Monday, September 17, 2012

Experiencing Higher Education as a Consumer

A couple of years ago, after attending a school for higher education, a junior college, I found out a couple of surprising things about myself, other people and what respect is. I began going to school to enhance my job capabilities in data entry and while taking two classes two times a week through a federal grant, I began to understand my disability and how enacted symptoms made me feel distant to other people and how these symptoms also caused me to set myself up for failure. I was scared! The numbers of people traveling from class to class overwhelmed me, and every day, I wondered how many people understood I have a mental illness. This was scornful thinking that I placed upon myself while I was being supported by the school and having a disability besides working. I worked as well outside of classes nearly 40 hours a week and my peers at my job gave me support as well as those at the college whom knew. As I was employed while attending classes, I began to feel stronger at this realization of not being alone.
“Supported education provides support to assist people with psychiatric disabilities to take advantage of skill, career, education and interpersonal development opportunities within a normalizing academic environment”. pdf  With this statement, I have begun to realize after my first few attempts of attending college, that my being there, with a disability is commendable not only to myself yet by those who respect others who would give their all to excel not only in the world of education, yet because of being disabled and employed as well. I began to lose my fears of being at school and learning and began producing better grades as time went by. Having to take medications made this a great victory by going to school and going through recovery for addictions as well. This allowed me to experience education which I feel many consumers should make as an investment.
There are a great many people with a mental illness who are attending a secondary school of higher education, many pursuing degrees despite their illness. At one point in time, I felt I wouldn’t be able to maintain good grades through the two semesters, yet because I worked and keeping my conscious thoughts on the job as well, I believed for a short while that this was going to be my success. I overcame my fears again and began to associate with the instructors and relate to them what I was facing. I became aware that other students and instructors had some what the same predicament as I, working other jobs and having to deal with many students as well, even though the many of the students and instructors as well had no disabilities.
I began to feel stronger, knowing I was not alone despite having a mental illness and trying to prove to myself that I can to succeed in another way, that responsibility and respect are real attitudes which can be recognized in anyone who wishes to believe in themselves as well as others. For the many that are thinking of returning to school, I say, “go for it”, you are already a part of the race to live, live for the knowledge which takes you beyond that feeling of the entrapment you have been living in and believe you can succeed.
Written by Donald S.

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