Trigger warning: mentions of mental illness, suicide
Not to delve too deep into personal issues on a public blog, but I went from an A-average, optimistic high schooler to a D-average, lonely, severely mentally ill college student in the span of a year.
I was unhappy to go to the college I attended (my in-state safety school that ended up being the only one I could afford), but I tried hard to feign excitement and remain positive. My home life wasn’t the best, and I considered college to be a new start for me, regardless of where I went. So, even before the first day on campus, I began reaching out to every new face I could find and joining more clubs than I knew the name of. That initial ambition soon fell flat though, as I found myself not connecting with anyone on campus despite how much I tried to find anyone with my common interests. Coupled with incidents that left me feeling unheard and unimportant by the faculty, as well as a lack of care shown in the departments I wanted to pursue, I began to feel very purposeless and alone. This all came to a head when, towards the middle of my first semester, I tried to take my own life. Everything felt so pointless, and given how isolated and disrespected I felt on campus, I didn’t think there was any other option for me to take. To be fair, I have a history of mental illness, but my mental state deeply plummeted in college in a way that I had never thought possible in high school.
After I spent some much needed time recovering, I went back to college due to my family pressuring me to at least try things out for the year. After all, sometimes you have to give things time before you warm up to them. But, time only made my college experience worsen. The issues I had been dealing with still persisted after my recovery, only they now were paired with the extra work I had to make up from my time away. While professors were accommodating for the most part, my lack of purpose combined by the sheer abundance of work I had to complete burnt me out irreparably, resulting in me just barely scraping by my courses with D’s.
I still tried to remain positive going into the spring semester, but my heart wasn’t in it. Upon returning to campus after winter break, I had a very bad panic attack upon entering my dorm again. The stress and mental exhaustion all came flooding back, resulting in me not leaving my dorm for a good 24 hours after the incident. The remainder of the semester echoed the same sentiments, with me not going to classes, socializing, or even taking care of myself on the most basic of levels. All of my passions faded away, resulting in me not caring about my grades or future in the slightest. It sounds awful, but if it weren’t for COVID hitting the states when it did and altering the rest of the semester, I no doubt would’ve tried to end my life again or put myself in harm’s way.
I think that what I need most right now is some time away from higher education to get better. Mentally, I just can’t handle school right now. I feel like a failure for not being able to do it. But, I’m worried taking time off could harm me very greatly in the long run. I know I’ll need to find a steady full-time job in the meantime, as I need to save up for a new place to stay (my current home situation with my family is not healthy at the moment) and just generally pull my weight. I’m doing online freelance work at the moment, but the pay is very poor and unsustainable for an extended period of time if I’m taking a break from college. However selfish this may seem, I’m just very worried that I’ll get sucked into a cushy, soulless 9 to 5 and never leave. I’ve seen family members of mine fall into the same trap of dropping out of college and never doing anything meaningful with their lives, and I don’t want the same to happen to me.
Regarding transferring, I’m not too optimistic. Going to another 4-year university will sadly be all but impossible, given how money is a key factor in my scenario (and my grades from this year will make just about every university shudder). The community colleges closest to me aren’t ideal, but beggars certainly can’t be choosers. Both these options still concern me due to, in my opinion, how fragile my mental state is, and I’d rather not lose another year’s worth of tuition on more emotional breakdowns. In the case of community college, though, I’m again worried about getting caught up in a mindless, minimum wage job that will eventually take priority over my classes, since I don’t have a particular passion or interest to motivate the classes I take or information I learn.
I feel like a lost cause. Most people I know who are my age are already picking out their majors and making wonderful friends at their universities, while I’m not able to even pass a ten question quiz in my easiest courses. Should I continue attending the college I’ve been attending, or should I call it a day and transfer to a community college? Should I take a year off of all college entirely and find a steady job while I get some help? Do I have any other sustainable options?