As I have said before I am an online student. I also work. It is hard to balance these things, especially when I am used to having a lot of free time.
I sometimes look at the student Facebook group and feel bad, mostly because there are a lot of people who work full-time, take two online classes, and have kids. I am nowhere near that busy, but I still feel overwhelmed.
Part of it is financial aid. See, I am still classified as a dependent on the FAFSA and my parent’s combined income is enough that I don’t qualify for the Pell Grant, only for federal student loans. And every scholarship I have applied to I have never heard back from.
So although I could take two classes per 8 week term (12 classes per year) that would be $560 out of pocket every semester not to mention textbooks. And although that doesn’t seem like a lot, it is to someone working part-time.
Why am I working part time? Because I tried to work more hours and I always end up overwhelmed , and when that happens, my mental illness becomes impossible to deal with. And my mental illness is rare enough that there is a lot of false information out there about it and when I mention I have it people get all clammed up.
I have schizophrenia. More precisely, schizo-affective disorder, bipolar type. What is the difference? Both schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorders have psychosis. That is, hearing and seeing things that aren’t there and paranoid delusions. These delusions are things they believe are real but aren’t, such as that people are following them, or people can read their minds. Schizophrenia is usually a little more severe and the people who have it usually have a harder time being in touch with reality. Schizo-affective disorder has milder forms of psychosis, but in addition to that also have a mood disorder, either bipolar (like me) or depression.
So for the past three years, since my senior year in high school, I have been in the hospital 6 times. Two per year. It happens around spring time, and part of it is seasonal depression. But it tends to be for similar reasons. Usually, the voices I hear (and I only hear things, I don’t see them. For that, I am extremely lucky), get too much to deal with, so I need a major medication change that can’t happen if I was outpatient.
But I have been on medication since before I can remember, due to my parents. And that may have caused my diagnosis. There is no way to tell. But just trying to survive the constant commentary in my head is very challenging. And too much stress makes the voices worse.
I have been just surviving for the past three years. It’s actually pretty amazing all I did accomplish in those three years despite living in a toxic household and dealing with my schizophrenia. (I use the terms interchangeably, but there is a difference. Try not to be like me.) I took three classes at a community college, in person, and got straight A’s. I have grown as a person and come to have more self-insight than a lot of people much older than I am. I have gotten out of a toxic household and have moved to Florida with my Grandma who is a very good support person for me and will tell me if I’m beginning to act upon the toxic tendencies I learned growing up. I am going to online school now and am working a job, which, because of these last three years, I was afraid to do because I always end up in the hospital around February or March and have to quit the job. We’ll see how it goes this year.
So that’s why I’m working a part-time job. And although I feel bad when I look on the online group and see everyone who works a full-time job, is a parent, and also is taking two classes online, I have to remind myself that they don’t deal with the same things I do, most likely. Only about 1% of the population has schizophrenia. I have been just surviving, and in spite of that, I have accomplished a lot.
So I can’t compare myself to these standards, because I have come a long way. It may not be as much as some other people, but it is what I could handle, and frankly, I’m doing pretty darn good.