I sat in my private dorm room, feeling like a failure.Â It was supposed to be my last semester in college, the semester I had looked forward to â€“ student teaching.Â No one understood why I could not do the student teaching.Â Why had I broken down one morning at the school I had been assigned to and finally decided I was not going to be able to complete student teaching?Â It didn't make sense.Â Me.Â Monica.Â The girl that won Future Homemakers of America contests for teaching kids was now unable to teach home economics in a public school setting.Â The girl who just the past semester was on the Dean's List?Â The girl who was full of confidence, always the good girl, now unable to cope?Â No one understood.Â I didn't even understand enough to explain what had happened.Â I just knew I was in a deep depression, and had such horrid anxiety I could not get up in front of a class anymore.
It didn't help that at the end of the prior semester, my major advisor told me no one would hire someone my size (I am overweight).Â It did not help that this same advisor told my teacher whom I would student teach under that I was prone to being late and she needed to tell me to be 20 minutes early.Â This teacher realized soon that my advisor was wrong when I was getting to the school even earlier than anyone else, earlier than she requested, because I hate to be late.Â It didn't help that the teacher I was assigned to had not had a student teacher in years, and wanted me to reciprocate all her lessons instead of thinking of my own.Â It didn't help that this teacher advised me that I should not have students take notes because "high school students don't take notes."Â It didn't help that after I disciplined two students, this teacher decided to take them to the back of the class to fry them bologna sandwiches while I tried to teach the remaining hungry students.Â
All these things did not help, but they still were not explaining why I was suddenly unable to function.Â A big part of it was fears that I would not be good enough.Â My advisor held my future in her hands, and she was not on my side.Â I had battled with anxiety and depression all my life, but not to the level that I sought treatment.Â Throughout college, there had been times when I considered seeking treatment, but shame and fear kept me away.Â
The night after I had left the school, unable to teach, I spoke with the Head Resident Assistant, who happened to live on my hall.Â She advised me to get counseling, but also gave me some good news.Â She said she had heard that students with similar issues had been allowed to have their student teaching requirement waived, and graduate without a teaching certificate.Â This sounded like the answer for me!Â At this point teaching seemed not a good option for me, and having a degree would help me to go on for further education or get a job in a related area that did not involve teaching.Â The next day, when I saw a psychiatrist through the campus psychological services center, he said he had heard of this option as well, and encouraged me to check it out.Â He also set up counseling sessions for me.
Other chaos in my life prevented me from going home.Â My mom was selling her house and was ill, so she was living with my sister.Â I felt there was nowhere I could go.Â Would family have taken me in - yes.Â Did I feel I could handle living with those family members, considering what I was going through - no.Â I found out I needed to take at least 3 credit hours to remain on campus.Â My plan was to try to replace some of the 12 units of student teaching with independent study classes to stay on campus.Â I hoped that the rest would be waived and I would graduate on time without a teaching license.Â
I wrote a formal appeal to the education department, requesting the student teaching be waived due to mental illness.Â A meeting was set up with my advisor and two other representatives from the education department.Â I was advised that because there was a general Family and Consumer Sciences degree, my only option was to take 3 courses as independent study and then during the summer, I would need to complete an internship with a cooperative extension office.Â I was very upset at this news.Â They did not seem to understand that the internship was a teaching setting also, and that I would face the same issues there.Â I was so upset that I cried, harder than I had been during the entire meeting, and said, "I just want to die."Â My advisor denounced my statement, saying, "Oh Monica, you don't really feel that way."Â She then proceeded to laugh and joke about problems her daughter had in college and the three conversed as if I was not sitting there with my hands over my face as I sobbed.Â They announced the meeting was over and said I could take time to compose myself, laughing still as they left.Â Only one bothered to come back with tissues.Â He made me promise I would not do anything to harm myself.Â
So began my first major depressive episode.Â Having a private room was both a blessing and a curse.Â I would have severe suicidal fixations.Â I would stare at the drawer where my medicines where kept and wonder what I could take to kill myself.Â The window in the kitchen on our hall was missing a screen.Â I would go to it and imagine jumping, but figure that I would only end up hurting myself, not killing myself.Â I didn't need to hurt emotionally and physically.Â I wanted it all to end.Â I knew that was wrong though.Â I had gone to church and knew suicide was not the answer.Â It was not really what I wanted.Â
I wanted things to be better.Â I wanted these feelings to go away.Â When I would get to the point that I could no longer handle the suicidal thoughts, I would go outside.Â It was mid-winter, 30- 40-degree weather, no shoes, and no coat. It was a punishment.Â Â I wanted to feel the pain.Â I hoped that someone would see me and know something must be wrong.Â I would walk around campus.Â Sometimes I would find a place to sit and watch the stars, or feel the rainfall on me.Â Like I said, I hoped someone would see me, but most of the time if someone came near, I hid, suddenly terribly afraid of being found and having to explain myself.
I went to therapy once while on campus.Â Oh, in retrospect I feel so sorry for that poor intern!Â I was his FIRST patient.Â I remember sitting there and looking out the window, wishing I could just fly away.Â I remember wishing he could crack open my head and read all my thoughts, see the problems and fix them.Â I was beyond talking.Â It was very awkward.Â "So, what are you feeling?" he asked.
"I don't know."
"So what is it that is making you seek out help?"
"I don't know."
It went on and on for an hour, him not getting that rephrasing that same question over and over was not going to get a different answer, me wishing I could just fly away, and the two of us just feeling really awkward.Â I did not go back.Â
My saving grace was my friend Cari, who made me go to at least one meal a day with her, and who got me to go to church and to bible study with her.Â There were times when I cried through the entire bible study, and afterwards, people would pray for me.Â Other times I would get on a manic high (though I did not know that was what it was then) and I was the life of the party.Â On those nights though, when it was time for me to go to my room, I would break down and cry, knowing my distraction was over and I had to go back to my room for another night of torture.Â Cari was very understanding and often I slept in her room.Â Sometimes, even though she was just down the hall, she would talk to me on the phone.Â How she could put up with my oh so depressed statements?
"I hate myself!" I'd say.
"I dunno.Â I just hate myself.Â I'm so stupid."
Cari was such a good friend, telling me I was not stupid, I shouldn't hate myself, and not giving up on me, though most would have thought I was nuts.Â It was hard to leave her at the end of the semester.Â I had managed to somehow complete the work for my 3 independent study courses, and had somehow managed to get an internship.Â I was very nervous though.Â Everyone was telling me I could do it, but no one, not even Cari, really knew what I was going through.Â I had not gotten any medication at this point, though in hindsight I am not sure why?Â How many people had I mentioned suicidal thoughts to?Â I had struggled just to do the independent work and stay alive through the end of the semester.Â I was really scared about the internship ahead.
On my first day of the internship, the woman who headed up the cooperative extension took me to lunch.Â I was so nervous and depressed I did not eat much.Â On the way back to the office, she informed me that my advisor had called her to tell her about my weight, in case it would influence her decision to give me the internship.Â She laughed and said that perhaps my advisor would be surprised to meet her â€“ she was tall and heavy as well.Â While it helped to know that she was on my side, it did not help to know that my advisor was once again doing things to not help me.Â
I realized I would never make it through the internship if I did not get on some medication.Â I was given an antidepressant and a bottle of 10-milligram Valium to take for anxiety, to be taken as 5-milligrams first and then 10 if needed.Â This did help.Â My advisor did not.Â When I submitted my schedule, she was unhappy with it, though it fit the routine of the office I worked in and she had given no specific guidelines.Â A few weeks into the internship I felt I could not handle it all and needed to just quit.Â I wrote a letter saying I couldn't handle everything anymore and was going to leave.Â I went into the bathroom to try to calm down.Â I had suicidal thoughts of taking the whole bottle of Valium, but managed to take just one 10-milligram pill.Â When I came back out, some of my co-workers had read the letter and gave me a pep talk.Â I decided to keep trying.
Then one day as I was working on a project, the head of the extension office announced that my advisor was coming in two days and wanted to see me do something.Â That day was going to be a conference hosted by our office, and I had nothing to do.Â It was suggested that I read the devotional at the luncheon that day.Â I knew my advisor and knew she would not be happy to drive 5 hours to come see me read for 5 minutes.Â It would not be enough and I was panicking.Â Everyone seemed to think it would be fine though and told me not to worry.Â I had done a great job so far and on short notice this should be good enough.
The day came and I got to the conference, announcing I could not do the devotional.Â I broke down in tears, and everyone tried to pep talk me again.Â I knew it would not be enough and I could not handle the pressure anymore.Â Finally, the head of the extension office and one of my co-workers agreed to talk to my advisor with me.Â They too were frustrated with her lack of guidance and lack of pleasure in my work.Â After all, they thought I had been doing a good job.Â They were appalled at some of the things she said about me that day, and her lack of care that I was very upset.Â They got her to agree to allow them to videotape me teaching and send it back to her for evaluation.
Although I was still unsure of everything, really struggling just to stay sane, I went back to the internship.Â Little did I know that my advisor would of course once again put unreasonable timelines on me.Â Later that week, I was scheduled to help the 4-H kids in a sewing class.Â This mainly involved being available for one-on-one help, since the main part of the teaching was already done and the kids were working on making their projects.Â Â One morning soon after my advisors visit, the head of the extension office came by saying my advisor wanting a video to go out that day.Â She reassured me that it would be fine, I could do a segment with the sewing class on how to measure, and they would send that off to my advisor.Â This did not calm me at all.Â Once again, this was going to be too miniscule for my advisor, and I was going to have to come up with this all on the fly, in just a few minutes.Â
This was the last straw.Â I went into an empty office and closed the door.Â I took out my bottle of Valium and the suicidal thoughts began debating.Â I did not want to die but no one seemed to want to let me quit.Â No one seemed to realize how much trouble I was really in.Â I felt like such a failure.Â What I am about to say I do not recommend to anyone.Â I do not condone my actions.Â I do know though, that God was with me that day.Â I cried.Â I prayed.Â Dear God please forgive me.Â I don't know what else to do or how to fix this situation.Â I know suicide is wrong and I don't want to die, but I don't know how else to get out of this pain I am in.Â No one understands how serious this is.Â No one realizes that I need serious help.Â God, please protect me.Â Please help me.Â I don't know what else to do.Â I know You can pull me through this and help people to see I need help and help me to get the help I need.Â Please protect me God, and most of all God, please forgive me for what I am about to do.
I then opened the bottle of Valium and counted out the tablets.Â There were 20 10-milligram tablets left.Â Somehow I knew this was not going to kill me.Â I was confident of that fact.Â I took the pills and then lay down on the floor to wait.Â Soon I had cried myself into a deep sleep.Â I could hear the franticness of one of my co-workers sometime later when she found me, but couldn't wake to do anything.Â She rushed to call 911, asking them to come quietly because of the children present.Â The blinds were closed so the kids would not notice what was going on.Â My own niece was in that room, not knowing what was going on.Â I was rushed to the hospital where I had the most awful experience of my life â€“ my stomach was pumped.Â Yuck â€“ I do not recommend that!Â The doctors asked how many pills I took, and when I told them, they insisted I must have remembered wrong.Â "20 10-milligram pills would have killed you," they insisted.Â I know though, because I counted them.Â
I suffered no known repercussions from the overdose, and began more serious treatment.Â I got some seriously needed sleep though.Â I stopped the internship.Â This time there were no pep talks.Â I was given credit for 1/3 of the internship.Â I eventually got a good job and things were good.Â It wasn't until 3 years later, when I had my second major depressive episode that I finally wrote to my university telling about everything that happened and especially how my advisor had acted.Â I asked what I could do to get my degree, and was told I could transfer in two courses that correlate to something in the major on the upper division level.Â I was so excited to know I could get my degree.Â I asked if I had a timeframe and was advised no.Â I have not been able to take the last two classes yet, but hope to eventually complete my degree.Â
I am currently in my third major depressive episode, and have finally been diagnosed as bipolar II.Â This is a milder form of bipolar where the patient only experiences extreme swings to one side -mania or depression â€“ for me, depression.Â I do have mania to some extent.Â I can stay up for 48+ hours sometimes.Â I had always had bad side effects from the anti depressants, and learned that many bipolar patients will react that way to antidepressants because their chemical imbalance is different.Â With a mood stabilizer I am starting to get relief without the tremors I used to get on antidepressants.Â
My faith has grown over the years, and has always been a huge help to me.Â As I have grown closer to God, my suicidal thoughts during my major episodes have gotten immensely better.Â Now, I only get what they call passive suicidal thoughts â€“ where you have thought of not wanting to exist anymore.Â In other words, you would like to be gone but you are not going to do anything about it.Â That is such a blessing.Â It was such a torture to fixate on suicidal thoughts.Â I also have learned to forgive my advisor because of my faith, and I no longer hold any grudge against her.Â When I get depressed, I pray a lot.Â I imagine myself in God's loving arms, on his lap, in total security and love.Â A few years ago, I wrote A Visit with the Vine Keeper for a friend, but I often read it for myself, as a reminder of God's love for me and to give myself comfort.Â If you need some comfort, I welcome you to read it as well.Â
Maybe faith is not important to you.Â Maybe you do not believe in God.Â I am not here to tell you what to think or feel, just to tell you what my experience has been.Â I know for a fact that if it were not for my faith, I would be dead today.Â I am thankful to have such a loving and forgiving God in my life.Â I know I will have many hard times ahead in my life.Â We all have our burdens to bear.Â After all, we were created to live in paradise, and we won't truly experience that until we leave this earth.Â Until then I have a loving God to protect and comfort me through the rest of my life on earth.Â I am truly thankful for that.Â How did I survive 20 10-milligram tablets of Valium?Â Only God knows, but I am glad I did.