Mental Illness & Higher Ed Make for Odd (But Helpful) Bedfellows

Going back to college after a LONG break for a few years of depressive “bed rest” has been a challenge. My brain is rusty, my thoughts run rampant, and my time management skills need a lot of fine-tuning.  Simply put, I am really out of the practice of using my brain by choice, versus MI using it to manipulate my emotions and thoughts.

Slowly but surely, I am taking back control of all things Redhead…well, some things, anyway. The most difficult hurdles I have encountered on this intellectual journey, both educational and mental, are the ever-present feelings of having few people to lean on, to talk to and finding the confidence to believe that if I keep sanding away the rust on my brain, I will have something worth working with. Who knew confidence, or a lack thereof, could be such a deal maker or breaker? Multiple-choice tests, short answer essays…no problem. I have those down pat. I have always been a pretty good test taker, but paper-writing is kicking my proverbial butt because anxiety locks my brain through my lack of confidence. I know I can write well enough (as long as I proofread, write multiple drafts, and allow time to walk away from the assignment), but I find myself overthinking and overshooting so often that I have difficulty managing writing down an elementary sentence that simply states the subject of my work, let alone writing a paragraph. The first paper I wrote this semester…oh my. At one point, it took me two and a half hours to write one and a half paragraphs. The rampant thoughts cause me to edit as I write in the hopes that gold will poor forth on my first draft. The lack of confidence and the feeling that I need to overshoot all come back to the BPD and trying to manage validation from professors that I am something other than a soon-to-be-found-out-fraud…a woman who is too old and too rusty to be in school…a woman with nothing unique to add to the academic mix.

This semester has been about putting out one paper-writing fire after the next (anxiety induced by assignments and timeframe pressures), with personal and family medical issues to add a little fuel. But I have been hanging in with each blaze, taking a little bit of new knowledge away from the experience to help me fight the next fire more efficiently. Darn those assignment fires…professors ask too much in expecting work from me. =P The last paper I wrote was a wonderful success. I expected a decent grade but did even better than expected. I was proud that I handled my anxiety by walking away from the assignment when needed and, when it came down to it, accepting that if I worked hard and did my best, my best would be pretty good. Somehow, accepting my hard work as its own validity in my effort to write helped free me from the need to perform at a level that is difficult to manage when I have been out of school for so long, and fight the lies of anxiety and depression, in regards to my ability. I learned more from the process of writing my last paper than I did from the text itself. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that! LOL

I went back to school looking to use it not only as a means to a degree but as a tool in continuing to conquer my MI. With each leap of faith I take in allowing myself to write bubble outlines that are not refined and high-browed (Ooo! I need some Crayolas for my next bubble outline!), I take a step further away from the anxiety depression, and BPD that tell me I am nothing.

I will never be without the experience of MI, but I can, and am, overcoming it each day I work towards my goals.


Suicide Prevention

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.




AFSPThe American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.

  • We strive for a world that is free of suicide.
  • We support research, because understanding the causes of suicide is vital to saving lives.
  • We educate others in order to foster understanding and inspire action.
  • We offer a caring community to those who have lost someone they love to suicide, or who are struggling with thoughts of suicide themselves.
  • We advocate to ensure that federal, state, and local governments do all they can to prevent suicide, and to support and care for those at risk.

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