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Open Up to Parents and Friends
Contrary to what you may think, it can be nearly impossible to feel better when you have no one to talk to or anyone trying to get you help. Even if you aren’t anticipating great concern from your parents, it won’t hurt to try that avenue. The odds are that your parents will do all they can to help you feel better, such as alleviating some chores from your workload for a while, getting in touch with a psychiatrist and/or therapist, and much more.
If you’re anything like me, it’s easier to talk to friends than it is to my parents; my friends just seem to relate to me more, and many have struggled with similar illnesses as me. Simply being able to talk to them is incredibly therapeutic, especially when I realize that they’re probably able to analyze my predicaments more objectively.
I’m fortunate to have parents and close friends that will do anything to help me feel better, but I understand that not everyone is in the same boat, which is where the next point comes in.
Talk to Teachers or a School Psychologist
Assuming that you are a high school student as intended, I am confident that you have access to at least one teacher. Teachers can certainly feel like bosses that are just doing their job, but based on my experience, teachers are more than happy to make accommodations for struggling students. After telling teachers about my condition, they were willing to waive assignments, allow me to take a test at a later date, and were generally more forgiving while grading my assignments when I was at my absolute worst. Many teachers are also willing to be confidants and will advocate for you when no one else will. I truly cannot see a situation in which telling a teacher about your struggles and needs would have a negative result.
I have never met with a school psychologist so I am not particularly knowledgeable in this topic, but this is another avenue that I have been told is helpful. School psychologists are trained professionals that are dedicated to providing you with a free-of-charge outlet when you have no others, or simply prefer to speak to a trained professional.
Try to Power Through
When symptoms set in and are intense, it can be tempting to make up an excuse to stay home from school; I’ve done this more times than I can count, and believe me when I tell you that it’s rarely a good idea. Stacking up absences generally results in more stress: missed lectures, make-up work, missed tests, and whatever else you might have missed that day. As my therapist always says, the better choice is typically to power through the symptoms; you’ll probably thank yourself later. Think of it like you’re nearing the end of a marathon — it’s painful and you probably want to quit, but thinking about how incredible it will be to cross that finish line keeps you going. It is important, however, to state that it is okay to step back and take a break from schoolwork, which brings me to my next point.
It’s Okay to Take a Break
Sometimes, for your own sake, you need to take a break for your own health. Maybe you’ve been pulling all-nighters because of a project that’s coming up and need to catch up on sleep, maybe there was a traumatic event that happened recently that you need time to process, or maybe your symptoms have been affecting your ability to concentrate and be efficient so you need a day to catch up. When you truly hit your limit and need a break, you’ll definitely know; this isn’t something I can give universally applicable advice on because this differs for everyone. My best advice on taking breaks and staying home from school is that these instances should be spaced far apart and very rare simply so you don’t have to climb out of a hole created by excessive absences.
I also want to emphasize that you need to take breaks while studying or doing homework! My therapist gave me advice a few years ago that has been incredibly helpful: do homework/study for 60 minutes, and then take a 10-15 minute break, and repeat until you are finished with whatever it is you have to do. Even though it might not seem like it, making sure you take breaks can help you be more productive overall, especially if you are working hard during those 60 minutes.
Step Away from Social Media
This is a very subjective point that may not work for everyone, but it certainly has worked for me every time I have done it. Social media is a breeding ground for mental illness, likely due to the idealized image that must be constantly perpetuated and the tendency we have to compare ourselves to others’ unrealistic idealized images. Deleting social media allowed me to reduce how often I compared myself to others I viewed as better than me and greatly increased my productivity, allowing me to get my work done sooner and spend more time doing things I actually enjoy. If social media is a requirement for you in that it is your only way to communicate with certain people then definitely keep it, but if you are able to delete it for a few days, I absolutely recommend trying it.
Always Put Your Health and Safety First
No matter what, your number one priority should always be your own wellbeing. No person, assignment, class, test, grade, or anything else is worth tearing yourself apart over or even killing yourself over — both figuratively and literally. I spent far too much time in high school prioritizing my schoolwork and grades rather than my own health, which rapidly degraded not only my mental health but my physical health, as well. I was tired throughout everyday and severely lacked energy, while I was also getting sick much more often and constantly aching from being tense due to stress. It’s hard to accept, but doing poorly on an assignment is perfectly fine under circumstances in which you’re suffering. You can never get better if you don’t allow yourself time to reflect on your thoughts and understand why anxious or depressive thoughts are so irrational.
This point isn’t always easy to follow through with. After all, I spent four years of my life putting myself last and, with time to reflect, I have realized how much that weighed on me during my time in high school. You’re still young and have so much life to live, but not if you allow yourself to be consumed by school and give yourself no time to get better. Once you put yourself first your life will become so much better so quickly, and I know you can do it. I believe in you, and I hope you can start to believe in yourself, too.