Learning from our Struggles

I had an essay due on Wednesday. I had an essay due, and I didn’t do it.

For those of you who don’t know, I attend school part time in the evenings (and online). I also have a full time job that keeps me out of the house for about twelve hours a day (a full day plus traffic). When I told him about my stress levels, my dad told me that it’s too much for me, school and work. He says once I start a new semester, after a few weeks, I start to have a really hard time with hallucinations and suicidal thoughts and things. I thought I could handle it, but this week taught me a whole new lesson.

I sat down Tuesday night with every intention of writing the essay. It had to be at least four pages, about some ancient cultures. When I read the prompt, I started freaking out. The more I thought about it, the more stressed out I got and eventually started crying. I cried myself to sleep and didn’t wake up until 1:30 AM. I had to be up at 4:30 AM for work, so I called it a night and went back to sleep.

The essay was due the next day at 5:00 PM. I had to work the next day until 3:00 and don’t get home until 4:30 PM, so it was just not going to happen. I emailed my professor and asked for an extension with partial credit of course, explaining that I had a brain disorder that sometimes makes it difficult for me to focus on complex tasks like writing an essay, and he agreed to let me turn it in with a deduction.

When I got to class on Wednesday, a classmate asked me how the essay went. I could have lied, but I didn’t have the energy for it. I told him the truth, that I hadn’t started it yet. His reaction was expected, he was shocked. He asked me, “What the hell are you going to do?” and I just shook my head. This essay is worth most of the grade, and if I don’t turn it in I’ll probably fail the course.

I saw a friend at work today, who is also in school—a Master’s program, who explained to me that she had a fourteen-page essay to turn in. Fourteen pages. She was explaining to me of all the work she had to do recently, and how she got it all done, and I just felt like absolute shit.

I’m not a bad student—I have a 4.0 GPA. But this experience has soured my joy for learning and continuing my education. I can’t help but think that someone like me—someone with schizophrenia—won’t be able to handle work and school and writing and I’ll never achieve my goals. My doctor has assured me that things like this are not my fault; when schizophrenia rears its ugly head, we can’t do anything but ride the wave, but this week, as I thought about being the only student in class who didn’t submit their essay, I felt lazy and inadequate. I try not to listen to the negative thoughts, but it’s easier said than done.

I must remind myself that schizophrenia is not my fault. That it has symptoms that threaten to knock me down, but all I can do is keep fighting the good fight, alongside my other schizophrenia warriors. If you have a mental illness and you’re reading this, please know that whatever you are dealing with is not your fault. We must fight the urge to compare ourselves to others because everyone deals with their own shit in their own way. We all do our best, and if it’s not enough in the end—in the case of my failed essay—it is an experience we can learn from. I learned, once again, that I’m not superwoman, and that it’s okay to admit that I can’t do everything all the time.

2 thoughts on “Learning from our Struggles

  1. Ross Reply

    I read everything you post online that I can find, usually more than once. Whatever the topic -regardless of if I can relate- your words really make me feel better when I’m stuck with no sleep or any situation when schizophrenia is overwhelming. I’m always amazed at how much you do.

    1. Allie Burke Reply

      Ross, thank you so much for reading what I write. Your comment uplifted my spirits, knowing that my writing helps someone. I would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter. Please reach out anytime. And thank you again.

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