Written by: Fatou Balde // @fatoubbalde
I dropped out of my first year at York University and I haven’t been the same since. Dropping out was the best decision I have ever made but all the conflicts and feelings that followed it were sometimes too much to handle.
I dropped out because of my depression. Even today, I couldn’t tell you what exactly made me feel this way. All I know is that one day, I was walking on campus like I owned it and the next, I was cooped up in my closet trying to ignore the world. When I left the house, I would hide out at my local library or end up stress-eating to the point of regret. I tried my best to avoid thinking about all the money I spent on classes I only went to once, and the books I never opened.
My worst fear was coming true: I was failing at life. And as someone who is depressed, the thought that clouded my mind for the following months was: “So, what’s the point?”
However, I’m currently doing two internships, publishing my writing online and sleeping as much as I want. Did it, as they say repeatedly, get better? Yes. Was it easy? Hell no. I made the decision to leave school to take care of me and here are some things that I encountered throughout that process:
1. Not everyone was supportive
When I told my friends about my decision to leave school, they just nodded and told me that if I believed it was the best decision for me, I should do it. It was the perfect answer. However, the same can’t be said for my family. I expected it - after multiple fights and arguments, we just ended up not talking about it at all. In their eyes, I was just throwing it all away like it's nothing. I do appreciate all the hard work they put in to give me a good life in Canada and provide me with opportunities they didn't have, but this was something I needed to do. Something I hope and pray they will understand one day.
At least I had my friends. It’s becoming easier to tell people I dropped out and usually, when they ask why, I just say: “Personal problems.” Not everyone will get it, but the people closest to you will.
2. It was easier to fall into a deeper depression
I’ve often thought of the things I would do if I didn’t have to go to school. That long, ambitious list has honestly just become: sleep, self-destruct and repeat. Occasionally, I’d go see some friends and feel jealousy pool in my stomach. How come I was the only one who couldn’t handle being at school? How come I was always messing up? I spent a lot of time crying and wondering how this could be my life.
The new year finally brought me back to life. I knew I couldn’t allow myself to perish for 9 more months. So, I thought of all the things I had wanted to do and all the things that were possible. Work, write, meet new people, work out, take care of my mental health… I wrote them down as goals, then thought of what I could do to achieve that or how to set time for it. It didn’t magically cure my depression, but having a direction in my life made it easier to breathe.
3. It was definitely scary and pretty painful, but completely worth it.
It’s been 3 months since I officially dropped out of school, a month since I’ve hurt myself and barely a day since I’ve felt depressed but that’s still better than silently suffering living a life I didn’t want. The fights I had and the tears I shed were worth being able to take time to rethink my future and take care of my mental health. I was lucky enough to get to work at two public relations agency and to have the chance to share my thoughts on mental health online. It’s almost like, after months of darkness, I’m finally seeing my future beyond my time as a dropout.
Leaving school due to mental health problems made me feel like a failure, like someone who couldn’t handle it. But I made a tough decision, by myself. And my decision was to make my well-being and happiness a priority.
My advice to you: breathe. The best can often come from what seems to be the worst. As long as you stay occupied, reach out to others and take care of yourself - you'll have a better direction for the life you want to live. Maybe I will get to go back to school, just a little older and much wiser.