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 Post subject: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 4:00 am 
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Dear PPK.
I am currently in the middle of a big life change. I think I have clinical stress. I am supposed to start my third year as an architecture student, and it is a majorly stressful field. boring story even more boring, it is an education that seems to cater to the more privileged (which clashes with my background; I grew up pretty poor, am the first high school student of my family and I have a history with eating disorder and other mental issues) in that it requires incredibly hard work for 40+ hours a week, often we work until in the middle of the night and it is majorly expensive due to material costs and study trips. I have been working super hard and still getting mediocre grades and on top of that I have been working as a bartender in a bar and it has added up to 60-80 hours a week in the past seven months. In the month up to my last exam (in june) I had several weeks where I was completely paralyzed. I had a few major panic attacks and a lot of smaller ones. I have been feeling depressed and like everything I am doing is just to survive. I haven't felt this way in years.
This is all on top of me falling in love with another student and leaving my boyfriend whom I lived with in October/November last year, where I had 3 months of being homeless and crashing at my friend's place, which was definitely a hard experience.
My life in the past 8 months have been chaotic and hard to say the least.
When I was feeling really bad in june I contacted my doctor and he was super great and we met up three times so that he could make sure I was relatively okay and we decided that I should try to relax during my summer break, which I have been trying to, but I don't feel better now. I have had 2,5 months to get better and it hasn't helped at all. I am not doing better, I actually think I am doing worse. I am waking up in panic in the middle of the night and I feel.. off. I don't find joy in the same things anymore, everything seems like hard work and survival. I used to be outgoing and happy and relatively easy going, but all I can think about is how to survive school and work and life in general.

I have an appointment with a psychologist next monday and an appointment with my doctor this thursday, so I am definitely dealing with it all, and I am hoping that my doctor will give me a note so I can take a one year break from school while I try to get things under control.
I was supposed to start school today, but I had a major panic attack this weekend and had to call in sick at work and I realize that this is not how a functional person should feel. I don't see how showing up at school with no mental capacity at all would make things better, so I have decided to take the week off.

So right now i am just playing the waiting game and feeling like my destiny is in the hands of another person - I need the doctors note to get the one year break, and right now it seems like the only option.

I am not sure if I am even studying the right thing. I mean, I used to be so sure that this was my dream, but the past months have made it impossible to even relate to my own dreams. I don't feel like I see things clearly. I forget mundane things, I can't concentrate, I feel like I have lost myself and that it makes it impossible to decide on anything.

I don't know what I am asking for exactly, maybe just tales of taking big decisions and making big life changes? I know that working 60-80 hours a week is not an option in the long run and I don't know how I let myself slide into this mess, but I did and now it seems like I have to take the consequences.

Tell me about times when things were rough and you did something that seemed terrifying and it all ended up better. I am super anxious today because not showing up at school seems so radical and symbolic, even though I know that I would theoretically just show up next week and things would be fine.

I guess I just need some reassurance or something like that!


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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 5:12 am 
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Ok,

I have 2 things to say:

Firstly, good on you for getting help. Lots of people (myself included) keep going thinking "I am fine, I am fine" until you reach a crisis point. So there's that.

Secondly, and this is not necessarily easy, try to break that cycle of "should". I worked on this a lot during counselling, my basic mode is to set a load of rules "I should write 1500 words a day, I should run every day, I should be functional" and then when I didn't meet that goal, I would use it as a stick to beat myself up with. Stepping off that cycle and just focusing on what you want to do is much easier (not that I don't beat myself up sometimes but less often).

The other thing that my counsellor gave me was a really simple measurement which I use to look at whether I want to do something "Does it bring you stress or does it being you peace". This is how I finally decided to disengage with some people socially and stopped being the social planner for my entire group of friends.

Hope some of that was helpful.

Mat.

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 5:42 am 
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Mat has great ideas.

I went to a college with an architecture school, and the architecture students were famously stressed, all of them. You have a lot to deal with just as a student in an arch program, forget about the other issues and challenges you face.
I hope your psych appointment is fruitful. In the meantime, maybe see if you can set tiny goals for yourself- getting through small things. Cross off another day on the calendar that you managed to get through, hooray (it is an accomplishment, after all). If you take a day off, maybe do something nice for yourself.

Hang in there Smoothie.

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:51 am 
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I'm so sorry. That sounds awful.

Sometimes we get wrapped in our own worlds and set our expectations with that narrow-minded goal of what's in front of us. Like Mat said, are the shoulds, really shoulds? Would you have these expectations of someone else in your position? If architecture school is that horrible I think you should quit. The summer break didn't seem to help because you still knew you had to go back to school and had a panic attack when that moment finally came. There's no reason you have to be an architect (that I know of). The rest of the world is full of non-architects. People change majors/drop out of school all the time and it's usually a great decision (because it's the hard decision and so only the ones who really need it tend to do it). Maybe others have stories of these choices. I'm in the other boat. I stuck with an expensive degree and now make very little money. I'd have been just as well off not taking out a ton of loans and all the extra school.

But I don't know the whole story. Maybe school isn't the problem, but it sounds like it is.


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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:59 am 
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matwinser wrote:
The other thing that my counsellor gave me was a really simple measurement which I use to look at whether I want to do something "Does it bring you stress or does it being you peace". This is how I finally decided to disengage with some people socially and stopped being the social planner for my entire group of friends.

a million times this.

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:46 am 
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Tigon wrote:
I'm so sorry. That sounds awful.

Sometimes we get wrapped in our own worlds and set our expectations with that narrow-minded goal of what's in front of us. Like Mat said, are the shoulds, really shoulds? Would you have these expectations of someone else in your position? If architecture school is that horrible I think you should quit. The summer break didn't seem to help because you still knew you had to go back to school and had a panic attack when that moment finally came. There's no reason you have to be an architect (that I know of). The rest of the world is full of non-architects. People change majors/drop out of school all the time and it's usually a great decision (because it's the hard decision and so only the ones who really need it tend to do it). Maybe others have stories of these choices. I'm in the other boat. I stuck with an expensive degree and now make very little money. I'd have been just as well off not taking out a ton of loans and all the extra school.

But I don't know the whole story. Maybe school isn't the problem, but it sounds like it is.


I agree. I wish I'd quit, or taken a year off, before my last year of law school. I felt a lot like you seem to now, and everyone just told me to push through it and get it done, and "oh, you're so close!" It ended up pushing me into what I'm pretty sure was a nervous breakdown, and it took me a couple of years to get my mental equilibrium back. If I had just taken a time out and focused on getting my head back together, then I imagine my mental health would have been a lot better through those years. Especially if you're having doubts about whether architecture is what you want to do with your life or not, I'd recommend taking a step back. There's no reason you can't go back and finish up in a year, right?

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:55 am 
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Does the idea of dropping out sound incredible? Like a huge weight off your chest? I left my last job and was so incredibly relieved after getting a job offer and submitting my resignation that I realized I should have left long before. I wasn't even aware of how stressful my job was until I was leaving and my whole life felt better.


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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:21 am 
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It sounds like you have so many stressful things going on at the moment, Smoothie; I hope you find a way to deal with them and feel at least a bit better. Well done for going to the doctor!

Not sure how encouraging these are, but:
My partner switched his degree subject away from architecture for reasons similar to what you describe above: working really hard, spending every waking moment during the week at the studio and catching up on sleep during the weekends but still only getting pass grades. He didn't even have to deal with a job!
So he switched to a subect he enjoyed and was much happier. But as a sort of reaction to having worked so hard before, he didn't work terribly hard at the new subject, ended up getting only a 2.2 in a not-very-employable subject (philosophy) and has ended up starting another degree in a hopefully more useful subject, while working part-time.
So don't do that! If you do decide to leave your course, take some time out to really relax and remember who you are and feel excited about things again. Then head onto whatever you do next and work hard at it. (I need to take my own advice here.)

Also, I quit my degree completely because I managed to develop an anxiety disorder triggered by studying, so that just opening a textbook and trying to read it could lead to me hiding under the table/ putting my head under the bedclothes and sobbing, and during lectures I had to fight so hard to keep the tears and panicky feelings from being visible that I couldn't take any information in. I couldn't really deal with anything at that point, or imagine any sort of future, it was purely trying to survive each day/ minute.
After I left I was really lucky to get a volunteer placement with a supportive supervisor and I built up a bit more confidence. And then I got a job, and although I have struggled with anxiety and stress at times, apart from one episode where I had to go off sick for quite a while, I seem to be coping and even got a promotion. So maybe I'm a success story for quitting? (Though I'm currently trying to think of a career that will be a better fit for me because there's no way I can stay in this one for the rest of my working life. I think I'll keep an eye on this thread and see if I can get any tips! But it has been very rewarding at times and I'm certainly doing better than I was before I dropped out of uni.)

Whatever you decide, it sounds like you need a way to feel less pressured.
Tigon wrote:
The summer break didn't seem to help because you still knew you had to go back to school and had a panic attack when that moment finally came.
So if you do take a year off and want to go back afterwards, use that time to remember why you want to be an architect, get some really good coping strategies in place, perhaps try some sort of medication? I'm sure it would be easier if you didn't have to work alongside studying, but can't imagine anything can be done about that.

Good luck, and really try to relax and not worry too much over the next few days. Walk in nature; wrap up in a blanket and watch silly kids films; drink tea; whatever.

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:35 am 
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Thank you all for your insight and advice.
Currently I don't feel like dropping out would be an option - the danish education system is made up so that you can't really just change majors or drop out and then start again the same place, and I am not sure that this is not right for me. I used to love it, and I know that stress and depression can take the joy and passion out of anything.

There is a pretty rigid system that basically means that you take your 3 years for your bachelor and you have to pass every single exam, you can't take a year off or drop out and then get accepted again - unless you get a sick note from your doctor and then you get the rest of the semester off (in this case it would be a full two semesters, because we can't take a semester without passing the previous one). The pretty great thing is that as a student, you get 5 years of school support, which is a monthly check of money to live on (it's not a lot, but it makes up at least half of what I live off), and if I get a sick notice I should be able to take a year off and still get the money this year, without it being subtracted from my 5 years, thus meaning that I can still follow through on the rest of my education if I get better (which is currently the plan). If I don't get the sick notice from my doctor, it would basically mean that I either have to stay in school full time (alas 40-50 hours a week) and keep working in order to pay for materials or drop out and then have to find a full time job ASAP, which I think would be pretty impossible for me right now. So I am really really hoping that I get the sick notice, so that I can take the year off without having to worry too much about my financial situation, and then I can make an actual decision that is based on me being in a good headspace. Right now it feels impossible to make any decisions at all.

So right now I'm just playing the waiting game and feeling pretty reckless for not showing up today. But I just have to pull through until thursday, then I will know more.


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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:48 am 
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I think taking a year off sounds like a reasonable thing to do. Hopefully it will give you some clarity about what you really want to do and what will make you feel happy and whole.

Not to try to diminish what you're feeling - but I do think that this feeling is common for people who are nearing degree completion. I've experienced it myself as an undergrad and as a grad student. I think it can be normal to ask yourself if the work, time, money, and stress that go into getting a degree are worth it. Sometimes it probably does mean that you should make a change, but I think sometimes it's just a response to being burnt out on school in general. If you do finish and get a job in the field, you hopefully wouldn't have to work the extra job, and would better be able to create a balance between work and the rest of your life.

Sending you good thoughts for clarity on your next steps.

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 5:57 pm 
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esme wrote:
matwinser wrote:
The other thing that my counsellor gave me was a really simple measurement which I use to look at whether I want to do something "Does it bring you stress or does it being you peace". This is how I finally decided to disengage with some people socially and stopped being the social planner for my entire group of friends.

a million times this.

Yes, yes, yes. Also, When I was going through something similar, my mother said "what is the worst thing that could happen?". And once I'd worked out that the worst thing would be better than being stuck where I was, it became an easy decision to make. (I'm aware this doesn't work in all scenarios).

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 6:29 pm 
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Smoothie, I hope you get your doctor's note and can take a year to consider your options. If not, and you decide to stick it out, focus on what you need to do and don't sweat the small stuff. I think you do yoga, meditate, etc? Hopefully with that and ongoing help from your counselor and doctor it will go okay. And is there any way to get a loan or other support so you wouldn't need to work so many hours?

What did you love about architecture to begin with? It has options to do a lot of good in the world, especially if designing for people with special needs or making the most out of low income housing, or designing public spaces in a manner that brings tranquility rather than stress to populations. Is any of that what attracted you to it in the first place? School can be a pain, but once you have the skills hopefully you would have the flexibility to do work meaningful to you.

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 Post subject: Re: Can we talk about big life changes?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2015 12:47 am 
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I dropped out of college because of depression. After getting better, I found I didn't want to be in that field any more. I worked for four years, went back to college at 30 and did a regular nursing program (with a year of maternity leave thrown in). The difference it makes to be healthy enough for study is amazing! The Swedish and Danish systems seem to differ a lot when it comes to taking sabbaticals, but getting a doctor's note and a year to heal and think about what you want is a good start.

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