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Other Contemplating Dropping Out of School Due to Mental Health

  • Thread starter Muckraker
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Hello and thank you for taking the time to read this. This involves a somewhat long and uninteresting backstory, so I won’t trouble you with the finer details, and will begin by saying I am a going on nineteen year old who has been struggling with mental health issues most of my teenage life.

Said mental health issues went undiagnosed for a long time until it eventually reached a peak and I was hospitalized my senior year of high school. After that I was diagnosed with panic attacks and severe social anxiety and depression. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to graduate high school, but luckily my parents and the faculty at my high school were very supportive and I was able to graduate in the top ten of my class, got accepted into the school I wanted to go to with a quality physics program, and by the time last autumn rolled around I thought I was ready to go away to school.

Boy was I wrong.

I’m not sure if it was the shock of having too much independence, being in a new environment, or the difference in academic rigor between high school and college but my mental health went downhill from there. After many counseling sessions and long discussions with my parents, I decided it would be in my best interest to come back home and take classes at my local community college.

For a little while my mental health seemed to improve, but right now it seems to have taken another turn for the worse. Things have de-escalated to what I could almost call an even worse point than when I was away at school, and now I am seriously contemplating dropping out of school entirely.

That brings me to the reason why I am here. I’m wondering if perhaps I should take this as a cue that maybe I’m not cut out to pursue physics? I mean if just getting general education credits out of the way is unbearable for me, how on earth am I going to handle advanced quantum mechanics and differential equations?

My hope is that taking time off of school will allow me to spend time working on my mental health (while pursuing a full time job and possibly an internship) and that I can eventually go back to school better prepared to face the rigors of academia once it has improved (if it does at all).


I’m also wondering what advice, if any, anyone could offer me if they’ve been in my position or have known someone in a position similar to me or just feels they could provide some helpful insight.


Thank you again to anyone who took the time to read all that, and for any potential advice you could offer.
 

berkeman

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Thread closed temporarily for Moderation... (should just be a few minutes or an hour or so)
 

berkeman

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Thread re-opened. Thanks for your patience.

Welcome to the PF. :smile:

Please keep in mind that we cannot offer any medical advice here at the PF, beyond recommending that you continue to see mental health professionals (it sounds like you are doing this regularly, which is good).

I think it was a good move to come back to Community College -- that change seemed to help for a while. I'd just say that you should also consider other alternatives to the Physics course of study that you are currently on. I have a good friend whose background is very similar to yours (she had a mix of physical and mental health issues) . She was in an engineering program, and I used to tutor her in math and engineering courses for over a year. In the end, she figured out that a lot of her stress was coming because she didn't really love engineering and some of the courses involved, and she changed her major to forensic anthropology (of all things!). She found that she loved it, which made school much more fun and interesting for her. She is doing well now, and I think she graduated recently from a 4-year college).

So maybe as part of the options you are considering, think about what kind of things you really enjoy, and see if you might want to transition into a different field of study and a different career. Best of luck to you! :smile:
 
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Thank you for your response berkeman. You may very well be right, although at this point I can't really imagine any academic goals that don't involve the physical sciences. I can and will always remember the sheer joy I felt when I was younger from the discovery that this wonderful universe we live in was mechanical, and that it's mysteries could be unlocked and described using something as beautiful and elegant as the language of mathematics. I know it's the case with many engineering and pre-med students that they often aren't pursuing that vocation because it's something they're actually passionate about, but are actually just doing it because of pressure from their parents, but that really isn't the case with me. The physical sciences truly are what I love (or at least what I think I do).

Although I'd be lying if I said I haven't considered alternatives; not because I'm worried it's not what I'm passionate about, but because I'm afraid the rigors of physics may just be too much for me. The problem with a lot of my alternatives is that they're not very economically sound ideas. It's no secret college is expensive, and in order to get a return on that investment one has to be cautious when considering a major in the arts, humanities, or social sciences.

I understand it would be unethical for anyone to offer medical advice on this forum beyond what you said. I was just reaching out to find out if anyone had similar experiences or knew someone with similar experiences and perhaps could share that wisdom with me. Thank you again for your response!
 
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I've struggled with mental health for quite a while, and it was at its worst my first time in college. Back then, I kind of stumbled into a double major in Economics and Political Science. As my mental health grew worse, I dropped the Political Science to a minor. I was depressed to the point of being suicidal (thankfully, I never attempted suicide).

Then, in the first semester of my senior year, the bottom fell out. I went through a period of rapid cycling bipolar disorder, where I could literally jump from manic to depressed and back to manic all in a matter of hours. At that time, I had finished all the courses in my Economics major except for my senior seminar, and thankfully my professor was flexible about deadlines. Once I got stable on medication, I was able to finish my senior research paper.

I survived college while struggling with my mental health. In fact, I did quite well, graduating with a 4.0. But my classes were perhaps not as challenging as physics. I also took 12 credit hours most of my semesters because I entered with a ton of credits through taking AP classes in high school.

In the end, my mental health situation led me to reevaluating a lot of things. I went through a period of about three years after graduation where I pretty much didn't do anything. I'd grown to hate Economics. So I had a finished degree and no idea whatsoever of what I wanted to do. I tried to go back to school twice, once for Psychology and once for Computer Science. My mental health had my decision-making all over the place.

Eventually, I got to a more stable place mentally. I discovered that one of the local universities was perfectly willing to accept students who already had a degree (and thankfully I had zero debt because of scholarships and grants). Initially, I was going to try for computer science again, but then I saw that the school, despite having no engineering department of its own, does have a partnership with a prestigious local university.

So now I'm about to enter my last year of an Electrical Engineering degree (my GPA is about 3.9 this time). My mental health still makes things a struggle at times. Most of the time, I've taken 9 credit hours. I even took just 6 credit hours one semester. I've learned that I have some limitations that other students might not have. I'm also balancing it with a work schedule.

You might have to take a little bit longer to graduate. Or you might consider spreading your courses out to take whatever you can over the summer. In my experience, a heavy course load always led to sky-high stress, which pretty much destroyed my mental health.

Not sure if you'll take anything for this, but I thought I'd share what I've been through.
 
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Thank you for your response berkeman. You may very well be right, although at this point I can't really imagine any academic goals that don't involve the physical sciences. I can and will always remember the sheer joy I felt when I was younger from the discovery that this wonderful universe we live in was mechanical, and that it's mysteries could be unlocked and described using something as beautiful and elegant as the language of mathematics. I know it's the case with many engineering and pre-med students that they often aren't pursuing that vocation because it's something they're actually passionate about, but are actually just doing it because of pressure from their parents, but that really isn't the case with me. The physical sciences truly are what I love (or at least what I think I do).

Although I'd be lying if I said I haven't considered alternatives; not because I'm worried it's not what I'm passionate about, but because I'm afraid the rigors of physics may just be too much for me. The problem with a lot of my alternatives is that they're not very economically sound ideas. It's no secret college is expensive, and in order to get a return on that investment one has to be cautious when considering a major in the arts, humanities, or social sciences.

I understand it would be unethical for anyone to offer medical advice on this forum beyond what you said. I was just reaching out to find out if anyone had similar experiences or knew someone with similar experiences and perhaps could share that wisdom with me. Thank you again for your response!
Dont stress to much about grades. Yes they are important, but it is not the end all be all. Sometimes getting bad graves serves as a motivational tool. I just took my final for a probability course. I was struggling throughout the whole semester and teacher was not helpful. Did not lecture, just jokes. If, a question was asked, the teacher would respond with to much ink. In any case, i worked hard and had a strong A throughout the semester. I did poorly on the final, so I ended up with a C. I could be hung up about getting a C, but in reality, I am really happy I was able to teach myself the material under pressure. I know were my weakness lies in Probability, and I bought a book to cover said weaknesses. It is important to keep on track with counseling, and any prescribed medication.

Sorry if my next statement reads like I am being rude, but it is not meant to be so.

Sometimes things don't go as planned. What is important that you ask yourself the following questions: what caused me to get this result, what could I have differently, what can I improve on, what am I doing well, how do I use this experience and grow from it?

Did you study enough? Did you prioritize school work? Or did you do the bare minimum. Remember, we all are responsible for ourselves.
The important thing is that it is not the end of the world. You are young and have a full life ahead of you.

Use this time to study for the material you had difficulty in and post questions here. Idleness is our own worst enemy...
 

Stephen Tashi

Science Advisor
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That brings me to the reason why I am here. I’m wondering if perhaps I should take this as a cue that maybe I’m not cut out to pursue physics? I mean if just getting general education credits out of the way is unbearable for me, how on earth am I going to handle advanced quantum mechanics and differential equations?
Your narrative doesn't make it clear whether the subject matter of classes is the main disturber of you mental health - or whether it is just the social situation of a class that is the disturber - or whether the classes are only a minor factor in the disturbance.

Until you do get general education credits out of the way, the notion of majoring in physics is just hypothetical. It seems that what you are asking is "Are my ambitions realistic?". Without detailed knowledge of you, I don't think anybody can answer that. However, as a generality, a person with ambitions should always keep in mind that they might not come to pass. When you are thinking about the future, it's best not to be trapped by one particular vision of it.

My hope is that taking time off of school will allow me to spend time working on my mental health (while pursuing a full time job and possibly an internship) and that I can eventually go back to school better prepared to face the rigors of academia once it has improved (if it does at all).
Do you find various jobs less stressful that being a student?
 
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Can't comment on the mental health issues. Can't comment on the College Stress. I tried College with the GI bill . I found that there are good instructors and crappy instructors. Between me falling asleep due to factory night shifts raising a family and teachers who do not care if I learned anything or not. I dropped out.

I can say I lived a full happy life. First as a licensed electrician after being discharged as a avionics crew chief on CH-53's.
Raised kids and have a grandkids. Opened a motorcycle shop and made good money with my electrician ira funds.

All without college.

I am on a fixed income now and living quite well. Not high on hog. But comfy cozy. I own 2 properties. 1/2 a dozen motorcycles and lot's of toys for a unstructured boy like me.

Good luck with how ever you figure your life out. The job corp will teach free a trade in the USA. If you meet the age requirements < under 21 >
It is a structured with free in house living and schooling with out military commitments involved.

Just a alternative you might not have thought of.

My wife is employed by the city as a City Building Code enforcer and inspector. You cannot build a business building here without her input.
She has no college degree either. She makes close to 6 figures a year.

There is no disgrace in going with the trades side of life. I am glad I did.
 

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