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Mental Health

Why I Left UCSB and Came Back

Before coming to UCSB, I had always just been your typical good-ish student. I did well on tests, got decently good grades, and was pretty involved in extracurricular activities. I never really liked school, but I wasn’t so bad at it. I dealt with mental health issues, but they were never too severe, and I always had a good support system to help me through them anyways. High school wasn’t easy, at least it didn’t feel like it when I was going through it, but it had always been manageable.

I apologize for being a bit melodramatic, but my life completely changed when I went off to college. At first, I was very excited to be starting my freshman year at UCSB, back in September 2015. I remember meeting up with friends and just exploring the campus and IV with such a childlike wonder during those first few days. It wasn’t very long into my first quarter before I felt my mental health creeping on me, but I had figured that I’d manage through it somehow, like I always had before.

Image via Sally Paik

I stuck with this mentality for quite a while. After my first quarter at UCSB, I found myself on academic probation. I was told that this wasn’t really out of the norm, especially for an incoming student, and I really felt that I’d do better in the winter and bounce back, but I didn’t that quarter, and I didn’t the next quarter either.

There were quite a few reasons why I struggled when I was at UCSB the first time around, mainly having to do with mental health issues and the relationships I had with people in my life at the time. It’s also just not easy moving away from home for the first time and having to adapt to college, all while still figuring yourself out and trying to make new friends. Also, doing very poorly in my first pre-major class also sucked a lot.

I stayed at UCSB up until the end of fall quarter my sophomore year, when I was academically dismissed, for the second time actually. At this point, I had already seen a total of four counselors at CAPS, seen a physician at Student Health, been on two different prescriptions, and stayed at UCSB on academic probation for three quarters and two summer sessions. I was fighting so hard to stay here when I was miserable. During this time, I wasn’t even sure what I was fighting for anymore. I hated school, but I hated the idea of not being in school more.

Image via Daily Nexus

Being forced to leave school terrified me. For a while after, I stayed in my apartment in IV, afraid to tell my parents the truth. My plan had been to go to SBCC in the meantime and work to pay rent, but that never quite worked out the way I had hoped. My mental health only got worse and worse, to the point where I felt like I couldn’t even get out of bed anymore, and by the end of February, I realized that I had to go back home.

At first, it felt like going home had only made me feel worse. I had worked so hard to get into school and to stay there. Going home felt like giving up, and it made me feel weak. What I didn’t realize before was that I was actually strong for having gone home. There was strength in accepting that I needed help and that I need a break from school. I was naïve to have thought that I should prioritize school over my mental health.

I slowly stopped hating myself for not being in college. I started to realize that college was always going to be there for me when I was ready for it, and that it was pointless to be beating myself over school. After a few months of being home, I found the strength to start going to school again, but I wasn’t ready to go back to UCSB, nor did I really know if I wanted to, so I started attending my local community college. I have always had a good idea of what I wanted to do career-wise, but it was always kind of hard for me to pick out a major. After taking a mass comm class at Glendale Community College, I really fell in love with Communication, and decided that was what I was going to do.

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After thinking through all my options, I eventually decided I was ready to come back to UCSB. I wanted to finish what I started, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could overcome my hardships and that I could graduate. And so spring of 2018, I figured out all the paperwork and came back to UCSB just in time for summer session B.

During the time I had been indefinitely gone from UCSB, people have asked if I regretted ever having attended UCSB in the first place. The answer is a definite no. I am a true believer that you are always exactly where you need to be in that moment. I learned a lot in my first year and a half at UCSB, and I learned even more during the time that I was gone.

While back home, I made a short film at community college, strengthened bonds with old friends, improved relations with my family, worked my first two jobs simultaneously, and even earned enough to take a solo trip to Japan. Most importantly, I found strength and wisdom that I never knew I could have or needed. I never thought I’d find myself not being in school, but I had to not be in school for all these things to happen.

Image via Sally Paik

Now back at UCSB, I feel like I have real purpose for being here. I’m working to get into a major I love and am actually thinking of applying to grad school, which I never thought I’d do before. While I wish I could say that life is perfect now and without any problems, it’s not. I still struggle with mental health but now I’m managing, and I’m happy both to be at UCSB and to be alive, and I genuinely don’t think I could have gotten to this point if I had not taken a break from school.

While school wasn’t exactly the reason why I was struggling, it also didn’t allow me the time I needed to work on myself and to let myself heal. Leaving UCSB was one of the scariest things I ever had to do, but it ended up also being one of the best. I share my story in hopes that other people won’t feel alone in their situation and that they won’t be as scared as I was about taking time away from school. Remember to prioritize your own wellbeing, because school will always be around, but you won’t. And life is too short to not live happily.

Sally is a fourth year communication student at UCSB. Her favorite things to do include traveling, eating, and binge watching YouTube videos. In her ideal future, she is either a research professor or market analyst for a digital entertainment company and living in her hometown of LA with a hypoallergenic cat.
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