1 | The Greater Good

I created this blog in May 2015.  At the time, I had huge plans for it and wanted to create a resource hub for people struggling with mental illnesses like me.  I spent days and days creating resource pages filled to the brim with as much information as I could gather.  I worked diligently on making the site visually appealing, searching for open-source images that conveyed each page’s underlying theme and tone.  I began writing short summaries of the resources that I had compiled, hoping to highlight their benefits and share the wealth of knowledge found here on the Internet.  I was hyperfocused and ready to break out into the blog scene!

Then life happened.

I returned to my university to finish up the last two classes of my graduate studies, while I worked part-time in a grocery store for financial support.  I was determined to graduate that semester, but after completing and passing my comprehensive exams (a week-long venture of writing three ten-page papers and nothing else—no work, no classes, no nothing), things started going downhill.  I fell behind in my classes due to missing a week for comps, and I was so financially unstable that I had to apply for SNAP benefits.  I also began working full-time at the grocery store, after being offered a position that paid more but required me to be at work at either 3 am, 4 am, or 5 am on a rotating schedule.  Stress and anxiety took over.  My mental health was on the decline.  My mind would not focus on the piles of work that needed to be done in order to graduate, yet I continued to prepare for graduation, inviting family to come see me walk across the stage in the next couple of weeks.

Near the beginning of December 2015, graduation week finally came.  My dad and stepmom drove from several states away to see me, bringing along their two small dogs and sleeping on the deeply-discounted air mattress I had bought just for them on Black Friday.  They happily took pictures on the day of graduation, admiring the achievements that had lead up to that moment and the master’s hood that adorned my neck—a physical representation of those achievements.  They had no idea, however, about me falling behind in my classes or needing financial assistance in the form of food stamps; it was my hope that they never would.  So, I pretended as if everything was okay.  With them there, along with my false sense of optimism, it seemed like nothing could go wrong.

The next day, my dad and stepmom had to drive back home.  After they left, I felt empty and very alone.  It was the end of the semester, so most university students had already gone home for winter break; that was the case with my friends, save for maybe two.  I was, therefore, alone in my apartment after having walked across the stage when I found out that I had failed one of my two classes that semester.  I had never before failed any project, any class, ever, but there I was.  It had just happened.  My mind went blank…

I eventually decided to email the professor, begging for a short time extension before grades were due so that I could finish my classwork and pass the class.  I had given her notice of my mental health accommodations from the Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the semester, so surely she would understand and work with me, right?  But in her reply the next day, she tore me apart for my pleas of mercy.  I had failed the class, full stop.  In my mind, I had failed at life.  I began having suicidal thoughts.  I couldn’t bear to tell my dad and stepmom what had happened, particularly since they had driven so far and had used vacation days to come celebrate a graduation that wound up being stricken from the record.  I cried and cried and cried.  I thought about maybe taking a handful of my antidepressant medication, just to end the pain I felt.  I had hit rock bottom.

Luckily, with the help of two dear friends and my place of work’s need for me, I picked myself up and continued on.  It’s been months since then.  I moved back to my hometown in July 2016 for emotional and financial support from my mom and her side of the family.  I worked for the local public school system up until my termination in April 2017 for absenteeism related to the mental illnesses I was too afraid to disclose.  Now, I have until May 2018 to finish my master’s degree before my credits expire.  My dad and stepmom still don’t know that I haven’t graduated.  It is the burden I’ve forced myself to bear.

Finding a job that provides a steady income with benefits, while also working with my school schedule and commute, has been incredibly difficult.  (Without a job with benefits, I cannot afford health insurance and therefore cannot afford my prescription medications.)  I interviewed for a job last week, though, that meets all of my requirements, and I hope to hear back from them this week.

In the meantime, I want to get this blog up and running.  Now more than ever, with everything that has happened to me in the last couple of years, I feel compelled to take my experiences with mental health issues and use them for the greater good.  I desperately want to help other people who are affected by mental illness, even if it’s just letting someone know that they aren’t alone through what I write in my blog posts.  I just can’t let the work I’ve done so far—in life, in graduate school, in this blog—go to waste anymore.  I need to take action.  In doing so, perhaps I’ll find some help for myself, too.

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