An Open Letter to my Friends, Family, Colleagues and Peers

I am withdrawing from the semester.

For some of you this may come as a shock, others a disappointment, and a few may have seen this coming.

While I am very close to graduating this semester, (as many of you have been so obnoxiously reminding me) my grades have suffered because of my battle with depression and anxiety. It got to the point where not only did I not feel capable of salvaging my grades, but I no longer had the motivation to try.

That’s the thing with depression. Motivation and excitement and desire dry up. I lost 10 lbs in two weeks. The majority of my caloric intake was alcohol.  I got sicker and smaller, forgetting the people and things I used to love. This was my February.

I would like to say for the record, that even though this crisis was triggered by a break up, I was depressed long before I met that person. I do not blame him for my depression and anxiety. We crossed paths at a very fragile time. It could have been anyone and I would have shattered just as sharply. I wish him the best.

Making the choice to withdraw from the semester has been one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made. It was not one that was made lightly. This is not me giving up on school—this is me recognizing that I am important. My mental health is more important than graduating on time. Sure, I could try and finish out the semester—but at what cost?

Before I made this choice I hoped that I would get hit by a car every day so that I would have a “legitimate” excuse to withdraw. After deciding to withdraw, I’m able to get out of bed. My anxiety is gone. I am no longer paralyzed because I have control over my future again. I have a feeling that my depression will never leave me completely, but it’s like a buzzing sound—one that I’m able to tune out after hearing it for so long. Now that I’m sitting here writing, the buzz has begun to fade into the distance.

Now, since I’ve started telling people that I’m withdrawing I’ve gotten some of the same questions over and over again so here’s a quick FAQ section:

Q: Are you sure????

A: Yes. I have discussed this decision with multiple counselors through UHS, two advisors and an academic dean. This is not a severe case of Senoritis.

Q: Are you dropping out?

A: No. I will be returning in the fall to finish my degree.

Q: Are you going back to LA for the summer until next fall?

A: No. I will be staying in Madison for the remainder of the semester and through the summer.

Q: What will you be doing instead of class?

A: I’m looking for a job in Madison. I’ll let you know when I get one. Other than that, I’ve been writing a lot (submitting to ThoughtCatalog.com), learning ukulele with my main girl Alana, and even learning a bit of code through Codeacademy.com.

Q: How can I support you?

A: 1) Please don’t question my choice to withdraw, trust my ability to make  decisions for myself. 2) Talk to me, if you feel comfortable doing so. Even if it’s just a text, lunch or catching up over coffee. Spending time with people I care about makes me feel much, much better. 3) If you’re uncomfortable with my decision, or think that you’ve got too much on your own plate to have me involved in your life, please take care of yourself. I won’t be offended.

Last but not least, I would like to ask that everyone remember that mental illnesses are legitimate ailments and that we treat them as such.

For my sisters, brothers, and otherwise identified siblings who are experiencing mental illness, remember that you are important. And that I believe in you.

 UHS Mental Health Crisis Line: 608-265-5600

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

-Hailey

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2 Comments

  1. Oh hey, I just wanted to say thanks for posting this.

    Really.

    I know so many wonderful and inspiring people of our generation (and I would include you in the “wonderful and inspiring” category) who have struggled with mental illnesses. And I would include myself in that (although maybe not the “wonderful and inspiring” part).

    One of my first friends in college — someone who really motivated and inspired me as a student and a person — lost her battle with depression this past fall. It was something that went unspoken for a while, and by the time she did tell us, we didn’t know what to do. We were so used to ignoring it or distancing ourselves to save our own sanity. I think it’s strange in a way that in school they teach us how to perform CPR, or the Heimlich maneuver, or practice safe sex, but nobody ever tells you how to be a good friend like that.

    I think the more we (as a society) become comfortable talking about mental illness, the easier it will be to help others and to help ourselves. I think you have made the right decision to put your mental health over finishing your degree this semester, and I’m glad you took the time to write and explain why.

    Good luck with your recovery and with all your future plans! Keep on being wonderful and inspiring!

  2. I think its incredible that you are this open. As someone who was depressed for most of my college career and kept it hidden, I completely understand what you were going through. Not only that, I am extremely happy for you. You recognized this early and decided to acknowledge that you were going through something.

    I say from experience, but I didn’t come to the same conclusion as you did till it was too late (at least for college). I tried to ‘push’ through and distract myself, but it cost me 3 years of going through the motions (and at times not even getting out of bed) at Madison and ultimately became a reason why I won’t be graduating from there and had to make a drastic change to get out of that frame of mind.

    I wanted to comment because depression is a scary thing. Its fantastic that you went out and found the help you needed, admitted you needed help and didn’t spiral like you could have.

    I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you. Good luck

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