(A student wrote in with this question quite a while ago and let’s face it, thousands of students–people, really–suffer from anxiety/depression! I have been corresponding with the student for some time now and want to update that the student is moving forward, so that is great news! I held on to this post because I wanted to consult with my own Access Services Office to ensure that I had all of my information correct and get some additional advice to offer up. I hope that what the student shared will help any other students who are struggling with the same issues! I’m going to start with the student’s question and then in Part 2, share my response, as well as that of our Access (Disability) Services expert.)
Hi Professor Bremen,
I struggle with a disability and have a secondary issue with anxiety and depression. I was not prepared for the effects that depression and anxiety would have on my studies. I sought help for both of these conditions in my second year of college, and since then have been placed on several different medications.
A lot happened between when I was first diagnosed and now. I haven’t passed a test. I’ve barely received enough points to pass courses and professors passed me for compassionate reasons. I actually had to switch my major because I didn’t get the required C in any of the prerequisites. I’ve feared failure before the first lecture even began.
I have days when I can get up, shower, dress in clean clothes, eat three meals a day and study, but also days when I couldn’t even wake up let alone get out of bed.
Twice now I’ve had to petition my faculty dean to let me withdraw without academic penalty from courses. This means I have no failures on my transcripts, but several withdrawals. I can’t look at any grades without feeling sick.
I know how to ask for help as a student with a disability. I have had to do this all my life. But I am now just learning to ask for help as someone with depression and anxiety. Often I would send my professors emails partway through the term explaining my condition, but then be too sick to go and see them, feeling too anxious that they would tell me to drop their courses or be angry with me. I’ve always feared getting in trouble, and felt that going to talk to them would be an opportunity for them to yell at me. I didn’t want to cry in front of them either.
So given all this, I have a question. This year has been another terrible one, but since the new medications I don’t think future years will ever be as bad. My intentions are to contact professors in the summer, explaining my mental health issues, how they manifest, and how they’ve affected my academic life thus far. I may even have a medical note, an unofficial transcript and information about the medications I’m taking on hand, to bring home the gravity of the situation.
I’m uncomfortable about revealing so much to adults with whom I’m to have a more professional relationship, but I don’t know how else to communicate how much I want to succeed and the barriers I’ve had to overcome in my attempts.
What do you think? Is this too much? Am I making myself too vulnerable?
I had a 4.0 GPA in high school, and still have the mentality that I can again achieve such grades, though I know that I’ve grown and matured so much in the past few years of pain and failure. I know I’m not the only student who’s faced challenges like these so hope you can offer your frank opinion.
Thank you very much for your time in reading this.
I’m going to continue on Monday, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them, and I bet Student would, too!