The Unexpected Way Life Changed After My Depression Diagnosis

Karissa Pierce
photo of woman with long hair standing in alley with hand in hair, facing away

Late last year, I noticed I was not feeling well. And, I don’t mean not feeling well in a physically sick kind of way. I was stressed all the time, and I knew I was not being myself. I decided to reach out for help and found out I actually wasn’t doing well mentally.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and just receiving that diagnosis can change a lot for anyone who receives it. I will admit, it has caused a lot of changes in my life. I go to therapy every week, I take meds so I can feel OK enough to get out of bed in the morning, and I journal about my feelings and how life is going, just to name a few changes. Learning more and more about mental health, I did expect a lot to change, and I knew I’d have to work hard to adjust to the changes. However, there was one change I never really thought about until it happened.

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My plans changed. And, I don’t mean canceling plans to go out with friends or family or anything like that — I mean big plans, like graduating from school.

My whole life, I have been on track with my education. I was in advanced classes in elementary and middle school and took college classes in high school. I always had the plan to graduate high school in the spring of 2016, and then graduate college in the spring of 2020. But then, along came depression and anxiety.

I slowly but surely realized I wasn’t going to be graduating college in the spring of 2020. I don’t think I can really put into words how that made me feel. I guess… it made me feel like I had failed at something, like I can’t do anything right. Honestly, it didn’t make me feel very good about myself at all.

When I received my diagnosis, the fall semester was nearly over, so I had not planned on dropping any classes. However, taking a full-time schedule became more difficult than it already was. With that decision, depression and anxiety went from being considered mild to severe. School was not the only reason for that, but it was certainly a part of it since I was constantly overloading myself and holding such high expectations for how and when things needed to be done. It definitely wasn’t healthy and I know that now, looking back. Due to my mental health getting worse, I decided to go into an intensive outpatient program. When I first started the program, I was still enrolled on a full-time schedule for this semester. After talking to the incredible people in the program with me, my weekly therapist and all of the amazing therapists there, I decided I would only take a part-time schedule this semester. That decision was really hard to make, because again, I’ve always had such high expectations for myself; going to school part-time was never in a million years something I thought I’d be doing. It was never in my plans; I mean, I certainly didn’t have my whole life planned out but I planned on graduating alongside all the other people I grew up with.

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This semester is almost over, and although I still feel overwhelmed with the two classes I am taking, I can 100% say my mental health has improved. It’s not necessarily where it needs to be or where I would like it to be, and I cannot say when or if it ever will. But, I am more focused on myself, and I have time to take care of myself and not have to stress out about grades all the time. Due to my decision of taking fewer credits this semester, I realized that unless I take more than full-time credits the last two semesters of college, then I will not be graduating in spring. I also knew that jumping back in and taking 14 credits would definitely take a toll on my mental health, and I had to ask myself this question: is graduating on time worth it if you aren’t feeling the best? You graduate, but then for that last year, you’re just stressed and not enjoying anything about college. Is that really the way to live your senior year of college? I realized that’s not what I wanted to do.

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Again, I felt disappointed in myself and like I was letting myself down. But, even though I still haven’t fully accepted it (since I am my stubborn self), I know this is what’s best. I am going to slow down and work on myself because I know what happens when I don’t, and I know I’m still going to graduate. I want to enjoy life, and if slowing down and changing my plans means I can take care of myself enough to enjoy life, then that’s OK.

Read more stories like this on The Mighty:

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