Taking my 2nd Mental Health Withdrawal

Dropping out of my college for the second time

My first withdrawal

The story of my second withdrawal begins with my first. I was barely 19 and scared out of my mind about dropping out. I started missing one class a week and then two and then all of them just seemed to fade in my rear view, except I wasn’t exactly moving forward. I felt stuck, alone, and hopeless that anything was ever going to change for the better. I remember being so heartbroken with myself for not following the plan for college and now having to be a year behind my original graduation date. I was so caught up with rushing to get everything done that I didn’t realize what a toll this Anxiety was taking on me. The debilitating panic attacks helped me realize.

I say Anxiety with a capital A because it became that in my life: A proper noun, a person. It morphed into my name it felt like. It felt like I was drowning with a weight wrapped around my ankle, holding me under and people were asking why I don’t just breathe or go to class or log onto the college’s website. I was so far beyond help that I finally broke down and faced failing the semester. Distraught, I sought out help from the counseling center, where they informed me about a mental health withdrawal and how I would be a great candidate for it.

Paperwork was signed easily enough given I had supplemental evidence from my doctors of this drowning season I was in. I could feel people around me but there wasn’t anyone who felt as real to me as the Anxiety did.

I went on for months trying new medications and different therapy approaches with a plan set for the following semester. I would take all online classes to prevent the Anxiety from making me not show up to class and continue to search for a prescription that I felt actually did something.

It seemed to work for the most part. I got good grades in my classes, I was showing up to my one in person class. I even signed back up for the organization that I had additionally dropped out of. But then the next spring semester came.

The beginning of this semester

At the beginning of this semester I had everything ready to go: a billion notebooks that were going to be perfect for taking notes, colored pens and highlighters, even a schedule drawn out about what I’d be doing each day for the week.

The difference was though, this wasn’t a few online classes. This was three in person lectures that each had a lab. Non college translation: I had six classes and school every single day of the week.

It’s important to note that while this gave me Anxiety, I was still positive and listening to my doctor’s mantras of “don’t give up hope.” Except after a while it happened again.

When it started getting bad

I remember the first time I missed class I had a panic attack- a big one. One that stole the air from my chest and waterboarded me. I was beyond terrified, rocking back and forth, losing reality and slipping into somewhere even more terrifying that I couldn’t understand was not in front of me. The PTSD became louder, the OCD was louder, the Anxiety was louder. Everything was just so loud and nothing could calm the storms drowning me.

This one time missing class turned into a “if I miss class again someone will notice” anxious thought. This spiraled then into a “if I’m late people will notice.” Finally it tail-winded into “if I get into my car I will die and never make it to class.”

The process

While it might differ from college to college, the beginning of this process for me was to contact my academic dean to get approval for my withdrawal. The meeting lasted 5 minutes and included only a few exchanged sentences about the precautions associated with the withdrawal.

It then moved onto the withdrawal department that gave me an overwhelming amount of information about how to officially withdrawal from the university and still be able to enroll again for the fall.

From there I signed a document, added supplemental records from both my psychologist and psychiatrist and then BAM. Withdrawn from all of my classes, again, and it took less than a week.

Why it’s okay

The fact that this didn’t take long at all was somewhat shocking. I thought the second time around maybe there would be more precautions thrown at me, a flashing warning sign telling me to turn back, suck it up and finish my semester now. But it wasn’t like that. It was understanding and compassion for something that I didn’t have to explicitly disclose to a dean I’ve never met before or a withdrawal officier that looked at this every single day.

I was terrified and hopeful about this process, but this seemed to nail in this sense that it was okay to take a second withdrawal. Everyone had their reasons for withdrawing from the university and I was no different. I was so relieved to have a lack of unwarranted judgement from someone who didn’t know my story. It felt like a mountain had been moved off my shoulders. I was grateful for the opportunity to be in university, but I was also grateful for the opportunity to take the rest of this semester to take care of myself and focus on my health.

So that’s where I’m at now: trying to find a way to balance my life with my chronic anxiety and managing the symptoms. I’m hopeful for fall semester and can’t wait to get back into school, don’t get me wrong, but I’m also working on being actually okay with going back to school. In the meantime, while I’m working on me, I’m focusing on this. That’s not necessarily a bad thing right?