how do you tell a parent / professional / teacher / someone / anyone that you feel like you’re going to go back to your dark place again soon and that now the stakes are higher because you’re an ~*~*adult~*~* and you have more to lose and you don’t know how to handle it and you need help
because i keep trying and all i keep coming up with is “thanks for worrying about me, but i’m fine, really”
So, I’m both a crazy person (bipolar, heavy on the depressive phases) and an adjunct instructor at a university. I can’t tell you how to talk to a parent or someone/anyone, but having dealt with depression from both sides of the lectern, and having had to deal with depressed students coming to me, I can offer some suggestions for at least the teacher part of it.
1. Sooner is better. Don’t wait until something has already been messed up by your depression (test bombed, paper late, project missed, absences piling up). When you feel the slide starting, talk to your professor. Depending on the prof and the day, they might be really busy directly after class, so you may want to set up an appointment for their office hours. A script that might help is: “Professor XYZ, do you have a few minutes? I’m a little worried about [my performance in class/next assignment/whatever the most immediate thing my depression is likely to affect], and I was hoping I could talk to you.”
2. Be clear about the issue. Once you have some privacy, follow up with “I’m prone to depression, which tends to mess up my [concentration/focus/ability to write papers instead of staring blankly at the wall, crying about the futility of existence - OK don’t say the last bit, but I’ve been there, and it is utter balls]. I thought that I had it pretty well controlled when I started school, but it’s coming back, and I’m really worried that it’s going to impact my studies.” At this point, the prof is probably going to do one of two things: give you the information for the relevant support resources on campus or ask what you think you need from this particular teacher. Very likely, they will do both (and possibly offer awkward but well-meaning condolences). This leads me to the next point….
3. Know what you want/need. What are you hoping the prof will do for you? Do you just want them to know you aren’t blowing them off if you can’t make it to class one day? Do you want help with an assignment you can’t seem to get brewing, or to reschedule a presentation for a week when showering and making eye-contact doesn’t use up all your emotional reserves? If it’s near the end of the semester, do you want to ask for the opportunity to take an incomplete and turn in the work next semester? Are you looking for some sort of externally-imposed set of micro-deadlines to make sure you don’t put off your work until it’s too late to do a decent job/get the stuff that matters done on time? Do you just need someone to see that you’re human, care, and tell you about what resources are available to you?
The last time a student came to me about major depression eating his ability to write the final paper, it turned out that what he needed from me was to be informed about on-campus resources (this included walking him across campus to the disability support services office, so he’d know where to go to get officially on record as someone who requires accommodation on some things) so he’d have support in future classes, and to be reminded that even a truly dreadful final paper would be worth at least partial credit, which would be enough for him to pass the class (he’d been a good student with good work up until then, so he could afford to mess up on something, as long as he *did it at all*).
I don’t know if this is something you deal with, but a lot of the students who come to me about mental health issues seem as worried that doing badly will make me hate them as they do about failing the course. Most of your profs will not hate you for screwing something up. If one of my students screws up on the first thing they do for my class, I assume they need help with the material, and try to find out how much effort they want to put into improvement. I would like to have all my students enjoy my subject and want to ace it for sheer love of the material. Realistically, some of them just want to get through with a C or B so they can go back to the classes in the subjects they do love. It doesn’t make them terrible people. If a student who has been doing well screws something up, I worry about them and I ask what problem they ran into, but I don’t hate them. Your teachers won’t hate you (unless they’re douchebags, which happens, but coping with that is a whole ‘nother post).
Christ, that got ridiculously long. I hope at least some of it helps. I’m rooting for you.
All of this is incredibly helpful and I’m reblogging it for myself and for any followers who are dealing with similar things right now.