You've heard of gap years surrounding college. Most people who decide to do this take a year off between high school and college to either travel or work to save money for college. But something that not everyone thinks of is taking a gap semester, especially right in the middle of your college education.
This fall, I was meant to be starting my senior year of college. I was moved into my apartment, ready to go and then everything changed.
One day, I went to the museum with a friend. This museum was ridiculously hot for a summer day and with so many priceless paintings around and I started to feel dizzy, nauseous and ready to pass out. I sat down and waited for it to go away, but nothing happened. With nothing else to do, I called 911 and an ambulance picked me up and took me to the hospital.
While nothing was seriously wrong, the entire experience has started to leave a lasting impression. I was so anxious that it would happen again that I didn't leave my apartment for nearly a week. Classes were starting in a few days and I couldn't bring myself to make it past my front door without panic attack symptoms starting to set in.
Now, I've had many panic attacks before. I've had them in public and while they definitely take a lot out of you, the original symptoms of accelerated heart rate, cold sweat and dizziness would go away within a half hour. But the incident I had at the museum was due to physical, not mental, issues and my anxiety had built up so much that I was afraid those same issues would cause me to go to the hospital again if I left my building.
I felt like crying all the time. And honestly, I'm not much of a crier. Sure, I "cry" at the occasional tv show or book, but I don't cry. But I felt like crying all the time. I didn't know how to handle or deal with what was going on and I didn't feel ready to be going back to school. It was a hard decision to come to because I put so much pressure on myself to be strong.
It wasn't until my mom sat me down and told me that it's okay not to be strong all the time that I realized that I really needed to focus on myself. I am a year ahead in school, having been taking J-Term and summer classes on top of the regular semesters for two years, and I needed a break. My mental health needed a break.
So here I am, moved back home for a semester, and I'm starting to feel really good about it. I'm taking the time to write, to spend quality time with my family, and, most importantly, to get my mental health on track. It's hard to live a "normal" life when your mental illness keeps getting in the way and it's perfectly okay to take a break and get better. It is not selfish to take care of yourself.