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Wellness > Mental Health

My Mental Health Caused Me To Leave College, But I’m Back On My Own Timeline

When I was fifteen, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, anxiety, depression, and OCD — all within the span of three months. At first,  it didn’t seem like a big deal to my teenage self, the one who was convinced she’d live forever. At the time, I never thought I’d have to give up some of the most important in my life, especially school. So, during that summer, I tried a dozen medications with side effects ranging from extreme anger to extreme insomnia. That’s when I started to feel like nothing would ever get better

During my sophomore year of high school, I missed 47 days of class. Traditionally, that would mean being held back a year, but because of my work from home (and the grace of my school and wonderful teachers), I was able to move on. Heading into my junior year, I once again felt invincible: I had medications that worked, gracious teachers, and a determined attitude. In 2019, I graduated high school and was looking forward to attending college, and leaving my past struggles behind. It was about time for a change.

Fast forward to 2022, my senior year of college: I was failing my classes and struggling to get to class because of debilitating back pain, epileptic activity, and general sickness like constant headaches and nausea. I wanted to push through, pass my classes, and take the winter break to work with my doctors to get better. However, my hopelessness, and desperation, got to the point where I told one of my professors that I would have to accept a failing grade for the semester. Luckily, I got an “incomplete” instead.

But no matter how much I rested, I wasn’t recovering. During the second week of school, it had all become too much.

Come Spring semester, I felt even worse. I was unmotivated because of how sick I felt and all I wanted was to lie down and recover. But no matter how much I rested, I wasn’t recovering. During the second week of school, it had all become too much. I decided to drop out of college, quit my job, and move home for recovery — away from my friends, my schoolwork, and life as I knew it. 

During those months I was so angry and ashamed of myself for “giving up.” I told myself that I manifested and exaggerated my illness, and that somehow I deserved what happened to me. I refused to see anyone and kept to myself at first. I was too busy hating myself. 

During March, I couldn’t get out of bed. I either slept or stared at the ceiling overthinking. My only contact with the world was going downstairs to get food or to watch Beat Bobby Flay with my mom. I felt like I was living in a fishbowl. I could see everything around me, but it was hopeless to try and get to the things I wanted. I was just mentally and emotionally moving in circles. 

During one of those Food Network nights, I paused the channel and asked my mom if she would hate me if I never finished my degree. I was speaking hypothetically but also had been so distressed — I was seriously thinking about dropping out and giving up entirely. She said to me, “If you want to go back to school next semester, you can, if you’re not ready, you’re just not ready. You need to heal. I want you here to heal.” 

Whatever speed you go, or whatever path you take, you’re on the right track: Some people speed through, some take the usual course, and some, like me, need some extra time to pull it all together.

Hearing her say to me that whatever path I took, or speed I went at, was okay somehow put me at ease. I decided I wanted to return to school because I had dreams that went beyond living in pain at home: I wanted to finish my degree and then continue to learn about my passions until I couldn’t anymore. That was impossible from my bed in South Carolina. 

This conversation made me realize that I was so caught up in a world of shame and hurt, that I refused to see my support system operating at full speed all around me. After making my decision to return back to school, my doctors fit me at the last minute and at odd times so that I could recover swiftly, my local friends asked me to coffee to keep me occupied, my college friends texted or called me every day, and my mom kept my head up. 

Do I still have moments of shame and sadness that I would have graduated already if I hadn’t dropped? Of course. Am I extremely proud of myself for coming back and committing myself to a new lifestyle to stay healthy and finish school? More than anything. 

Whatever speed you go, or whatever path you take, you’re on the right track: Some people speed through, some take the usual course, and some, like me, need some extra time to pull it all together. And, it’s okay to ask for help along the way when you need it. I wouldn’t be well if I hadn’t sought out help and support. No one will judge you — especially not the people who love you. 

Currently, I’m writing this outside the door of a class I don’t want to go to — only mere months from graduating — but that I am so blessed to have the opportunity to participate in. I’m going at my own pace and that’s okay because I have my team around me — and I know that no matter what, I’m going to do this life right.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.

Bridget Anderson is a HerCampus National contributor writing from Texas. She focuses on wellness coverage, primarily about mental health issues, but she also loves writing about personal experiences and life in general. Outside of her HerCampus work, Bridget writes poetry and creative short stories. Her poetry has been featured in several publications and she has won multiple awards for her narrative writing. She is currently a senior at Baylor University where she studies English and political science. As a part time job, Bridget tutors the Baylor athletes in all things writing. In her everyday life, outside of pleasure writing, Bridget spends her time watching Beat Bobby Flay and random Disney movies while snuggling with her two rescue dogs Gus and Genie. She’s an avid reader but always makes time for coffee dates with her best girlfriends.