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How I Conquered Mental Illness to Succeed in University and How You Can, Too

Mental illness found me at 19 years old. I was in my second year of university with the world at my fingertips, yet I could not get out of bed. I was ridden with depression, anxiety and horrible mood swings that hung over me like a dark cloud. To escape my situation, I would self -harm by taking over-the-counter medications; anything that would make me sleep and avoid what I was feeling. My boyfriend Shane pleaded with me to seek help but I refused. One night in mid-November 2009, I hit rock bottom. I had a meltdown and anger swept through me like a wave and I couldn’t control myself. I was so frustrated and defeated I trashed my dorm room. Once my rage subsided, I saw the destruction around me and was so ashamed. Flight response took hold and I swallowed five sleeping pills and almost overdosed.  Shane was so distraught when he found me that he booked me an emergency appointment with a campus counselor the next day and once I met the counselor she recommended I withdraw from school and call my parents to pick me up immediately.

I was devastated and angry with myself. While all my peers were out socializing and enjoying their newfound freedom I was back home with my parents and I felt stuck. I couldn’t work, go to school or do anything I wanted. I knew I couldn’t continue this way and decided I would take charge of my mental health and make a plan – a plan to get better and accomplish my goals no matter what life threw at me.

I took ten months off and was able to receive proper care. I found a great counselor, saw my doctor once a week and joined a therapy group. Having my parents’ support and living at home was what I needed and luckily Shane visited often.

Once I improved, I looked into going back to school. My parents recommended I live at home and go to school locally instead of returning to the school I went to that was in the next province. I was reluctant but knew it was best as I needed support. My boyfriend was sad but understood and bought a car so he could make the four-hour drive easier.

I enrolled at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in fall 2010 and sought out every opportunity available to me. I became a client at the accessibility center where I received tutoring and exam accommodation which allowed me to succeed academically. I got a part time job on campus working for the co-operative education office and afterwards I enrolled in the program where I got to complete three work terms as part of my degree. I didn’t stop there, I applied to study abroad and luckily was accepted and went to Sweden for six months, all by myself. I graduated with an A average and was class valedictorian.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a long tough road to get my degree. Mental illness followed me through all of those accomplishments but I didn’t let it stop me. I decided to start a blog about my journey so I could connect and help others who were fighting the battle. That gave me even more strength that I didn’t know I had.

In fall 2015 Shane proposed to me and we got married in 2017. Our relationship had been rocky as we had done four years long distance and my illness was sometimes difficult to manage. But we got through it and I couldn’t have a more supportive husband. Even though it’s hard, things are worth fighting for.

When I moved to a new city in 2016 I knew I still needed a good medical team to help me so I got on the wait list for a psychiatrist and in fall 2017 I was matched with a great doctor and she referred me to a free counselor who I meet with every two weeks. It was this team who finally diagnosed me with emotional intensity disorder, also commonly known as borderline personality disorder (BPD). In addition, I was diagnosed with adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which apparently goes hand-and-hand with BPD. I have never felt so liberated now that I have been properly diagnosed and have been receiving proper treatment.

Although I have persevered, my mental illness has not left me. I most likely will fight this battle every day, but every time I overcome an obstacle or accomplish a goal I conquer my mental illness. I don’t let it define me or stop me from doing what I want to do.

We all have one life to live and we must live it to the fullest and on our own terms. Of course, we can have support and love along the way but life is only what we ourselves make it. Take charge, know what you want, seek professional help and connect with those going through the same thing. Let’s conquer this!

I can’t recommend these tips enough to fighting the battle. It’s not easy, and can take time, but it is so worth it.

  1. Find a good medical team. A psychiatrist, general practitioner and counselor or therapist is the best triple threat to fighting this disease.
  2. Connect with the community. Find others battling the same illness. Knowing you’re not alone can be a huge comfort.
  3. Find support in family and friends. I recommend family member and friends read books on mental health so they can better understand what you’re going through and how to help you. Also, it is helpful to bring your support team to a counselling appointment so they can have help from a professional as well.
  4. Write down daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to accomplish your goals, we all move at our own pace. But having them written down is a good first step.
  5. Make your life as easy as possible. Find ways to simplify your day so you can feel as best you can. Here are some hacks for dealing with depression and anxiety.

For more insight and advice on mental health topics, visit my blog at www.monomeg.wordpress.com #togetherweconquer
Thank you for reading!

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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Author Bio: Megan is a mental health and memoir blogger from Atlantic Canada. Her passions include writing, playing with her dog Bodie and spending time with family and friends. Megan hopes her words will inspire others and build a community of support for those who are suffering with mental illness. You can read more of her mental health writing on her website www.mental-health-in-mind.com.

Photo by Logan Isbell on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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