What can I do with myself during a semester off?
January 9, 2011 6:12 PM   Subscribe

I have bad anxiety and depression. I think I need to take time off from college. But what can I do with myself?

I go to college in New York City but I don't want to go back for the spring semester. I think the academic pressure is overwhelming me and preventing me from taking care of myself. I can take the semester off, but I don't want to live at home with my parents any more than I have to. To complicate things, my therapist is in New York City and I think it would be really hard for me to move to another place without my friends and without the therapist. But obviously it's expensive to live in New York, and I'm not really sure I can hold down a full time job in my current emotional state. I would love to do it, and feel the satisfaction of taking care of myself, but I just know that it would be at the outer limits of what I can realistically do right now.

I know one fairly obvious idea would be to take a minimal course load, but I actually did that already and it was still a giant source of anxiety.

I feel kind of trapped and I don't know what to do. To stay connected to the people in my life, I would have to be in the New York area. But I don't know how to accomplish that without staying in school or getting a full time job. I can live more cheaply in another town, but then I would feel really isolated. Does anybody have advice or suggestions? Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Someone on MeFi reccomended Fountain House for mental health support, and community services. They have a education program geared towards helping students achieve their academic goals, from GEDs to PhDs. You could give them a call and see what they say.

Fountain House
425 West 47th Street New York NY 10036 (Map) • 212.582.0340
posted by abirae at 6:25 PM on January 9, 2011

I went through something very similar. What I ended up doing was moving upstate with a friend of mine who was going to college and had a roommate flake on him. He introduced me to a lot of people in his college town and it was generally a nice, relaxing experience away from the horrible stress.

I was able to get a really low-stress job -- I worked the graveyard shift in a sandwich shop and it was a lot chiller than any job I could get in NYC -- and at any time was $35 and 4 hours away from seeing my friends. After a few months, I came back to the city and got a job here and etc. etc.

Now, your situation is more complicated, especially with the therapist part, but if you can move to a friend's apartment in, say, Stony Brook, you'll never be that far away, but still in an environment you can relax and work a job with an environment that is unavailable in NYC.
posted by griphus at 6:36 PM on January 9, 2011

You will probably get some good advice here but it might be helpful to bring all this to your therapist and sit down with him or her and try to work out a realistic plan. You are right to perceive the pros and cons of the options you list here. Whatever option you choose will have some cons, and you'll need to plan how you will handle those -- this is okay. Every choice we make in life has some cons, there are no trouble-free paths, so we just have to make plans for how we'll cope with the hard parts of the paths we choose. You can do it; it might help to ask your therapist to help you get started. (A common symptom of depression is rejecting every possible solution! So you want to avoid that. It's helpful to work with someone who can help give you perspective on which plans are really unworkable vs which plans will be workable despite having some downsides.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:36 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Definitely talk this over with your therapist and discuss your options.

I know that the idea of a full time job can be scary (especially when you're depressed), but for me, the structure and social interaction a job provides really helped me to overcome my depression and anxiety, and I found it much LESS stressful than college. Conversely, summers that I've spent "taking care of myself" and not doing much else have made me more depressed, because they leave me too much time to ruminate. Just something to consider. You want to keep busy. If you're depressed and you take off time without a plan, you'll just fill up that extra time with more depression.
posted by smokingmonkey at 6:56 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you need to learn some coping skills. Taking a semester off is always an option, but right now, jobs are hard to come by, and like smokingmonkey said, hanging around with a lot of free time is not a good idea for someone with anxiety and depression. I would discuss these concerns with your therapist and your academic advisor, maybe they can help you come up with a plan, or some strategies for coping better. Perhaps an on-campus support group would be good? There are plenty of people feeling the same types of anxieties you are feeling and it's always good to know that you aren't alone.
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:44 PM on January 9, 2011

I know you don't want to move out of the city, but if I were coping with depression, I would want to leave the city, both to get to a less stressful place and to disassociate yourself from physical places of anxiety for awhile. My brother just came out of depression, and leaving school (and the area) for the semester helped tremendously. If you do leave, I'd ask your therapist for recommendations on other therapists with similar therapy styles in the area you're going to. Good luck.
posted by msk1985 at 9:16 PM on January 9, 2011

Sometimes making yourself work through the problem du jour can help you work through future problems. I've found that being a "functional" depressive is so much better than being a slobbering useless unemployed mess.
posted by porpoise at 11:44 PM on January 9, 2011

Can you MeMail me or post some kind of email address?
posted by houseofdanie at 11:56 PM on January 9, 2011

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