When I tell people why I switched schools/majors I try to put a happy spin on it. ‘It was purely for academics’, I’ll say.
The reality is that after I returned from my involuntary leave, I did not feel welcome.
I was placed in freshman dorms again and harassed by roommates who’d heard rumors about me and dug through my prescriptions, running google searches. They google diagnosed me with schizophrenia and decided I was out to murder them in their sleep. If they were really so scared of me why did they yell at me so much?
I was only able to take one class in my major, because the prerequisites I needed were not offered that semester. My semester off left me a year behind. I hardly saw the classmates I’d known when I was there before. They’d moved on without me.
I avoided large sections of the campus. I couldn’t go near any of the offices involved in forcing me out. I hid when I spotted people involved.
It was not a welcome return.
I just wanted to pick up where I left off like nothing had ever happened, but it was impossible.
I felt so on edge and unwanted. I needed to escape.
I couldn’t transfer and stay the same major. I couldn’t justify that to myself.
I was enjoying my Intro Psych class and reading a lot of psychology books. I’d thought before it wasn’t an option, but as I learned more I reconsidered.
I told my therapist I was leaving to get an MBA. I refused to talk over my decision in therapy. I didn’t tell him I was switching to psychology. I felt uncomfortable telling a therapist I was going into his field. I justified this lie by telling myself I could get an MBA after I got the psychology degree, but didn’t really believe it.
I hate to make it sound like I don’t love what I’m doing now that I am a psychology major. In retrospect I realize now that I have much more enthusiasm for this than I had for my previous major, but the decision will always be tainted because it was made to escape one thing rather than pursue another.
So I escaped to a new school. Except the escape didn’t work. Changing location wasn’t enough. I can’t escape the fear of it happening again.
No matter how well I do academically I am still at risk of it happening again. My last school didn’t care that I was a good student, this one won’t either. The fear is in my head guiding every action I make.
I see a person who looks like the therapist who kicked me out. I know it’s not him, but what if it were him? What if he showed up at my new school? I run through scenarios of what I would do. I get lost in my thoughts.
It’s like I have two images layered on top of each other. One is reality and one is my fear scenario. The opacity is being adjusted up and down. I see one then I see the other. Volume alternates between the scenes. I can forget that I’m only in my thoughts.
I react as if it is happening. Fisted clenched, heart pounding, tears welling up in my eyes.
It goes until something jolts me back into the real world.
I’ve tried all sorts of reactions in my head. Sometimes I scream at him, sometimes I glare angrily, make sarcastic comments. I sometimes try explaining to someone how much he hurt me and that he needs to leave. Or maybe I quietly make an exit and other times the exit is dramatic.
I also go through scenarios where my new school tries to kick me out. Sure I’m better prepared this time because I know my legal rights, but I’d still have to fight for it. The new school becomes tainted because then they also don’t want me there. All my effort to hide things and I end up in the same situation as the old school.
There’s never a good resolution. In every imaginary situation I dig myself into a deeper mess.
I think part of it is my brain trying to find a way to deal with it. If I had a good solution, should the situation arise, maybe I wouldn’t need to fear it so much.
Another part of it that I realized recently is that part of me wants a confrontation with the therapist who kicked me out. I sent him a much too nice email awhile ago which he ignored. I want to him to see my rage. The damage that his own fear caused me.
Even in my head seeking him out for this is unacceptable. But if he invaded my territory, then I’ve every right to defend it. I could show him my anger without as much guilt.
My favorite professor has a number of things in common with the therapist who kicked me out. I’ve been through many scary stories in my head where it turns out they are friends. The rational part of me had been able to say that this was unrealistic. They have similar research interests and theoretical perspectives, but so do a lot of people who don’t know each other.
This semester has been rough. I have a class with that professor and have learned more about him. Like how he enjoys going to conferences of a organization that once named the therapist who kicked me out as their therapist of the month.
My professor recently mentioned reading a blog and recommended it to me and a few others. It was a blog I’m familiar with. This blog has repeatedly endorsed the blog belonging to the therapist who kicked me out. The therapist’s blog is one of 13 links in a recommended blogs section. That therapist’s blog has a word in it’s title that is my professor’s primary area of research interest. If he were scanning that list of blogs this one would stick out.
It is fairly likely based on this information that my professor has read/reads the blog belonging to that therapist.
This potential merging of parts of my life is terrifying.
A whole new set of fear scenarios has been launched. Even something that might seem as small as my professor mentioning the therapist’s blog is scary. How would I react to it? Am I able to hide my reaction?
What if my anger towards the blog isn’t concealed? What if he puts things together, realizing that that therapist worked at my old school?
It’s possible that the reason that therapist no longer works at my old school is at least in part due to my legal action. What if he talked to people about it, without saying my name? What if he talked to my professor about it. What if then my professor put two and two together and realized it was me who the therapist kicked out?
It’s impossible to escape fully as long as I still live in fear of being kicked out of my new school. Even once I graduate I won’t be safe. It’s not just about being kicked out of school. It’s about stigma.
There’s nothing I can do to keep myself safe from the stigma other than hiding everything. It requires large amounts of mental energy. I have to be several steps ahead of everyone. I can’t say something that would elicit a question that might lead to showing too much.
And ironically the problem causing me the most distress is the anxiety surrounding escaping stigma. If I didn’t have this worry I’d have better mental health, certainly not perfect, but better. Trying to hide my crazy is making me crazier.