When to give up
September 29, 2013 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Following my previous questions, I went back home during my summer break of grad school in Tokyo and felt a lot better, while still anxious about going back to Tokyo. I have been back at grad school for four days out of which I have spent every single one crying. Or actually weeping and sobbing like a child. I can't take this any longer, but I don't know what to do.

I started feeling down in early July, then gradually worse until a complete breakdown in mid-August, after which I decided to go home for the summer break and decide what to do then. I made a two-day trip with my boyfriend in late August before I went home to Germany the day after that. During the trip, I felt really good, but that might have been because I knew I would go home after it. I felt pretty good at home, too, except for one terrible breakdown a week before I was scheduled to fly back to Japan. I went to see my doctor again the day after and she gave me five little pills of Folliculinum, told me to take it twice a month and Ignatia three times a week and that I should go back to Japan and my studies. The only thing she said was wrong with me were low vitamin D levels, and I am taking supplements now. (I must have very low levels for ages, but felt pretty good nonetheless until June.)

I miss my home and my family. I ask myself why I am wasting precious time I could spend with them before they all grow old and die one day (or soon - my grandmother is 91.) Yet I keep telling myself that I need to learn how to live without them before they die. My mother also keeps telling me she wants to give her children wings. I don't want wings anymore, I want roots.

My boyfriend here in Japan has been really supportive, and I know that he really loves me. On Saturday night, when I was in so much emotional pain that I told him maybe I'd better just die, he actually cried because it hurt him to see me like that. It hurts me, too, and in my few clear moments - although even then I feel down and hopeless - I know I am not that girl. I do not want to die yet, but I have lost the will to go on and I don't see any point to life anymore, especially not life here in Japan. What's the point of a degree if I have to destroy myself over it? I wanted to be a teacher, but what's the point of going to work every day if it all seems so meaningless?

Everyone keeps saying I can do this, but I can't pull myself together long enough to concentrate on my studies. Classmates tell me I look tired, my professors seem to notice how I can't smile anymore (I was famous for my smile once!) and I'm just so, so depressed. I pull myself together for the hours I babysit, and during lessons I have times when I can participate, but it all seems so pointless...

Also, I'm terrified of the day when I won't be able to run back home to my parents anymore, because that day will come. Ideally, by then I'll have a husband to rely on, but who knows? My boyfriend, who I love very much, never wants to get married or have kids, and I have always wanted that, although now I have second thoughts about bringing children into this world just to make me have a purpose - what if they'll have to go through the same horror I'm going through now? But I really hate living alone, I can't convince myself of anything else. I don't want freedom or anything, I want my family. Not even my friends can cheer me up anymore. I'm constantly on the verge of tears or actually crying.

I have an appointment with the university counselor, but I don't know if that's gonna help. I have lost hope and faith in ever feeling happy again. I can't even picture myself being happy at some point in the future. (A future neither my family nor my boyfriend will be in...)
Maybe they can give me some medicine, but what if that backfires and I feel even worse? (Although that is hard to imagine.) I live alone, no one can supervise me when I decide that life really isn't worth the pain anymore...
I know that so many people in the world have it worse, so why did I go from someone who once wanted to help those people to someone who feels like the unhappiest girl on earth? Is it because I have realised that everyone I love will leave me someday? Why can't I make myself believe that I'll have new loved ones by then? Where did I go wrong that I went from being happy in Japan and grad school to this? Am I just scared of happiness? Am I unconsciously thinking I don't deserve it?

Sorry for the long question.
posted by LoonyLovegood to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you don't want to be doing something, it's ok to stop and do something else. It sounds like it's time to go home. Your path doesn't need to be torture.
posted by quince at 8:58 PM on September 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

You sound like you are in a clinical depression. All of your thoughts and questions are classic for someone terribly depressed. The right medication and therapy will help you get out of this and into a better frame of mind about school, your family and life in general. Please see the counselor and a Doctor for the proper meds.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:00 PM on September 29, 2013 [8 favorites]

I was sent away to boarding school when I was ten. It was terrible. I ran away twice in the first week. But you know, after being there a while it became possible, and eventually great.

Take care of yourself and just take it step by step. Breathe and do what you need to do. The stress will get better, and maybe a prescription for anti-depressants will help you.

You're over-beanplating this, you know. Take it easy and be kinder to yourself. Let go a bit of all your questions about why/who/what, things work themselves out.
posted by anadem at 9:01 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You've been depressed and struggling for a while now, and even though some things have improved it sounds like your depression has gotten worse. Is there no way for you to take a break from your schooling, go home, and find medical help and therapy? You seem long past the point where toughing it out would help. Sometimes even long-awaited or planned for things turn out to not be right for you and there's no shame in saying "this is not the path I want to be on anymore."
posted by PussKillian at 9:07 PM on September 29, 2013

Response by poster: This grad school is what I wanted to do, and I can't get the same degree anywhere near home.
However, I also really want to be with my family now, but I can't stay at home forever - without a degree, what will I do once my parents can't support me financially anymore? Won't I feel even worse for giving up?
If I take a break now, I'll either have to keep paying my expensive apartment in Tokyo even while I'm not using it or pay a hell lot of key money etc. to rent out a new one if I do come back, not to mention the anxiety of having to look for a new place.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 9:11 PM on September 29, 2013

Best answer: When to give up

My dear, I would say you have definitely reached the time to "give up" when you start thinking things like this:

I live alone, no one can supervise me when I decide that life really isn't worth the pain anymore...

It sounds like you are in a very serious depression. Pushing yourself to multiple breakdowns is not good for you or your life. I think the best thing for you do is go back home, and get your mental and emotional health sorted out. You should be able to take a medical leave of absence from grad school and come back in another semester. Don't worry about the key money and the apartment right now. Just think about NOW.

Remember that you're kind of locked in one perspective right now, so things seem a certain way, but you might be very, very surprised by how your feelings can change about things you never would have thought you could be okay with.
posted by cairdeas at 9:18 PM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I have just spent a month at home. I thought I would be fine, but what if I really just can't stand being away from home? Not everyone has to go to grad school halfway around the world, do they? Then again, I'd regret leaving now - while I was okay, I did love it here. I just love home more... And I have to worry about the money, because we don't have that much to waste.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 9:22 PM on September 29, 2013

Best answer: "... I don't know if that's gonna help. I have lost hope and faith in ever feeling happy again. I can't even picture myself being happy at some point in the future. ... Maybe they can give me some medicine, but what if that backfires and I feel even worse? (Although that is hard to imagine.) I live alone, no one can supervise me when I decide that life really isn't worth the pain anymore..."

This is your depression talking. It feels as though you're being rational and practical by, say, planning for a day when you'll be all alone and no one will be able to help you. But that's not what it is: it's your brain chemicals and hormones and whatever else goes into emotions overwhelming you until you're no longer thinking rationally, but your brain is tricking you into thinking that it's rational. It is not rational. It is a trick.

You need to go see a medical professional now. You need to be absolutely honest about the fact that you are feeling suicidal. And you need to accept treatment, even if you don't believe that it could possibly work because your brain is telling you that everything is hopeless. If that means taking a leave of absence from grad school, or relying on the people who love you, or otherwise radically disrupting your life temporarily, then that is what you need to do. Because this is an emergency, and you need to address it as an emergency. Nothing: not grad school, not money, not your hypothetical future regrets, is as important as getting treatment right now.
posted by decathecting at 9:24 PM on September 29, 2013 [27 favorites]

I have some insight into this. And maybe some regrets for quitting when I did. Want to join me?

For your purposes only, you should know that I lived about 16 blocks from the World Trade Center in Manhattan way back, and personal circumstances + secret awful premonitions about A Thing, created a genuine urge in me to move to New Zealand. So in late 2000, off I went.

I split from my then-husband, who stayed in our apartment 16 blocks from the World Trade Center, because he was too close to his mom to go live abroad for a while. Meanwhile, not being close to my biological family, Manhattan NYC always was My Family. I can't tell you what it cost me to abandon every hard won thing I had - but I left because I had to.

It was hard and wonderful being abroad. Then one morning in NZ, a phone call came. A phone call about planes and buildings.

I felt relief (Ohhhhh! Now I understand!!!!) I felt survivor guilt that I had ducked out and missed the trauma everyone I knew well and love was going through. I felt.... Sad. And Conflicted.

I was on a Journey.

You are on a Journey.

It's 12 years later.... My ideas and definitions of/about Family and Permanence have changed immeasurably. I've gone through Dark Times like you are right now.

I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful son. I live in the plastic/fake sunshine world of Los Angeles now, while cultivating my pockets of genuinely shared Good Will amongst my community.

It's been a Long Road, and today I'm very appreciative I'm still on that road, making a difference when I can, improving myself.


Everything. Changes.

I thought I would be a lifelong New Yorker. I'm not. Instead, I'm imparting my NYC values to my son. My husband is from Alexandria, Egypt. I don't have words for what his personal experience must be, but I respect the shit out of it.

I'm so not a fan of hegemony or perpetual war. Some days I really really regret leaving NZ. For the record.

That said.

When you're "right" - the things you miss will come.

Don't worry so much about the outside, focus on your inside.


Regarding Fukishima...

You might want to get the fuck out of Japan for that alone. IANAD, but don't discount an organic source of your malaise.

(Disclaimer: I sell and eat Pacific Water seafood and stay up on all the current science and studies, I'm not worried, but that doesn't mean you're not extra sensitive to something in your environment, so I'll mention it for your consideration. Just in case.)
posted by jbenben at 9:25 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I know you were just at home, but it doesn't sound like you had the chance to get significantly better while you were there.

If you really can't stand being away from home, then you don't have to be away from home. But it sounds like you have very serious underlying depression. So it's hard to say if you'll always feel the way you do now, until that underlying issue is more resolved.

If you regret leaving, you can always come back.

I know you don't have money to waste. But if you asked your parents, I am certain they would tell you this was true: that no amount of money is more important to them than your well-being, that they would not want you to put yourself in serious danger over worry about money.
posted by cairdeas at 9:26 PM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I've given up and bailed out on some pretty big stuff in the past--a couple of times, really, and one situation was quite similar to yours. There were significant costs to changing my plans (many thousands of dollars, a career change, etc.). It made me feel awful for a little while. And I was deeply embarrassed about it each time, because the opportunities I gave up were pretty interesting, whereas quitting didn't seem so cool.

But you know what? It turned out fine--scratch that--great in terms of finding a better fit and (without even trying hard) winding up in a more remunerative career. I had almost nothing to explain, because no one actually minded the details. My friends and family were just happy that I was happy. It took a while to develop new opportunities, but they certainly existed. It didn't take long for the regrets to fade. And now, at least among friends, I'm willing to share the details and tell stories about it--hard circumstances eventually make for good stories.

You're going to have lots of good options in the future. You're bright enough for grad school; you're multi-lingual, cosmopolitan, etc., and your family cares about you deeply. I've seen many, many people quit graduate programs over the years for personal reasons--two of them within a week of starting. It happens probably a lot more than you realize. And those people are *fine*. I'm still in touch with one of the folks who quit a graduate program in week one (a pretty big turnaround in plans), and she's doing *great*.

So for goodness sake, put your mental health first here. You got some good advice, the first time you asked, about how to stick things out. But at this point, I'm fairly sure that my past self, when faced with the same challenge, would have chosen to go home to my family and friends. Maybe you will and maybe you won't. Just don't be hard on yourself if you go home--it's what many, many people would do in your situation, whether they realize it or not. A lot of folks are just lucky enough to not know that.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:12 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Clinical depression is a life-threatening disease. You must go to the police (aka in your situation a psychiatrist or similar) for help. Must. If you need to ask your boyfriend to make calls and appointments for you, then do it.
posted by rtha at 10:20 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Regarding Fukishima...

You might want to get the fuck out of Japan for that alone.

Fukushima is the least of your worries. Don't worry about it. Don't let anyone scare you about Fukushima. It's not helpful.

You need to seek treatment for your clinical depression and sadness. This may mean returning home immediately.

Call Tokyo English Lifeline. They can help.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:24 PM on September 29, 2013 [16 favorites]

I do not suffer from clinical depression, although I likely lived with moderate undiagnosed depression for several years after we returned to Canada from Japan. I got better.

I was going to say that early on in my Japan days (I lived there for ten years and after returning "home: have been living there part-time for the past ten years) I worked for a terrible company. I had little money, which meant I could not go "home" to Canada, and working and living in Japan was not pleasant. I recall returning to Japan at the height of summer, my first summer there (I was totally unprepared for the intense heat) and feeling very miserable.

But something clicked and now I love where I was living so very much.

My point is that, while my experience may not be as challenging as yours potentially is, you can come through this.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:35 PM on September 29, 2013

I agree that you can probably get through this. Many people get through this kind of thing. Right now it feels like you are very much away from home, but in the future looking back, this will feel like a short period of your life. I lived overseas for a long time but now it feels like I was not gone very long because I have been "home" much longer than I was away. That being said, it sounds like you have a lot of anxiety about losing time with family members. I think that's something you need to discuss with a counselor because your reaction to that concern seems much more intense than in other people.
posted by Dansaman at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2013

Seconding Tokyo English Lifeline. That's what they're here for. Japan isn't the easiest place to get mental health care, but TELL is good people, and they can get you on the path you need to be on. It might be that right now, you need to be elsewhere. With any luck, your university will be understanding of that. If not, being alive and doing something that doesn't acutely put thoughts of suicide in your head is better than trying to fight through the hell that you're in.

Obviously you've got a support group, but if you need anyone to talk to here, feel free to memail me.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:39 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Although it's tangential to your question, I'm just going to point out in case you think that you've been "treated already by a doctor" that the treatments you received were homeopathic.

You need an actual medication in order to experience an actual physiologic effect. Please get medical help as soon as you can and see an allopathic physician, rather than a homeopath, to get an opinion on your mental health.

And remember that unless you are honest with them regarding your thoughts about death and your hopelessness and anhedonia, they will not be able to diagnose and treat you correctly.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:15 AM on September 30, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: ...that the treatments you received were homeopathic.

And treehorn+bunny is being polite in not pointing out that homeopathy is nothing. It's worse than nothing because you think you're being treated for something, but you aren't. She's an actual M.D. so you can believe her.

Get to an medical doctor who can evaluate you and prescribe actual, chemical drugs that can help you.

If it turns out that you don't stay in Japan, this is not your only hope of education, or employment. There are other degrees, other schools, other jobs.

This is not a binary situation, either stick it out where I'm unhappy, versus leaching off of my parents. You could end up working for a company you like, or running a shop, or any of a number of other cool things. I promise.

But right now you're in no mental space to make those kinds of decisions, just know that leaving this particular situation is NOT the end of the world.

Hang in there! Folks hitting major depressive episodes in their twenties is so common it's a cliche. It happened to me, and pretty much everyone I know.

You are not alone, and it does get better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:34 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I know what it feels like to just feel that you. Just. Can't. Be. Responsible. Anymore. Not for one more thing.

My mother also keeps telling me she wants to give her children wings. I don't want wings anymore, I want roots.

I'm terrified of the day when I won't be able to run back home to my parents anymore, because that day will come. Ideally, by then I'll have a husband to rely on, but who knows?

I don't want freedom or anything, I want my family.

You are being TOO responsible. Everything is on you. You have to live in a foreign culture. You have to get up every day and go to classes and do your work and get your degree. You have to teach and babysit. Then, if that weren't enough, you have to go home and cook yourself food and clean your apartment and pay your bills and if you DON'T do it, IT DOESN'T GET DONE.

I wonder what being home was like. Did you get a chance to just do nothing? Did you have responsibilities? Because it sounds to me like you are in decision-overload and you can't take any more.

My suggestion is to reach out. Call the help line referenced above. Lean on your boyfriend for more than just emotional support - can he cook for you once a week, for example? Talk to your bosses or your professors, and ask for tangible help. Taking a break from being in charge of something will be a huge improvement.

(After that, of course, I think you should do some therapy to learn some strategies to stand on your own - but that is more long term. If you are feeling like you want to die, you need to take some of the pressure off NOW)
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:37 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hey Loony. So I just read this question and the original one you asked about this same topic. I think the first thing you need to figure out is if you CAN go home. You mention in your previous question that you don't think your parents will let you go home. And you imply in this one that you can't really go home because there will be too much money wasted. So, yes or no, can you go home? Maybe you need to straight up ask your parents.

If you can, I think you should. You sound like you're just not ready. You can try again in a year and use the time between now and then to prepare yourself. And if preparing doesn't seem to get you anywhere, you can change your plans. There's no shame in changing them! You didn't know how emotionally difficult this was going to be, and now that you do, it's only rational to factor that in as you make your future plans.

If you can't go home, well, it's not what you wanted most, but now you know where to put your energies. Wondering whether or not to go home is a task that's no longer on the table, so you'll have to put that energy into all the little things that will improve your experience. Moving closer, asking people to do things with you, making whatever place you live your own, etc... It doesn't seem like it now, but I promise you, all those little things will add up! A year or two from now, you'll be talking to a new person starting their first year overseas and you'll be telling them how they can get through it and even enjoy it. You'll know how because you will have done it!

But here's the thing. Whatever path you choose, you're going to have to start being nicer to yourself or it will take much longer than it needs to for you to get to the place where you feel happy. You put yourself down so much! And you blame yourself for your unhappiness. Where did you go wrong? What are you doing wrong? These are questions you keep asking in one form or another.

I'm so glad you're seeing a counselor soon. A counselor will be able to hold a mirror up to you. And when you look in it, you might see someone who's struggling a reasonable amount given the situation, someone who's going above and beyond in trying to help herself, someone who is loved more than she sometimes feels like she is.

The counselor can help you get to the root of why the reflection you see is distorted, and once you see that, everything else will start falling into place.
posted by january at 8:17 AM on September 30, 2013

Best answer: I wanted to join in on saying that homeopathy is not what I would consider acceptable medical treatment for depression.

I know it's more widely prescribed in Germany, but some people like me think it's quackery. Not to start an argument about it here, but you should see another doctor.
posted by feste at 10:58 AM on September 30, 2013

Best answer: I've moved about all my life - even as a kid, because of my dad's work, we lived 3-6 years in various countries as I was growing up. As a result, I have had extensive exposure to various expat communities, international exchange students and international workers communities.

In my experience, people simply fall into different classes of adaptability, and that's that. There are those who take to any new environment like fish to water, and at the other end, there are those who simply cannot adapt and are deeply unhappy. In between, we have a spectrum. At the poor adaptability end of it, there are those who can be helped with a lot of time and more or less heroic measures, but you have to ask yourself if it's worth it in the end. But to be clear, there are those for whom no amount of help is going to do it. You may very well be such a case.

Reading your question, and your previous one, I am going to refrain from any diagnosis regarding mental health (depression etc.) - I am going to confine myself strictly to the issue of adaptability. Based on the information provided, I would peg you at the far end of poor adaptability. For such people, the effort involved - should it even be successful - will not be worth it based on cost/benefit. You're too far along the spectrum (again, based on the information provided).

The trouble is when people don't have enough experience with human variability in the ability to adapt, and keep urging you (or someone very far along the spectrum) to "give it a try", because they perceive all the benefits of cross-cultural experience, but don't understand that this only applies to someone who is able to take advantage of it. In their experience, people are better or worse, but all can get through - duh, that's the bell curve and the largest amount of people will be able to handle it. But there are those who can't - being a minority, they may not have come across this, and so keep urging behaviors which are not going to work for that small minority.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are not "failing". You are not "worse". You are simply different in this aspect from the majority. Just as if you had a less common eye-color. You are just a flower that doesn't take to being replanted in a different climate zone. Different strokes for different folks.

Again, based on my experience and the information you provided, it is my opinion, that you would be better off going home - the international student thing is not for you, or at the very least not at this stage of your life. Any conversation about tricks and hacks to adapt are beside the point - it ain't happening. I have seen this over and over again. There is that percentage of expats, international workers or students who have trouble adjusting - and many of those can be helped with greater and lesser measures, but there is that fraction for whom nothing works and they will continue to suffer - I've seen such people suffer for months and months, even a couple of years, and then are either hospitalized in a full breakdown, or exhibit other highly maladaptive behaviors such as alcohol/drug abuse in an effort to self-treat. The only solution for that fraction of people is to say "it is not for me", and go back to a more familiar environment.

I believe you will be best off going back home and then, if you have any other issues (like the ones people are diagnosing you with, i.e. possible depression), treating them there. If you do have additional mental health issues (I am agnostic on whether you do or not), I don't believe you are better served trying to resolve them abroad - I believe the opposite. Perhaps one day you may want to try it again - people do change - when you're at a different point in your life psychologically, but for now, I'd say you should absolutely go back home for now.
posted by VikingSword at 12:47 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I commented in one of your previous threads and said that maybe you should stick it out for a while. But after reading this thread I'd just like to say that I've changed my mind and ask that you disregard what I said and consider going home. You've got some good advice in this thread (except for that bit about Fukushima. Yes, Fukushima is an ongoing problem, but it has nothing directly to do with your situation here, like KokuRyu pointed out upthread). Take care of yourself, and I wish you the best of luck.
posted by misozaki at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone! Some of your kind words really made me cry, especially the ones telling me that I wasn't doing too little, but too much, and that I should be kinder to myself. I will try that, I just don't really know what it means.
I talked to my professor today and he encouraged me, but also said that whatever I end up choosing, it will be the right choice. Now I feel like I would be stupid to leave the best professor and nicest classmates I have ever had, but I also don't know if I can keep living here on my own without my family. I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place...
I went to see the university counsellor and then a doctor who both listened to me cry. The doctor prescribed me something so I can sleep.
I realised that I always start crying when I think or talk about my family at home and living alone and lonely here, so I at least know what the reason for my condition is. I don't think that any medicine can cure it, however, which leaves me a troubled. I promised my professor to wait a little longer until I decide anything, so I will do that for now.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 2:04 AM on October 1, 2013

I don't think that any medicine can cure it, however, which leaves me a troubled.

Again, this is the depression talking, and it has nothing to do with reality. Even if it is true that you're lonely (which may or may not be the root cause of your feelings), that doesn't mean that there aren't lots of treatments that could help: medication, talk therapy, meditation, group therapy, etc. Or maybe you actually would be better off going home. None of us can know that. And since you've only just started dealing with this, it's likely that you don't know yet, either. Just please, don't listen to the voice inside your head telling you that it's hopeless; that voice is lying to you.
posted by decathecting at 10:01 AM on October 1, 2013

Best answer: At my university in England it's possible to take leave for a term (semester) or two terms (a year). Is this something feasible for you as well?

PLEASE get your vitamin D levels up. Low vitamin D levels caused me lots of problems -- heart palpitations, anxiety, anger, depression, fatigue so bad it caused dizziness and vertigo, hopelessness, etc. I slowly increased the amount I was on, as 800iu was not enough. Unfortunately, this may take months. It took me from March 2012 until about January 2013 to feel much better.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:36 AM on October 1, 2013

Best answer: I realised that I always start crying when I think or talk about my family at home and living alone and lonely here, so I at least know what the reason for my condition is. I don't think that any medicine can cure it, however, which leaves me a troubled.

Well, I just want to tell you something from my own experience; even though it is anxiety, and not depression, I think there are some parallels.

I have had anxiety off and on since I was a child, but it had been dormant for a long time. Then I had something like 9 months of unbelievably stressful things happening in my life, one after the next. My stress levels rose to the point where it triggered my underlying anxiety, and it got to the point where I was just having waves of panic attacks every single day, all day.

So I tried medication. And I remember saying to someone, in the first week or two that I was taking it, "People are always afraid to take this stuff because they're afraid they won't feel like themselves anymore. And here I would like NOTHING MORE than to not feel like myself, but it isn't happening at all!!"

But then it kind of slowly kicked in and I just felt... better. I still felt stress. And I was still stressed out by the same sorts of things. But I just felt better while I was dealing with them.

That is what I think the medication might do for you. Your family will always be important to you. You may still feel lonely and wish that you were together with them. But I think it's possible to just feel better while you have those feelings. Like, you may have those feelings but still feel pretty okay overall. Rather than having those feelings and feeling like you might have a breakdown because of them.
posted by cairdeas at 12:02 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This advice comes from my own personal experience. I am also an academic psychologist with a specialism in stress and well-being.

This is not a question of trying harder or sticking it out. You have been fighting like a gladiator. But you are hampered by being ill. If you were having problems with your legs, you would go to a leg doctor. You are having problems with your mental health, severe enough that you can't function. You need to go to a psychiatrist, a specialist. Please. You wouldn't tell your legs off for not trying hard enough. This is just the same.

I know you don't believe that you can get better. That is part of the trick the illness is playing on you. The best part about medication is that you don't have to believe in it. All you need is time to let it work. I can't understand why your doctor has not started you on such treatment. I hope the professionals you are now seeing will take you down this path. They sound a bit more practical, and medication works best in tandem with counselling.

Feel free to contact me if you think I can help at all.
posted by danteGideon at 2:59 PM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You can go home if you want to. Get some real treatment first, but then if you still really want to go home, you can.

You can figure out a way to take leave while you get better. You need real treatment. We've all been there and we can all see it, so believe us.

I had a similar situation when I was a student, except I ended up blowing off a major section of the program. I felt like a failure over it for a long time. Later in life I got opportunities to go back to that city under much more suitable circumstances for me. I never think about it now, except in terms of "whoa that was harsh, I could've done with more support!"

Lost a battle, won the war, kind of thing. Even though at the time, it seemed so all-or-nothing!
posted by tel3path at 12:01 AM on October 2, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry to update again, but I wrote a long mail to my family explaining what I am going through right now, and my brother told me that if he were me, in consideration of my health, he'd go home. My sister, however, called me and said that it sounds to her like I just had separation anxiety (which I realise is very, very true!!) and should try to overcome it. I guess staying here would be the best way to attempt that through basically shock therapy, but I do not feel fit enough for it now. Can I just go home and heal and try to tackle my anxieties there when I feel better or will that just make the issue worse in the long run? I'm really feeling physically ill at the thought of my boyfriend saying goodbye at night or in the morning and it's almost killing me.
Some people never live alone, right? Maybe at some point, I'll have to, but maybe I never will and if I do, can't I just address the issue then?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:38 AM on October 3, 2013

Best answer: I guess staying here would be the best way to attempt that through basically shock therapy, but I do not feel fit enough for it now.

Exposure therapy... and this is not the way to do exposure therapy. Throwing someone into the deep end in a situation that causes them this much distress, would cause way more harm than good for many people.

Some people never live alone, right? Maybe at some point, I'll have to, but maybe I never will and if I do, can't I just address the issue then?

It's not an either-or thing. You can go home and live with your family and address this while you're at home and living with your family. You never have to live in an uncomfortable, unhappy, and scary living situation - and you can get to the point where a comfortable and happy living situation for you might be living with others or might be living alone.
posted by cairdeas at 1:59 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The thing about sink or swim is that some people sink. If you're sinking, and you let the lifeguard rescue you, that doesn't mean you can never swim again. It just means you should take some lessons and start at the shallower end of the pool at first.
posted by cairdeas at 2:01 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can I just go home and heal and try to tackle my anxieties there when I feel better or will that just make the issue worse in the long run?

Sometimes you have to go home again in order to leave home. I had a different college experience than you in that college for me was more of a home than the place I'd grown up in. I never wanted to leave! But I did when I graduated, because it was what I was supposed to do. I didn't want to be one of those pathetic people who couldn't get over college and spent the rest of their lives hanging out with the students as time passed them by, right?

But 2 years later I was nearly suicidal and I couldn't stop thinking that I wanted to go back home, back to my college town. So I did.

I stayed there for 6 months, 5 of which were absolutely magical. At the start of the 6th month I started to get bored and restless, and as a result I made plans to move on, for real. Going back gave me the emotional support I needed to think clearly, and it allowed me to evolve on my own schedule.

You will always be growing and evolving. Going back home won't stop that.
posted by january at 5:13 AM on October 3, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone!
Sorry to update yet again, but I have 99% decided to go home and feel so much better already.
So what happens? I think, "hey, I feel better, so surely that means I can study now!" and get seconds thoughts about leaving again. I made the same mistake before and don't want to repeat it, but I know myself and that I will convince myself into trying again because I don't want to give up and fail so easily. Someone, help me out here, please!
posted by LoonyLovegood at 7:38 AM on October 3, 2013

Best answer: Go home and GET TREATMENT for anxiety and depression. It is not "giving up" to get care for a disease that can literally kill you.
posted by rtha at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Let me ask you something: if I had problems with my eyesight, but could not get treatment where I was, would it be better for me to stick it out all the way through the semester, struggling, under an enormous amount of stress, and not getting as much out of it as I would if I were healthy? Or would it be better for me to leave, get some glasses, and then come back the next semester and do really well? Would either of those options make me a "failure"?
posted by cairdeas at 4:04 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Follow up:
The doctor I saw this morning told me to go home and wrote a note to my university. So I guess it's decided - I feel a lot better already, although I hate leaving my friends and my boyfriend and my great professor.

Thank you so much, everyone!
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:04 AM on October 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

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