Photo of bedroom with desk filled with homework

The Guilt of Asking for Help and Accommodations (Midterm Edition)

With midterms coming up, I have been preparing by organizing my time and registering for my test accommodations.

In high school, I prided myself in getting work done even at the expense of my health, which is sadly not a rare mentality for school. So, when it came time to ask for help, I was nervous to do so. This time last year was the first time I had ever used any accommodations before and it was really tough.

Nervous because like many I have spoken to, there can be this internal shame or guilt about using accommodations, about asking these well-known professors if they could give an extension or allow extra time. Sometimes asking for this, like with personal and professional boundaries, can feel burdening (at least for me! This is what I experienced!). But I’m getting better understanding that my needs are needs, and thus personally and socially acceptable to assert myself for them.

I recognized how deeply rooted everyone was in this mindset that school comes first, because it makes sense. We are here to learn as much as we can, and therefore, to benefit from all these experiences as much as we can. So, I felt like if I work as hard as I could now, I could take a break for myself later. Last year, I spoke to a friend who was having a hard time balancing life with school and we started talking about how much pressure we were under. When I told her I had an anxiety disorder, she was shocked. At the moment I was almost proud she had no idea, but now I know I was processing. I was just learning how stigmatized mental illness and asking for help and saying you are registered with Accessibility Services could be, all because I felt proud someone thought I didn’t need that help.

Now when we talk, we ask how each other are before we ask about school.

The more I spoke to different friends, the more I realized how many people have accommodations like me that are met with the help of Accessibility Services. And the more I have put myself first by taking breaks, putting my mental health over my school, and talking to my friends, the more I have accepted things. I still have trouble with losing sight of what is healthiest, and I still spend nights finishing readings and assignments before burning out to sleep. But I think it’s getting better.

Last Friday, I frantically emailed my TA for midterm info to register for my accommodations, and she was so sweet and so quick to respond (shoutout to AST101 they really are so kind). I understood then that while the shame and guilt took time to unravel, suffering does not have to persist.

Everyone will respond to requests for extra help in their own way (hopefully it’s all positive!) and everyone is asking for help in their own way.

Most of the time the people we ask, at least in the school system, has experienced being asked before and know how to help. And if they don’t, then I got to practice how to assert those boundaries (… while I email my Accessibility Advisor for backup because sometimes profs can be scary!).

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