Sophomore year was challenging for me: I was put on academic probation, but I couldn’t face telling my parents, so they didn’t find out until they received a letter in May stating I wasn’t invited back. They freaked out and told me I wasn’t trying hard enough. By then, I had been dealing with this for so long, I barely reacted.
This wasn’t the first time I’d flunked out: In my freshman year at a different college I was asked not to return because my grades tanked. I took a semester off and did make-up courses at a community college. I hoped that I could get a fresh start at a new school, but as soon as classes started up my old habits returned and I knew I was in trouble again.
I’ve always been anxious and sometimes have a hard time making friends. This was definitely true starting at two new colleges two years in a row. I skipped classes sometimes and started to fall behind, but never went to my professors to ask for help. I was too worried that they’d be angry at me for skipping class or judge me because I didn’t understand the work.
Pretty soon, I was avoiding class altogether, and spent a lot of time in my room smoking marijuana by myself. When my parents came to get me at the end of the semester they said we’d find a better school where I’d be more comfortable. But I felt hopeless. This would be my third school, and I couldn’t imagine why the next would be any different.
Thankfully, my parents didn’t give up on me. They found a doctor at the Center for Youth Mental Health at NewYork-Presbyterian who prescribed Zoloft. I also saw him for individual therapy — he really understood what I was going through and taught me a lot about the cycle of anxiety and avoidance. At the Center for Youth Mental Health, I also joined a group where I had the opportunity to interact with other people my age and I found out I wasn’t the only one with this problem. The therapists role-played with me so that I could get practice with the feeling of talking to professors and engaging in nerve-wracking situations that I used to avoid. I learned that exposing myself to situations that make me anxious is a first step toward mastering my fears.
I’m going back to school next semester and for the first time feel like I have a real shot at being part of life.