This is the first year not going back to school in 19 years. No bags are packed. No school supplies labeled. No friends waiting for my arrival. Instead I sit here as a “student” who never graduated. Not an alumni. But rather failed product of a school that left me feeling like I was never meant to succeed.
Since I was 5 years old, September meant back to school. Back to routine. Back to seeing friends everyday. Back to homework and writing papers. Back to researching new topics. Back to hiding inside a dorm room to avoid the cold.
September meant a year older, a year wiser.
This year I’m not going back to something. I’m not returning to studies. I’m not reuniting with friends. Specifically, I’m not going back to Briercrest.
In my four plus years of school at Briercrest I learnt more than I thought possible. I built friendships. I developed interpersonal skills. I studied psychology. I rekindled my relationship with playing piano. I learnt to forgive. I learnt to move forward. Most importantly, I learnt to love myself and take care of myself.
In my first year, I was paired with a roommate who was not good for my mental health. When things went downhill, I was asked to leave campus. I was left without follow-up from my therapist. No hopes of getting into therapy at home. No doctor’s appointments available for months. I was left with nothing.
Year two, I was asked to wait a semester before returning to school for my “health and safety.” I had packed my bags and had everything in the car ready to leave when I got the call saying I wasn’t allowed to come back to school.
Year three, I managed to finish the year mostly in good health. With a few hiccups throughout the year requiring extra self-compassion, I made it through a year of school.
Year four, I changed meds and left school early to take care of myself. Was it my idea to leave, not really. But I agreed because school can be stressful and my therapist thought that going home was for the best.
Year five, one month in and my doctor told me to quit school and move home. Again, left with no support other than the family and friends at home. Thus, ending my time at Briercrest.
For some people, being asked to leave school more than once would make you never want to return. But I kept going back. I love writing papers and researching new topics. I just didn’t love the atmosphere.
I felt trapped by the need to succeed in the way everyone else was. Finish my degree in 4 years instead of really focusing on what I was learning.
I felt afraid to tell people I was struggling because I didn’t want to risk being asked to leave again. I was told my mental illness was scaring the other students. I was told I wasn’t sick enough but yet also that I was too sick to be helped.
I was the toxic waste they needed to get rid of in order for others to succeed.
I was the outlier of Briercrest success.
I don’t hate Briercrest for not understanding mental illness. Nor do I hate them for wanting other students to succeed. I feel saddened by the fact that I never finished my degree. I have thousands of dollars in student loans waiting to be paid.
An expensive failed degree.
So while I’m not heading back to school this year, I don’t regret what I’ve learnt in the past 19 years. Throughout elementary school, high school, and post secondary schooling, I have learnt that above all, my mental health is what is important. Not my grades or my degree, but my ability to see beyond that and be proud of who I have become.