Life is all about learning: about yourself, others, your environment, and the world. You learn through experience, from the teaching of others, and school (if it applies to you). You learn good things and bad things, both being on a relative measure. When you learn of the bad things, and they affect you, what do you do? How do you react? What is your next step?
I like to believe that I was always an observant person, even as a child. I would watch everything and everyone, taking it all in, but more often than not I would digest too much to the point of being overwhelmed. There was so much information to process, but I wanted to process all of it because I was such a curious child.
It was much more noticeable when I started going to school as a child. All the stimuli from my environment became too much because I was unable to prioritize my assignments and readings. It constantly left me behind everyone in terms of work completion, but my learning level was the same. I knew I was different than my classmates who could easily focus and maintain it, while I either tried to determine what to start or end up staring off in space, daydreaming.
It continued on through high school, but I was starting to learn how to prioritize my work. Unfortunately, despite my attempts to manage my time, I still found learning in school very difficult. I preferred the arts and physical education, while I absolutely despised math and certain sciences. The moment I was uninterested, my attention span would fly out the window. I loved to daydream and still do today, but back then it was almost uncontrolled. I would procrastinate and find myself behind in my work all over again. I was a perfectionist, and I still am, but it affected my work since it constantly slowed me down which pushed me to being late with my work at times. It was difficult trying to balance everything, especially since I took part in extra-curricular activities. Was I overwhelmed in high school? Absolutely.
When I started university, that was when I realized how underprepared I was to handle everything. I thought I learned how to manage myself even against the odds of my procrastination and extra work, but I was definitely not ready. I did get better at focusing and paying attention to everything, but time management was still on difficult. I jumped right into the deep end, completely unaware of everything, and filled my schedule to the maximum amount of credits allowed per year. Trying to manage that? Everything felt against me.
I was completely unsure of myself and where I wanted to go in life, but I couldn’t simply say no to university since I have traditional and conservative parents. I went to university, learned and made mistakes, when choosing my classes, but it was worth it. All I knew was that I wanted to help youth because I considered myself troubled in some ways. I wanted to be a teacher or a guidance counselor, but the path of becoming a teacher was one I couldn’t follow. My anxiety and overthinking that came with public speaking made it difficult for me to fathom teaching classes, so I moved onto majoring in psychology and try getting into counselling psychology. It was a definite struggle.
As I stated earlier, I’m interested in the arts than the math and sciences. Specifically, I struggled in math and the natural sciences, so going through certain aspects of psychology was difficult. I became unfocused and uninterested in reading long bouts of theories and learning about the mathematical and scientific sides. With my struggle trying to learn those aspects, it caused me to switch majors because my GPA wasn’t enough to let me into the Honours Program to take counselling psychology. Luckily, I learned I could double major in psychology and conflict resolution studies.
Everything in conflict resolution studies resonated so much with me. Some topics overlapped with psychology, but a lot of it was focused on family and social life. I found myself finally interested in learning again because every topic, no matter how big or small, applied to me. I did more and more research of things I wanted to know related to the field and time management wasn’t so difficult since I had great professors who were willing to provide extensions. Unfortunately, certain classes made me realize there were things I did that weren’t so great and I should be seeking help. Did I do that? No, I simply kept going, graduated, and eventually became stuck.
How would I find a job with such a broad degree? For years, I wondered how I would find a job with a bachelor’s degree when every job in my field either needed connections, experience, or a master’s degree. Everyone who knew about my degree made finding a job so simple, but for some reason I felt anxious about finding a job. I dragged my time from job searching, but it reached a point where I couldn’t put it off any longer; too much time passed that could have been filled.
It was extremely difficult to actually sit down and find a job. There were so many factors in my life that pressured me into finding a job, but I was completely put off every time I would go through any job site. My body would get extremely cold, hands would shake relentlessly, and I couldn’t focus at all once I started. I had to seek help for my difficulties with employment, and I did, but when I thought things were finally looking up for me it still crashed.
It was my birthday when things went downhill. I had hurt my back doing laundry and was scolded for it, repeatedly. My head spun from that, the pressure of finances, finding a job, and expectations from friends and family that my mentality imploded on itself. I knew then that I had to see a doctor and speak about my mental health. So, when I saw my doctor for a follow-up on my back x-ray, I explained my problems and my thought of possibly having some sort of mental illness, and I was diagnosed with moderately severe depression and anxiety.
I knew in the back of my mind that I would be diagnosed with those illnesses, but officially hearing it and being advised to take medication made it real. I learned that the adverse reaction I had every time going on a job site, or any kind of situation that made me anxious, was actually a panic attack. I was basically having panic attacks every few days, especially when phone calls were involved. I began seeing my doctor so often where I had to change medication again for my anxiety, which meant more physiological and psychological changes. It wasn’t until I hit a really low point that I knew I had to have a long conversation with my doctor.
The stress grew worse and my reactions became violent. I would find myself shouting at my parents, snapping at a moment’s notice, and if I felt really bad I would physically hurt myself. It frightened me when it would reach that point, and it absolutely frightened my mother when she witnessed times where I really struggled. I made an appointment to see my doctor immediately because I was spiraling out of control. I knew I couldn’t properly convey everything I felt and thought verbally, so I wrote it all out in the form of a letter. I wrote what I needed to say and I hoped that my doctor would better understand my needs and situation. Luckily, he did.
The news I received wasn’t positive, but wasn’t entirely unexpected. I was asked to do a questionnaire for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and when I completed it he told me I had the symptoms for ADD since I lacked the hyperactivity. I knew, as a psychology major, that I may have had it because of inability to concentrate and focus, but it bothered me so much because I could’ve been diagnosed ages ago when I was growing up. Had I known, maybe I would’ve learned better and did better in other areas of school.
However, being a psychology major also made me aware of other mental disorders, one of which seemed too close to home: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I did my research about it and I couldn’t help but see aspects of it in my life and in my behaviour. When I asked my doctor if it was possible to have a personality disorder, he didn’t disagree. He didn’t have the resources to handle that kind of work, so he sent off a referral for a proper evaluation, but I continue to wait to this day for a response.
I studied psychology and conflict resolution studies to try and help others. My goal was to help others and apply things to myself when needed, but learning the darker side of things and that being applicable to myself was frustrating. I spent years in conflict with myself questioning if I should address these problems. Do I go see a doctor? Do I go on medication? Do I tell my parents? Would my parents get too stressed out and become ill should they find out? Would they understand everything that was happening to me? How do I get a job? It snowballed and may continue to snowball as things unfold.
The question most people will ask is “Will I get a job with everything that is going on?” Yes I will, but not right now, not according to my employment consultant. Too much is happening and I have to take things one step at a time. I have to continue learning and understanding myself as this process goes on. Until I find the right balance of medication and have a proper evaluation by a specialist, I’ll be waiting for a while. Will I do nothing while I wait? No, simply because I’ve found interest in my life again to do many things.
In general, I feel like I waited too long to seek for help. According to the Pinch Theory I had written about, I was in a pinch since middle school and it turned into a crunch in the early years of high school. I never did anything to help myself or address my internal conflict, so I unnecessarily put myself through another cycle of conflict through university to present time where it turned into a bigger crunch. Had I addressed it sooner, maybe I wouldn’t think I might have BPD or any kind of personality disorder. Had I addressed my conflict sooner, I would’ve lived a less stressful life because I wouldn’t be sitting on ‘what-ifs’ all the time. I wouldn’t have cycled myself through conflict over and over, and my mental health wouldn’t be as poor as it is.
The plus in all of this is that I did seek out help. I learned what I learned to help others, but it was time to help myself. It might have been late, but it was better than not addressing my mental health and mental illness. It was then that I realized I did everything to also help myself. What I learned in school that wholly applied to me wasn’t entirely pleasant, but it gave me a heads up to what I would be potentially going through. The next step would be accepting everything.