#MHYALit: Major Depressive Dropout, a guest post by Bryson McCrone
As we noted in our intro post, the teenage years are a prime time for mental health issues to emerge. Today we share a guest post by Bryson McCrone. In it, he shares how his depression started in his teen years and how it affected him into college. You can read all the #MHYALit discussion posts here.
The Back Story
The beginning of my high school senior year, I fell and broke my leg in two places. It just sort of happened. I felt it coming on over the course of a few weeks, the pain growing from this tingling itch to an audible SNAP! When I woke up the morning it had finally taken me, my leg was twisted under me like a half-tied pretzel. At school, they called me hop-along. At home, no matter how many times they saw the jutting bone and dried blood, they kept saying just suck it up, Bryson.
It’d be crazy to tell you that I never went to the doctor; that instead of getting a cast and healing I dragged my leg around as it began to rot. But that’s what I did.
Maybe if my brain, the part of me that was actually broken, was my leg.
Struggling with mental illness has taught me a lot. It’s made me fear myself, and be more afraid of others than I should be. It took away everything important to me until I was alone. And then when I started to learn more about it, it taught me that my voice, no matter what it sounded like, meant something. Even if that ‘something’ didn’t necessarily mean anything to me at that time.
I was stupid-lazy on Xanax the night I decided to go away to college. The only school I applied to accepted me, now I just had to say yes.
My mom found me on the driveway, lying down and gazing up at the stars but not really seeing anything. I’d found myself there and couldn’t go back inside because I was basically a useless lump when I used a pill to stay alive. My limbs were flubber and even though I couldn’t feel anything, I felt love for my little blue pills.
“I gotta go,” I slurred. “I’m going to college.” Or something like that. I can’t really remember. All I know is that I thought it would be the best thing for me. The best thing that could have ever been.
I lasted less than four months.
The thing that’s so difficult to understand about mental illness, from the outside, is just how quickly you are no longer in control. It’s like someone jacked the keys to your car, only you’re on the interstate riding shotgun and you don’t even remember letting someone else take the wheel.
Xanax is usually a drug prescribed for those battling anxiety. I had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder nearly a year before. My meds weren’t working. This was around the time I began to recognize that my depression was episodic. Like a wave, it would come in and I’d want to die. Then it’d be gone. Together, my doctor and I decided to change my meds. She gave me Xanax to ease the switch. It was my padding.
For whatever reason, I ditched my antidepressants when I moved into my apartment. My Xanax was stashed with what little cash I had, and I found myself totally alone three hours away from home, which never really felt like a home.
So what was home now? Home was bottles of liquor that overflowed from the fridge, leaving no room for food. Home was two jock roomies who never seemed to wear shirts. Home was the jars of marijuana that covered the coffee table.
Home was the “Ass of the Day” picture that always changed on the fridge.
Home was my 10×10 room I never came out of. I’d roam the dark streets because I didn’t sleep. I’d find another bed to lie in but never found rest. I met strangers who never seemed to fill the void, and I made friends I didn’t care to lose.
And yeah– I was also spending my days in classrooms. Only none of the material stuck. None of it mattered. The physicality of my presence was somehow enough to get me by.
Two weeks before finals, I sent my advisor this email and moved home over Thanksgiving. My advisor told me to fill out a form. I did. He told me that was all I needed. He was wrong.
A process had to be started, which I found out. Seven. Months. Later. The beginning of it is recorded below:
Thanks so much for calling today. I am emailing with some information about the process of petitioning for late withdrawal. Complete information about the late withdrawal petition process can be found on our website: ———————————— and you are also welcome to contact our office if you have any questions after reviewing the information below.
As you are putting together your petition, please keep the following in mind:
- There is a two year limit on submitting a late withdrawal petition. Petitions typically include ALL courses taken during the semester in question, as petitions that list only selective courses less likely approved and are almost NEVER approved after the semester in question has ended. If you feel strongly that you have justification for selective withdrawal, then you will be asked to provide clear explanation and additional documentation to support that.
- Regardless of the reason(s) or the timing, petitions are never guaranteed to be approved.
To complete your petition so it can be reviewed, your petition packet will need the ALL of the following items, all which can be turned in to our office by email, fax, mail, or in person (contact info at the bottom of this email):
- Petition form with all appropriate signatures. You will need to complete the top portion of the form; also, your professor(s) will need to provide a signature on the petition form or via email acknowledging they are aware you are seeking a late withdrawal from their course.
- Letter of explanation for your petition. You must write a letter explaining the reason(s) why you are seeking to be withdrawn from your class(es). Please also address why you were not able to withdraw from your courses by the withdrawal deadline.
- Documentation supporting your petition. Documentation to support your petition for late withdrawal must verify that your mitigating circumstances occurred in a timeframe appropriate to your petition. If you are planning to provide medical documentation, your provider can give this information in a letter, or s/he can complete the Medical Documentation Form
Once we have received all of these required late withdrawal petition materials, your petition will be forwarded to the Faculty Committee for consideration. It may take the Committee up to 3 weeks to meet and review a petition once it has been received.
This came nearly seven months after I’d dropped out. Only, the school didn’t have record of my dropping out and they were now harassing me for money for classes I never signed up for.
I was livid. Seven months is a long time, enough time for me to get my head somewhat sorted and now I was being thrown right back in. Me and my family continued to get emails and letters and calls from the Financial Office about fines and money. I was put on academic probation.
Nobody wanted to hear my voice and help. Nobody understood.
And a petition? A board was essentially going to determine if my mental health was legit enough to leave school. And all of this, piled on with the aggressiveness of the schools officials dealing with me, added to the letter you will read below—This. Should. Be. Illegal.
I fought for so long with the school that I grew tired and gave in. I wrote the letter required by the board.
To Whom It May Concern,
My struggle with Major Depressive Disorder has been an ongoing battle. It has no rhyme or reason, even when medication and therapy is involved. In the months prior to the fall semester at ——-, I was doing very well mentally. I knew I needed to go to college, better myself as a student and person. This, however, didn’t turn out like I hoped it would.
Mentally, I was doing very well the first few weeks of classes. I wasn’t overwhelmed, I wasn’t stressing. I was being a good student and getting by. But then my depression flared up again. Since the flare up, I’d had an okay time managing my episodes when I couldn’t get out of bed. My grades fell a bit, but I reached out to professors who were more than unhelpful with my issues. If they didn’t respond at all, they simply said that I needed to be in class and that was that. It brought me back to ‘no one understands what I’m going through.’
So, I forged on alone. My grades fell, my depression worsened. I was raped. I began to self-harm again. I was suicidal. Getting up each morning was impossible. Eating was a chore. Living, to me then, was just not worth it.
As my mental state worsened, I began to disregard school in any form. I couldn’t read or concentrate or focus, so what was the point of trying to do my work (which I did try) and just stress myself out because I couldn’t. I had no friends, despite my attempts to make them, and my support system outside of a medicine bottle was three hours away.
I felt that I had two choices: kill myself or go home. So, I emailed my advisor just a few weeks before finals. He told me how to withdraw and I did. (This, I found out later, was not the right way to do so.) I went home. I got better again.
And now I’m here explaining my case to you. Going back to this place where there’s so much pain. It eats at me. But I am stronger than I was in the fall. It was incredibly frustrating that the instructions my advisor gave me were incorrect before I moved back home. I thought I was done with this only to be thrown back in. But I hope this is reason enough for you to see, not only that I had to withdraw, but also why it came around when it did.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I was completely not okay with the entire thing as a whole. Having to out myself as a victim, having to put myself back in the shoes I was in, and having to reach out to professors who were (for the large majority) totally unresponsive and unwilling to help to begin with, was completely wrong. At that point, I didn’t care anymore. I put everything into the letter as black and white as I could. I was done. I wanted everything to be done. I wanted to never think about that stupid school again. I wanted them to feel bad for making me live through those experiences all over again.
I’d tried ODing on pills and went to classes the next day in immense abdominal pain.
I spent the entire night in the ER after sneaking out one night and still attended classes the next day.
To me, this felt like dedication. Nobody had a clue what I’d done or where I’d been the night before. And my school didn’t seem to have any dedication to me the way it should have: as a person first.
About a week after turning in my petition, I got a letter saying that my withdrawal had been approved. It was only then that the first hand was offered to help me: seven months after moving home and dealing with my trauma. I realized that, yes I was angry, but I had a chance to offer my struggles in hopes of bringing change. Despite what the school thought, they really didn’t know how to help or what steps to take. I reached back to them, scheduled a call with a woman who was over Student Life, and we talked. She said that she wanted to get me involved in a few things regarding the awareness of mental health on campus. But after our call, I never heard from her again.
The problem here is that nobody listens. Since the conception of #MHYAlit, there was a statistic posted on the project goals page mentioning basic facts. “According to NAMI, 50% of children who present with a mental illness will drop out of school.” I didn’t know that. And while I didn’t drop out of high school, I did drop out of college. The Internet, as they say, is forever. It doesn’t matter if nobody wants to listen to what I have to say because these words will now forever be a Google search away from those who truly need to hear it.
Meet Our Guest Blogger
Bryson lives in South Caroline with his cat and a plethora of books. His fiction is represented by Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic.
Filed under: #MHYALit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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