I talked with my academic adviser yesterday. I told him about the depression, the dangerous ways I’d beat myself up after class, feeling like I really need to just focus on taking care of myself right now. I even told him my fear: that if I admitted to my struggle with mental illness, I’d be kicked out of my academic program.
His primary concern was, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?” He seemed relieved when I told him I was already seeing a therapist and psychiatrist. He put my fear to rest: the only way I’d get kicked out is if I did something to harm others. And he said that some of the best, brightest, and most influential people in our field have had depression.
I’ll have to wait 2 years to re-take the courses I dropped, but that gives me a good amount of time to heal. I can work on my thesis next academic year, to placate the part of me who doesn’t understand that taking care of my health needs is not spending 2 years being “entirely unproductive” – or, worse, outright wasting them. I have a topic I feel pretty passionate about, and there’s room to change or adjust one’s topic during the first semester. I think I’ll be ready – and excited – to start this work in the fall.
I was able to speak honestly about my mental illness with the person who has the most power to keep me from entering my chosen career – the “gatekeeper,” if you will. If anything, I think he appreciated my honesty. This lifts a huge burden from my shoulders; I feel like I can take off the mask I’ve been wearing for most of my life – at least, when wearing it becomes too uncomfortable. I’m not ready to let go of it entirely, nor is that necessarily wise.
But to let it down from time to time
To feel the wind on my face
To allow the tears to flow freely
To only have to expend as much energy
As it takes to get through the day
And not the extra I need
To look like I’m okay
To let go of the flimsy barracade
And let the Darkness wash over me
All the emotions held at bay
I can finally