For grades 7th-12th, I studied in a college preparatory school where the ultimate goal was the get students to ace their SAT’s, apply to schools in the States and leave Puerto Rico to study away from home—where success, it is believed, is guaranteed. From the young age of twelve, I was already thinking about college and at fourteen, I was worrying about applications and where I would like to go study. New York was it for me. I wanted to study in Upstate New York so I could be able to travel to the city whenever I had a break. I applied to several schools in the Upstate area and was rejected by most except one. That one school that I was accepted to was the school that I decided to attend. I didn’t visit the school before I made my decision. I knew that was my only option and an opportunity to leave home and learn to be independent. And so I left.
My first year was almost a disaster—I coped with an eating disorder and a terrible ordeal with my roommate almost made me part ways with the school.
But I returned for my second year and lived in a single (that was a much better experience,) except for the fact that my good friend Sebastian (who studied with me in the same prep school before college) decided to move back home to Puerto Rico.
I was devastated. So I applied to two schools in the city (where another good friend is currently studying and almost done with her bachelor’s.) I thought it would be good to have her company, and even if I decided to go to another school, I would still be in close proximity.
What happened was that I didn’t receive enough financial aid and I decided to give my school, where I had studied for two years, another go.
My first month of my junior year seemed promising: I was getting along with my roommate (who is still in our dorm, finishing the year.) I was having a good time with my friends, and I was enjoying my classes.
But accumulated stress and anxiety resulted in something terrifying: a panic attack.
I had a panic attack and I decided it was time to go back home.
But it wasn’t just the panic attack that affected my decision; it was the constant tachycardia and inability to sleep and the feeling of fear that I suddenly started to feel (despite living with a roommate.) My mental health was in a delicate state, and I no longer felt stable living on my own.
It was a difficult decision to make, but I am back home and after months of not being in school (since early November,) I am starting to feel like myself again.
Years of undiagnosed depression without any treatment left me in a delicate situation, where I chose to leave my studies for a while and focus on myself.
In August, I’ll be continuing school and even though I will be one year behind, I don’t care.
I took the time to take care of myself and focus on what I needed rather than what I wanted, which was to be in school.
Now I’m coping with the past and understanding my high school years—the years that led up to the incident of my panic attack—and later, a more serious incident—a psychotic episode.
That one I’m still trying to understand.
It is important for me to understand my history and my past and the behaviors that signaled that my problem started much earlier than I thought.
One sign was months of compulsive exercise and extreme dieting. Signs such as these may be left unnoticed, but it is imperative to pinpoint behaviors such as these as red flags and indications of something more serious.
So I urge all that have had similar experiences or those who compulsively exercise or have eating disorders to understand that these are signs of crippling mental health and if you need help—don’t be afraid to ask those around you—family, friends, peers, teachers, counselors, are all there to help us understand and to help us get better.