when education and health conflict

Okay. I have this overwhelming feeling that I am supposed to write about this, so that’s what I am doing. I’m dropping out. I’m a college drop out.

I’ve been told I shouldn’t say that, that I should emphasize the medical withdrawal aspect of my leaving college so soon after attempting to start it, or that I plan to go back and it’s really just a “hiatus”…but here’s the thing. Not everyone has that luxury. Many really simply do drop out and there is no way to sugarcoat it. So many of them for mental health reasons, and so many of them feeling so alone.

I get to sugarcoat my situation if I want, because I do plan on going back, and I do have medical documentation supporting my need to not be at college right now, but honestly? Why should I. I am technically dropping out, dropping all of my classes. I am dropping out of college; I am a college dropout. Currently, yes, but for the next year at minimum, too. On top of that, when so many feel so alone, why would I phrase it on my blog in any but the most helpful terms to others? Why not let those who couldn’t leave for documented medical reasons relate to my story? Okay, cool. Let’s move on.

The day I got my medical withdrawal form from my college, and went to the bookstore to return my books only to discover that I had just missed them and they were closed, I took a short video. I posted it to (my private personal) instagram and captioned it with something about dropping out or medically withdrawing, allowing it to post to facebook dot com, the site where the people who see what you post already know you.

Here’s a gif made from that video and slowed down:

impressive, i know, except jk, obviously

On that exact facebook post of the instagram video, I got a minimal outpouring (can an outpouring be minimal?) of support. One comment especially stood out to me, because it was from someone I had met at college just recently and only just become friends with. They told me that education is important, but health is more important.

I might write more about my poor current health and why I can’t be in college right now at a later date, but at the moment all I can do is hold on. So you get that sentiment, which isn’t even mine, because it helped my heart be a little closer to at peace with my dropping out (for now). I’m a little more at peace with the fact that I had to sign a piece of paper declaring my dream of graduating from college with a degree given up on, for now and until further notice. I’ve waited 6 years to be ready for higher education, but the truth is, my physical and especially mental health are poor right now. My symptoms are extremely severe. I didn’t think my BPD would get this bad again. It is. Here I am. Not ready for college, and not forcing myself to go, because I need to heal and recover. I need to focus on my health.

xoxoxox
Z

seven things to do when your friend has an anxiety disorder

Hey!

This is my first post of 2014 – and I’m really sorry about that!  It’s almost March! I’m terrible.

This blog post was inspired by a chain of facebook comments on a post linking to this Huffington Post article. Someone commented and basically said that they thought an article about seven things you SHOULD tell people who are experiencing anxiety would be helpful for those people who don’t know what to say or do.

I took it upon myself to write a blog post about their idea, since I have a lot of personal experience with anxiety and I know some things people can or have said that help me personally when I’m dealing with anxiety. I have severe social anxiety which I am actually on SSI for, because my anxiety is too severe for me to work (and sometimes leave my home). I’ve had countless panic attacks because of being in public, and in times when my anxiety hasn’t been so bad I’ve still felt anxious and panicked slightly over trivial things. This won’t be an extensive list of every good thing you can say, because there are a lot more than seven examples and I mostly experience social anxiety and some phobias, while there are other kinds of anxiety I don’t fully understand. Feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas for things to say if you have an anxiety disorder!!

This post, however, is mostly for the people who just don’t know what to do in these situations. They don’t teach this kind of thing in health class (although perhaps they should). So here’s my list, in no particular order!

  1. Ask, “would it be helpful if I hugged you or held your hand?” some people with anxiety disorders, especially kinds of anxiety other than social anxiety can often find gentle and friendly physical contact comforting – but never assume. Always make sure they’re comfortable with it before you touch them. Sometimes, for certain people, being touched even briefly by someone they know well can be incredibly upsetting and make the anxiety feel much worse much faster.
  2. Ask, “would you like me to get you some water?” often having something to sip on or even a cup to hold can be helpful, if they aren’t shaking too much. Also, staying hydrated is important.
  3. Get stress balls, spinner rings, and other pocket-sized things to play with, carry them with you, and maybe give them as small gifts to your friends with anxiety, or suggest that they get some themselves. Having something to do with your hands can help with anxiety a lot, especially when symptoms of anxiety include trichotillomania or dermatillomania, for example, which is the case for many people.
  4. Remind them to breathe, deep and slowly. It’s just science. When you breathe more slowly, your heart rate slows down too, and you calm down. Really though, don’t tell them what to do in general – they know what feels the least anxiety-inducing, and aside from a few tricks like breathing slowly, you can’t know what will help unless you’re experiencing it. 
  5. If they have asthma, make sure they have their inhaler nearby at all times. Especially in stressful situations, either an asthma attack or a panic attack/similar anxiety symptoms can occur and then lead to the other starting up as well. They can often keep making each other worse, so make sure they use their inhaler if they experience asthma symptoms and in both situations remember #4.
  6. Ask them if they want you to leave, or if they’d rather you stay with them. Different people have different preferences, sometimes at different times. Both being alone or not being able to be alone, depending on the situation, can make anxiety worse.
  7. Take their anxiety seriously. This is a really important one. It is a mental illness that they have at best not full control over and possibly no control over at all. A lot of people learn to use coping techniques that work for them, take prescription medications for anxiety (such as xanax), attend regular therapy, or use other methods to cope. You have to take their illness seriously, since that is what it is – an illness. It is real and it is difficult to live with. Respect their boundaries and what they need, and try your best to be supportive in a genuine way (which also means it is definitely not the right time for sarcasm). 

Well, that’s all for today – I’d like to start posting more in 2014 though, we’ll see how that goes! Hopefully this post was helpful and possibly informative.

xoxo,
Zelie