Yesterday, I came across this NAMI blog post: “You Can’t Plan for Mental Illness”. I definitely related to the writer’s story and her message.
Please, if you’re experiencing symptoms or warning signs of a mental illness, seek help as soon as possible. Your mental health is far more important than your 5-year plan. I’ve learned that college can wait—treating mental illness cannot.
When a job interviewer asks about a five year plan, I almost want to laugh. As a high school senior, the answer would have appeared so simple: graduate college in four years followed by a full-time job or grad school. Given that I took multiple semesters off related to mental illness, clearly my “five year plan” did not go as planned.
That’s not to say that someone with a diagnosis cannot fulfill their goals. I personally found it very hard when I had to take that first semester off. I felt like everyone was moving forward in life and their accomplishments while I was stuck behind… failing in comparison. I felt the need to re-enroll as fast as I could, even while in the hospital still exhibiting manic symptoms… and still needing to make up exams from the previous semester. What I had to learn was that taking time off does not make someone a failure. It means that you are postponing your plans to put your health first. There should be no shame in that at all. In fact, trying to go to classes when I was not ready hurt my GPA and self-esteem… and made performing well on exams practically impossible.
Sometimes, life happens. That’s okay. Pause. Take the time you need. Make sure you don’t brush off the goal of having good mental health. When you are ready, go back to pursuing your academic/professional goals at your own pace.