man working using a laptop
My Take

Mental Health for Students and Young Adults

You how they say kids/teens are in a hurry to become adults but once you’re an adult you wish you could go back to being a kid? I think that’s really true…for me I looked forward to the independence of a car for example, but I still wasn’t in a hurry to hit the 18 year mark! This was in contrast to many of my peers and even more so, minors today. Cell phones, makeup, short-shorts, halter tops and hugely padded bras are just some examples of the ‘rush to adulthood’.

I get it. Not being told what to do can be very enticing. What’s ironic though is the often paralyzing nature of finally being in control and calling the shots, so to speak. “Please, take away my decisions! Free of charge!” Kidding aside, I partly blame the education system. Intelligence this, memorization that, blah blah blah. High school is a bit of a nasty joke and leaves memories that many adults prefer to ignore. Let’s explore why I think school is missing something very important.

For those of you past high school, who remembers the Pythagorean Theorem a2 + b2 = c2? Who remembers ‘mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell’? I’m guessing that for many of us these are etched into our minds whether we like it or not. I don’t know about you but my bosses have been very impressed and hired me on the spot due to my ability to find the missing length of a side in a right-angle triangle … NOT!

I’m not arguing that school is pointless and that nothing we learn is useful…what I’m saying is that the education system is incomplete in a dangerous way. You know what taught me and still comes in handy? It’s funny because it wasn’t part of an official lesson…I’ll call it inadvertent learning. Here goes:

  1. Playground politics = Much of life disguised in a sandbox.
  2. Grade competition/admission competition = The struggle to beat our coworkers up the corporate ladder.
  3. School is a popularity contest = Life is a popularity contest.
  4. The teacher suck-up = The future boss suck-up.
  5. The tattle-tale = The coworker no one likes or trusts.
  6. The flashy clothes, expensive shoes and latest tech = A preview of the ‘ratrace’ and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.

Alright, moving on! Who remembers being taught the importance of self-care and what that looks like? Who was taught budgeting? Debit cards, credit cards, loans, mortgages, investments or buying vs. renting a place to live? Who was taught EMOTIONAL intelligence? How to undergo a job interview? Balancing work, school and home life? There’s NO WAY we were taught all of these things and we’re lucky if we were taught a FEW. This type of teaching is super discrepant and does NOT make for an even playing field for young adults.

I can hear a counterargument to my thoughts; school is standardized learning where certain specific skills and knowledge are taught. The rest, be it emotional, financial, etc., is left to parents. Fair enough, I get the concept…but….not all kids and teens will learn these things from their parents! There are many factors as to why but the bottom line is a vast majority of minors aren’t at the same level.

You know what else I find unfortunate? Students who excel at academic learning can conclude that their life outside of school will consequently be an inherent success. It does help but not necessarily in the way we’d assume at first glance. I believe the advantage isn’t due to WHAT they learned but rather HOW they taught themselves to learn. Their motivation, time-management skills and focus are more likely to help in the outside world.

I really relate to this point which is why I feel so strongly about it. I’ve always done pretty well in school (aside from math). Not as well as I’d like, but still pretty well. This originally gave me a bit of confidence; I thought I knew where I was going and that 90+ averages would ensure that adulthood would be a smooth transition and big success. HAHAHAHAHA! I was so very wrong and approaching adulthood made me insanely anxious. That’s also when my issues really grabbed hold of me.

I think one of the reasons is because it dawned on me that my grades meant very little. I was overwhelmingly unprepared for adulthood and the level of insecurity was paralyzing. I was good at school but terrible at life. Bear in mind that I was fortunate enough to have parents who did in fact teach me those crucial things not taught in school and yet look what happened? Imagine the others!

On the other side we have children/teens who aren’t as academically inclined and they’re taught that they won’t be successful in real life. It’s true that if one has terrible work habits that can be an impediment, but not doing well in school does not = not doing well in life! NONE OF US are truly prepared for adulthood and life outside of school. We’re not even prepared to take care of ourselves while still IN school!

Students are driving themselves crazy with anxiety and burning out over NUMBERS. I think we’re losing the joy of learning and focussing so hard on grades that we’re not truly living. If we don’t know how to live while in school, how will we once we’ve completed it? There’s no switch where as soon as we’re done everything makes sense and life falls into balance! Responsibilities INCREASE which means if we haven’t already learned how to balance, we are, to use a highly technical term….screwed.

I’ve been trying to keep this post a little light and funny but the truth is, there’s nothing light about this. We’re programming a generation of robots who work themselves into burnout without even knowing WHY they’re working or what they’re working TOWARDS. That or, creating a generation who sense the bullshit and don’t want to give a crap anymore, resulting in laziness and apathy. “What’s the point?” I get it. What IS the point? Why are we running so hard and fast towards something un-promised?

College and University

College and University are huge transitions that require a lot of adaptation. It’s not just the increased level of difficulty; it’s that we’re getting closer to real life. That’s scary! This transition often involves moving away from our parents, being more independent with our finances and generally just making our own decisions. I suppose that this is a good way to get our feet wet but I don’t know…I still wish High School would have prepared me more for this shit-show. I’m far from independent…it’s hard for me to even be alone. I am getting better though and you know what I attribute that to? My car. I’m serious…my car has seriously helped me grow. It’s exhilarating and pushes my boundaries and the same time; it’s wonderful and yet dangerous.

Having a car lets me go to work and school. It allows me to get from my parents to my fiancé without asking/waiting for a lift. It also allows me to go out and get what I need. Aha! Issue number 1. The capability to go out and do my things is good but it also adds a responsibility…one I’ve been failing at up until the past week where I’ve made up my mind to fix a key habit. Being able to go where I want when I want means that I can very easily end up spending money. (Money that I don’t have.) Gas is in itself very expensive, so I have to be careful with that too. Everything is a learning process though and I’m determined now to become more responsible…with my finances especially.

Where is This Going?

You might be wondering where all of this is going…it might feel like much ado about nothing and I’m sorry about that. The truth is that I don’t have the answers. I wouldn’t be struggling so much if I did so I’m sorry if you came here for advice. All I can share is what I’m trying to do. I can’t even say that I’m responsibly following my own advice.

I’ve finally made a budget with my most important payments calculated first. This includes my car financing, insurance, cell phone bill, my portion of the rent and a couple of ongoing subscriptions. Working only around 28 hours a week at minimum wage means that the above expenses take up a huge chunk of what I make. It’s sad because I really do want to save money and not touch it. If I can make sure I don’t spend more than I make though, maybe I’ll reach a point of balance where I can put money aside each month.

I’ve made the decision to barely touch my credit card. I’m far too dangerous with a piece of plastic that gives me the illusion of having more money. It’s a killer and leads me to spend amounts that I can’t realistically pay back. I’ll keep it for specific pre-authorized withdrawals and otherwise use it extremely judiciously! My debit card will become my best friend.

Buying coffee has sneakily increased my debt…I usually end up thinking that “it’s just a few dollars”, but those few dollars really add up! The same can be said for tiny extras bought on impulse. Those are out now! No unnecessary impulse buys and only one ‘takeout’ coffee is allowed per week as a treat.

No more ordering out! That’s a big one…buying dinner is a huge waste of money that my boyfriend and I did far too often until very recently. We’re both really tired after work and have no interest in cooking. The solution now which my parents are really helping with is planning meals that are super easy to make, or even better, meals that just need to be reheated. It’s already saved us a lot of money!

This is going to sound juvenile, but I turned a small box into a piggy bank last week. It’s a place for Aaron and I to put extra change or small bills. We’re not supposed to open it, not even to see how much we have. (That’s why I taped it shut and we’ll have to answer to each other if the seal is broken!

In life we’ve gotta do what’s necessary even when it’s difficult sometimes. This is why I’ve taken on an extra 4-5 hours of work per week. It doesn’t seem like much but it will make a difference every two weeks when I get paid. I just have to make sure that I don’t make myself too tired for the other things I have to do. Life is a balance and balance is something I’m seriously trying to attain!

Current Struggles

My mind is exploding. That’s why I haven’t been able to write as much or post as much on Instagram as I used to. It actually really hurts me because this is my passion…I hate how little I’m able to work on it. To give you an idea, this blog has been in the works for over a week and I’m still not done. I don’t like to rush my blogs so that means it’s really hard to find the time to put serious work in. Between work and school which have to be my priorities…eek!

Today I have an exam in my class and I’m pretty worked up about it. My average is currently 100% and I’m painfully aware that the only way to go is down. I also have an essay due at the end of the month which I haven’t had the time to start. Work is very busy which I enjoy especially when I’m with clients and helping them find what they need. (And when they bring their doggos!) I also love my coworkers. Much of my hours though are split with marketing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do a job that normally requires a degree in business or something. I love many parts of what that job entails but it also makes me lonely because much of what I do is alone. (I don’t take too well to being alone unless I’m in my car.) It’s also far more involved than I thought and I’m concerned that I don’t know enough of what I’m doing. I do love the learning process though, so there’s that. It leaves my mind more time to roam though which is never a good thing.

Last week I also went to the hospital where I have really bad memories and vowed to never go back. I was concerned about my long-term self-harm and things I’ve been feeling as a result. I had fainted in the morning and got seriously panicked. (Especially after what happened the other week that I wrote about.) Maybe there was nothing to worry about, maybe I was overreacting and being silly…but I couldn’t stop thinking that there could be something very wrong. At least my biggest concern is now off the table because the scan came back clear. It’s a relief at least.

Quick anecdote: It was getting late in the ER and no one would answer me if I was staying the night or not. They were going to give me my nighttime meds and I was trying to explain that I couldn’t take them if I was going to be discharged because I wouldn’t be able to drive home. After 2 more hours of getting increasingly depressed and agitated (bear in mind that I absolutely CANNOT stay still for very long), I was losing my mind. I realized that I couldn’t stay for one more minute. I broke down crying, to the dismay of a superbly unhelpful and unsympathetic nurse, went to the bathroom, unplugged my monitor and took out the blood test catheter which was hurting me so much. (Fun fact: The nurse who put it in said that in his 14 years of working he’d never seen such tough skin to puncture. My scar tissue made inserting the needle take about a full minute of pushing it in slowly and with resistance. It seriously f*cking hurt, but hey, I broke a record …sarcastic yay.) Finally they deemed it necessary to talk to me about what was going on. Gee, thanks. That was after I uncharacteristically didn’t care about exposing myself and got dressed right in the hallway and sat on my bed. Long story short, I got the heck out of there.

Since that day I haven’t self-harmed but I’m finding it tremendously difficult. It’s making me feel more depressed on top of it which I find immensely frustrating and sad. I’ve been hitting these bouts of depression where I feel intensely hopeless and empty. I hate that, and it’s been worse lately. Worse than it’s been in a long time. I hate feeling so bad without a clear reason. If I look around there’s very little to be depressed about. It’s nothing that others don’t face all the time and cope with. What I deal with that isn’t something others always face, is the senseless nature of feeling bad in itself without a clear reason. I guess that’s like the definition of depression but it gets me every time. I’m still in the paradigm, no matter how much I write about the opposite, that sadness/depression is reserved as a reaction to things that justify it. Even though I fight against ‘stigmas’, this is an insidious one that still catches me. I get angry, guilty (and more depressed) at the thought of feeling bad when I ‘should’ be happy and grateful.

Lately I’ve been feeling good when I’m busy and purposeful but when things slow down I feel that I’m on a depressing treadmill that will last my whole life. It makes me question the point to everything and that’s something I never wanted to experience again.

One last thing before I close this up…I’m in the process of getting a note from a mental health professional to have Mia my little Yorkie be an Emotional Support Dog. I think this could make a big difference especially since I’m going through a bit of a rough time. Well, that concludes this confusing and meandering blog…I hope it makes some sort of sense! Please wish me luck…the test is very soon and I’m getting really anxious!

Take care everyone, and drop a comment if there’s something you’d like to get off your chest!

2 thoughts on “Mental Health for Students and Young Adults”

  1. That sucks that you had such a crappy experience in the ER. Going into ER if you have a mental illness diagnosis seems like an exercise in futility, regardless of what you’re going in for.

    Good luck on the test!

    1. Thank you so much and yes, it’s always a challenge which makes me sad. Things really do need to change. There were a few kind and sympathetic workers thankfully, but they’re unfortunately the exception and not the rule.

What's YOUR take?