I’m really glad that mental health is something we’re talking about in mainstream media. Given that the topic is so stigmatized, the more awareness and acceptance we can spread, the better.
As I attend college with a mental disorder, I’ve begun to notice the ways living with a mental illness can impact your education. Given that I’ve had these challenges for a very long time, I’ve always learned to adapt. But as soon as I go through a major change…I start to fall apart. I learn to cope with my issues in a specific setting and when the circumstances change, I’m thrown out of alignment. For example- leaving high school and moving on to college. I may have dealt with anxiety and anorexia in high school, but over time I developed some coping mechanisms specific to that environment. And now that my life has changed drastically, I went through a rough period where I didn’t know how to keep my issues at bay. (Doing better now, though. In case that made you worried.)
Getting back to the main point of this, though. Can living with a mental disorder impact how you learn? Absolutely. Can it impact your education even if you are receiving treatment? Absolutely.
I won’t get into the specific psychology of this, but I do want to back up what I’m saying with some facts. Having a mental imbalance, whether it’s depression, ADD, PTSD, etc.- can affect areas of your brain associated with the processing new material. If you struggle with insomnia and sleep deprivation affects your ability to store memories, this presents a major challenge in terms of school and remembering new knowledge. I’ll give a personal example. When I was in recovery from anorexia a few years ago, and began the re-feeding process, my body metabolized food at a very high rate. I could eat an entire meal and be hungry again within a half hour. This affected my ability to concentrate on lectures while other people didn’t feel hungry because they’d just eaten lunch. That’s not to blame the education system for not adapting to people with mental illness. I’m just stating that mental illness presents an additional roadblock in learning material, which requires a lot of mental stamina as is. And even though it seemed like I was getting better- she’s eating! – it still took a great deal of extra energy and strength to go to school in that state.
Do I have all the answers for how to prevent our mental illnesses from standing in the way of our education? Of course not. I’m not an expert. But having gone through my own demons and pushed very hard in school for many years, I understand the struggle. School wasn’t easy to begin with, and sorting through my own personal monsters really taught me a lot about the importance of recognizing your unique needs. At the end of the day, what’s most important is your health. Not the grade, not the test. Your. Health.
Just wanted to share some of my thoughts on the topic…and again, I’m not a medical expert. Just a college kid (with a little yoga training & basic psychology knowledge).
I’m a firm believer that the Universe presents obstacles for a reason. While I wouldn’t wish an eating disorder on anyone, my experience had a major impact on who I am as a person and the choices I’ve made in my life. So don’t resist, don’t curse the skies because it’s not fair. Open yourself up to the opportunity to thrive in the chaos. To make the most of each day you spend in this human experience. You are here for a reason, even if you don’t know what that reason is yet. Stick around & keep looking!
I love you all and thank you for reading.