For Self-Care week, I want to share an experience that literally changed the course of my entire university career and perhaps, changed how I will live my life from now on.
Okay, yeah, I’m overly dramatic usually but I’m not exaggerating here, promise. Brace yourselves.
In my third year, due to a lot of personal reasons that will probably take 5 blog posts to cover, I found myself seeking counselling at U of T. This happened to be smack in the middle of the semester, I had a full course load and a work-study position (ironically, I was in the HealthyUofT crew at the time). I was a psychology student and because I had been made aware of symptoms through certain courses, I was able to recognize when I was downward-spiraling onto a dangerous road.
I started missing work shifts, missing classes, my appetite was all over the place and I spent most of my time sleeping or just in bed. I missed a midterm because I was sick from eating take-out at odd hours. I decided to finally seek help when I realized that I hadn’t bothered to study for a midterm and I was almost indifferent to the fact that I was going into the test without any preparation whatsoever.
Those three hours were a complete blank. I came out of that test and when I realized what I had just done in there, I knew I had to seek help before I severely damage my transcript. Third year was not the time to mess up! Third year was the year that graduate schools looked at and I was supposed to be better as an upper year student.
So I called Health and Wellness and asked for an appointment in hopes that I’ll go there and after a couple of days, I would be myself and ready to get out there again. Turns out I didn’t fully understand what was involved in the process. There were actually many assessments to be done before I could be diagnosed and given a course of treatment so it wasn’t the quick fix that I was hoping for.
That being said, I would like to share some wisdom here and tell you guys what worked for me during this very stressful time. First of all, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It takes a lot of time to through a mental health system. So if you’re in the middle of a semester and you are thinking that going to Health and Wellness will get you ready for next week’s midterm, you might want to try other options.
Something that worked for me was Counseline which is a relatively new service that pairs students with folks doing their Masters of Social Work. They gave me many strategies to get me through the semester. The person I was paired with listened intently to what I was going through and every week, she gave me just one simple strategy that I had to work on. At the same time, there are many group sessions that you can go to where you are taken through coping strategies as a group exercise.
Secondly, keep your professors in the loop! Everyone thinks that U of T is this big scary place where no one cares about you and a professor will be too busy for you. I gathered the courage during this difficult time to email my professors with my situation, I was very honest and told them that going through the Health and Wellness system will take time and I can’t afford to lose a whole semester due to that. 4/5 of my profs were VERY understanding, they gave me extensions on my papers and one of them even had me come into his office to write a midterm separately because he figured it would make me feel more comfortable!
Last but not least, seek coping strategies that are less conventional than going to Health and Wellness as a supplement. Counselling is a draining process, you have to sit there and answer questions about yourself that you never thought would come up! It is definitely rewarding in the end but the process itself was scary. Personally, my coping strategies included a lot of eating. I spent a lot of months depriving myself of good, nutritious food. I reached out to my friends and we made it a point to get three full meals together. Something as simple as that made me feel like I had control over what was going on in my life.
This was a hard blog post to write but I feel like this was just as important. If you’re having trouble in university, remember that you are not alone and there are a lot of people who can help you keep moving forward!
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