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How do I tell my parents I'm dropping out of college?

AbcadezAbcadez Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
edited January 2009 in Parents Forum
I'm really between a rock and a hard place right now, and I'm hoping some of the parents here can impart some wisdom that will help me break the news to my family.

I'm being forced to leave school for a semester because of poor grades. The poor grades are mostly caused by a series of major depressive episodes, the most recent of which resulted in my failing all my classes last semester. I'm doing my best to get better--I see a great therapist, and have had mixed success with medication. Right now I'm looking for a job, trying to find a better medication regimen, and working with my therapist to get well enough to return to school and graduate. I'm very upset about this recent development, but I'm dealing with it and have a good support system because of my wonderful girlfriend and other friends who make up my "chosen family."

The problem is my blood family have pretty much no idea anything is wrong. As far as they know, I'm on track to graduate this spring after five successful years of school--I told them the fifth year was because of a late major change, but it was really mostly because of academic problems from the depression. I feel awful about lying to them, but I feel worse about the prospect of admitting to my parents and extended family that I'm a total failure.

I'm not just guessing or imagining that they'd have a bad reaction if I were honest with them. When I was first diagnosed with depression a couple of years ago, I told my parents about it when I came home for summer break. They completely flipped out--screaming at me at the top of their lungs that I'd brought it on myself, yelling about how unfair it was that I hadn't told them earlier, even telling me depression was contagious and I'd infect them with it. My parents are smart, knowledgeable people, and my dad has been on medication for depression for a while so it's not a lack of understanding at work... I still don't know why they reacted that badly, but they did, and it caused a lot of problems at the time. I wish I could have been honest all along, but I'm fairly guarded with them because we've had a rocky relationship for a long time. We more or less get along now, but I'm gay and have been thrown out of the house for it in the past.

Anyway, now I have to explain somehow that they shouldn't be planning any graduation parties or worrying about paying tuition this semester. I'm worried that this will be the last straw that shatters any residual hope I had for a good relationship with them, and I'm feeling crappy enough that I don't think I can take any more rejection right now. People keep telling me I'm still smart and full of potential if I can just get through this mess, but it's hard not to feel worthless right now, and I can't figure out a way to tell my parents what's going on that doesn't make them think I'm worthless too.

Thanks for reading; sorry it's so long. Any ideas?
Post edited by Abcadez on

Replies to: How do I tell my parents I'm dropping out of college?

  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 12,349 Senior Member
    Get telling your parents over with as soon as possible. This way you will not have to lie or be evasive, that will take away some stress. I presume you don't need to return home, ie you have an apt. From what you said they don't really understand the illness depression, despite your father's need for medication (they may also react as they do because of your father's own illness). The most important thing is to be sure your college understands what is going on so you can eventually complete your degree. Keep up with your therapy and any meds, you must realize that you have a chronic illness and do what you can to maximize your mental health. I'm sure your therapist will cover your relationship with your parents, but from me- don't worry about them, they have their own problems, it is not your fault that they are reacting so poorly, not able to give you the support you need. Do let your chosen family support you- you are lucky to have them. I'm sure you have researched depression and know when you feel down you can't get yourself up, use your resources- therapy/meds. Take your parents out of the picture since that will help you cope better, get the phone call and their reaction over with then you can dismiss them and get on with getting better. Hang in there, things will get better.
  • pugmadkatepugmadkate Registered User Posts: 5,888 Senior Member
    wis75 is wise.

    If your parents think you are a total failure or worthless, they are wrong. It's really that simple. Same with throwing you out of the house because you are gay. That is not something that loving, supportive parents do. I don't think your parents are bad people but everyone has limitations and these are theirs. Sadly, it impacts your life as well at at time when you need support.

    Your therapist would be the best person to talk to about telling your parents. Make it a goal to tell them asap as it is clearly bothering you that they don't know. Then let them deal with their life and you deal with yours. You've put together a great support system, use it. With time, hopefully your relationship with your parents will heal but that cannot be your priority. Getting yourself well, taking care of yourself, that must be your priority.

    I wish you the very best of luck. You are dealing with some very difficult issues but you are hanging in there and doing the work to get better. That's a lot to be proud of.
  • pipmompipmom Registered User Posts: 1,097 Junior Member
    You are not a total failure as you said above. Repeat- you are not a total failure.

    You have come this far despite the troubles caused by major depressive episodes. You have a plan for completing your degree that involves a semester off to work. Yes, this will result in an extra year of school, but you are dealing with the year in as constructive a way as possible. You have depression, yes, but you are dealing with it in as mature a manner as humanly possible. You have a support system of girlfriend, therapist and others who can help you through this and provide the care you need.

    I agree with telling your parents as soon as possible, since it is bothering you so. You should discuss how to go about telling them with your therapist. Of course, there is the option of phone call or in-person. Another option is a letter- which puts you in the driver's seat to explain the situation in an uninterrupted fashion. It allows you to get this off your chest and concentrate on your needs. It shows respect for their need to know. The letter should be 100% about you and your feelings- not a condemnation of how they have reacted in the past. A letter will also give your parents time to react (poorly) outside of your presence. I don't think you need to hear any cruel and harmful reactions they may have. It will also give them something they can read and re-read until they can come to terms with it and possible move in the direction of supporting you. And, they have the option of writing back, calling, visiting, perhaps- but you retain the option of whether you are available for that contact.

    Some might say this is a "chicken" thing to do- I don't think so. Sometimes the only way to communicate is one-sided so that your feelings can be expressed.

    There is a saying- that which does not kill us makes us stronger. You have shown a great deal of strength, thus far. Keep it up. Keep moving forward to get the assistance and support you need. Pray that your parents will do the same for themselves. But it is not your job to help them be OK. It is your job to help yourself be OK.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Registered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    You need to tell them about your illness-- depression.

    If they are unable to understand how depression contributed to your difficulties, you need to recognize that their perspective is as wrong as if they expected you to maintain top grades and stay in school despite trying to recover from a physical illness like a heart attack.

    Hugs to you, and warm wishes that your recovery continues. Saying this as one who struggled with depression for most of my life. You are fortunate to be getting care at a much younger age than I did.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Registered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    " I'm worried that this will be the last straw that shatters any residual hope I had for a good relationship with them, and I'm feeling crappy enough that I don't think I can take any more rejection right now. "

    While from what you've posted, it's unlikely that your parents will understand your depression, it's not true that any negative response from them means you'll never have a good relationship with them.

    Can you stay with a close friend or an empathic relative after you drop out of school? Do talk with your therapist about this so you find a way to have a supportive environment after you drop out.
  • sonssectysonssecty Registered User Posts: 342 Member
    I have high hopes for you. You have not given up; you are working on improving your situation and you have planned to return to school. Also, you are planning on working. All of these are positives.

    Your parents will flip out and go a little crazy when they hear the news. My husband and I have flipped out and gone a little crazy so many times for so many reasons throughout our daughter's college years. We got over it each and every time. Why? Because we love her. She just graduated. And your parents will get over it eventually. You do what you need to do to get better. Stick with those who support you.
  • milkandsugarmilkandsugar Registered User Posts: 2,869 Senior Member
    Abcadez, by your post you definitely are not a failure. You have assessed your situation honestly and are taking care of yourself. Mature, thoughtful and realistic people do what you do.
    I think the letter idea is a very good one on all levels. Gives you a chance to explain your position fully and it also allows the space your parents needs to process the information. It sound like your parents have knee jerk reactions to information so you should expect the same, however based on your post it seems that they eventually come around.
    Good luck to you and keep your new family close.
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