The Life and Times of a Mentally Ill Student

Let me be honest; I might be a fantastic student now, but I wasn’t a very good student back in high school. Or middle school. Let’s face it, even elementary school wasn’t that great in terms of my academic success (or social success).
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I didn’t get good grades and I didn’t join clubs (or I did but then never went to any of the meetings). As a kid, I would do practically anything to not go to school and I didn’t have a lot of friends.

I think a lot of things I discovered after high school would have helped me succeed better in my earlier years. As an adult, I learned that I had severe depression issues, exacerbated by a stressful home life and lack of medication necessary to fend off major episodes. I have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder-Predominately Inattentive (formerly known as Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD), which is passed down through my mother’s side of the family. And finally, I have an anxiety disorder that exploded full force after a trip to visit my best friend and coming back to Kansas to a chaotic home life.

With the knowledge of these psychological issues I have and treating them accordingly, I’ve managed to flourish in college. I learned excellent time management skills, ways to combat my ADHD-PI, activities that subdue my anxiety and depression.

I truly wish I’d known the extent of my mental issues as a child. I would have understood why I reacted to certain things the way that I do, and why I struggled with school. However, educational institutions even just a few years ago weren’t equipped with how to identify attention deficit problems in female students, which was my main problem.

When you think of children with attention deficit issues, you’re more likely to think of children who have behavioral issues, can’t sit still, are hyperactive, interrupt often, etc. Girls with attention deficit problems like myself are often perceived as daydreamers. They often do as they’re told, but have trouble focusing on the task at hand.

I had difficulties focusing on things that didn’t interest me or were more challenging for me. Words and numbers would jumble together and I couldn’t solve problems because I didn’t have the attention span to sort them out.

Take mathematics for an example. As a kid, I struggled with focusing on math problems that were put before me and would get frustrated that I couldn’t figure out the answer. My father would do my math homework with me and he would get angry because I would burst into tears when I couldn’t solve the equations. Soon I just accepted that I could never solve the answer and so I just gave up. It got everyone off my back. It wasn’t until college that I realized that I was actually fairly good at math, but I needed the proper tools to fend off my ADHD-PI to acknowledge that.

In addition to my ADHD-PI, anxiety was another monster I need to deal with. Everyone, myself included, just assumed that I was shy. In reality, I didn’t speak up because I didn’t want to be wrong. My anxiety told me that to answer wrong or stutter while speaking meant that I was stupid or that I’d be eternally embarrassed. To prevent that heart-racing feeling, I would practice over and over in head how to answer a question, even if it was simply telling people my name.

I love school now. With the tools (extensively researched online to find new ways to help myself) and medication I needed to combat against my depression, ADHD-PI, and anxiety, I can excel in a classroom environment. I still struggle with some aspects of my mental disabilities but I’ve learned to ease my anxiety, find ways to focus my attention on the tasks presented to me, and relief symptoms of my depression. It takes time and patience and understanding that one day may be worse than the other.

I didn’t have this knowledge as a kid, but hopefully as an adult, this information about myself can help me be a better version of me.