaver in my academic life. It was an added support in a scary time and gave me the tools and resources I needed to be as successful as I could be. Even now, I may not always use it but just knowing that there is a plan in place if and when things get bad is a HUGE comfort.
This whole disability thing is hard. It makes me feel broken in some sense, less than, like I have failed at life. Even though through it I have been able to access some incredibly helpful resources. Even though I am so open about having Depression, even though I have grown so much, and learned so much, it still feels dirty.
Why am I so worried about not graduating at the time I’m “supposed” to? Why am I so worried about professors knowing about my diagnosis? Why am I so embarrassed to be a part of a service that has helped me tremendously? Why am I so ashamed of this label that I know doesn’t define me as a whole person? Why am I so anxious to go back to school? Why do I hate myself so much more from September-April? Why are so many people thinking very similar things?
Back to school time is a time of stress, and anxiety, and fears, and worries, for many of us, high school students, university students, teachers, kindergarten students, parents, those struggling with mental health, those who aren’t, girls, boys – do you see where I’m going with this? It seems that much like mental health affects us all in some type of way, back to school stress affects most of us in some type of way.
Maybe it’s mourning summertime, maybe it’s a transition, maybe it’s fear of the unknown; I don’t know what exactly it is about it I just know that it’s there. So how do we fix it?
Be gentle with yourself and others. Take time to take care of yourself, and your soul – earlier this week a fellow Healthy Minds blogger wrote a beautiful piece with ideas of how to take care of yourself at school that definitely helped settle some of my worries. There is so much pressure in the world of academia to be the best and get the best marks, and without crazy high marks we won’t succeed, and the narrative goes on and on and on. At the end of the day school is a beautiful privilege, with so much opportunity for learning, and growth, that isn’t necessarily all about marks.
And if you are like me and aren’t graduating on time, or have had to ask for help somewhere along the line, or are finding it hard balancing your health and your school IT IS OKAY!! I am not less than because I am graduating a semester late, or because I have a “disability”, you are not less than because you learn and live differently than someone else. My challenge for myself this semester is to switch the negative self-talk, shame-inducing attitude for a more proud, thankful, positive attitude. I am proud that I have stuck with my degree, I am proud that I graduated high school, I am thankful that I have the help and the support that I need, I am thankful for the support, I am thankful that I can pursue an education.
School is hard. Like really hard. But we are stronger. I hope this new school year, whether you are a student, or not, whether you struggle with mental health or not, is filled with learning, and personal growth. I will be thinking of you, and cheering you on!
You are SO valuable. You are SO loved. You are SO needed. You are SO wanted.
Until next time – I am off to go kick this school year’s butt
About Chelsea Moore
My name is Chelsea! I am in my third year of university studying Anthropology and Sociology. I started self harming when I was 15, had my first suicide attempt when I was 16, and that is when I was diagnosed with Depression. Since then my life has been about recovery, and throughout this journey writing has been my safe place. Throughout my journey I've learned that everyone has a story, and hurting together feels a lot better than hurting behind closed doors.I am passionate about bringing awareness to mental illness, and couldn't be more excited about this opportunity to write for Healthy Minds Canada!