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Topic: High school dropout, don't know where to go from here

13 posts, 0 answered
  1. spontaneous sunflower
    spontaneous sunflower  avatar
    24 posts
    27 May 2020

    I'm 17, turning 18 in a few months. I left school at the start of this year. Since I was 13 I've dealt with depression and anxiety, and it became this recurring cycle year after year. I moved schools at the end of 2018 hoping it would help. After one year at this new school, I realised I was at my wit's end. I made no new friends at this new school, I ended up skipping classes and going home early because I couldn't handle being in the classroom, and I ended up failing the school year.

    I had to leave because I didn't see the school situation getting any better. At that point, after years of anxiety attacks and depressive episodes, I was so burnt out and exhausted.

    At the start of this year when I decided not to return to school, I had a chat with the career counsellors at school. They told me what my options were and they gave me places to research and look into. I started seeing a psychologist regularly again, and the plan was to get me ready to go to TAFE in July. But my heart was never in it. I kept putting off contacting the TAFE institutes I was recommended, and I had no idea what kind of course I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go after doing TAFE. So I told my psychologist how I felt, and she told me it was okay, that I didn't need to jump into anything too quickly, etc.

    But it's really hard for me to just accept that my life is "on hold". I used to have a plan, I wanted to get good grades, take a gap year and go to uni to study media and communications. My plans have changed a lot and I'm not even sure what I want to do anymore, if I even want to go to uni. But I hate not doing anything. My life feels meaningless and everyday is the same. Everyone keeps asking me what I'm doing and what I'm going to do and I just don't know. My dad wants me to go back to doing VCE. My family has always believed in me, always expected big things from me and now it's like I've let them down and they don't expect anything from me anymore. I know it's not too late, I believe it's never too late to turn your life around. I'm only 17 for crying out loud, my life has barely started.

    I would really love some advice or to hear other people's stories of being a dropout and what they ended up doing.

    2 people found this helpful
  2. Just Sara
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    27 May 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower

    Hi and welcome Sunflower!

    Your well written and expressive post would resonate with many on here so please don't feel as if you're alone ok. It's a brave move to share your story and reach out for support too; well done!

    Depression can mar concentration, decision making, motivation and planning in ways others don't understand. Your family and friends although well meaning, wouldn't comprehend the vast array of problems focusing on your future entails, so 'taking on' their concerns might not be in your best interests at this time.

    One of the hardest questions to ask oneself is; "What do I want?". It can confuse healthy minds let alone those with MH issues. You said it yourself; you're young, which to me is an advantage compared to mature adults who're still in the grip of answering this very important and life affirming question.

    Those of us who've succeeded in confronting our fears (despite MH concerns) and are moving toward a chosen goal, can attest to it being a lengthy journey, not an overnight process. Bowing to pressure from loved ones and making decisions too rashly could cause even more distress. Taking your time, seeking advice from professionals (as you've been doing) and keeping notes on thoughts, ideas, dreams and goals will serve you well at this relevant time in your life.

    Being 17 isn't easy; it's like this for everyone, so please don't feel as if you're any different. We've all been there, made mistakes, paid for them and moved on - a rite of passage no-one should criticise as learning from those mistakes can't be replicated through the education system. Lived experience is an invaluable part of our development and growth.

    Take your time identifying and evaluating opportunities and ideas. Log them in a journal and revisit them now and then for perspective. You're intelligent and vital, use these gifts to your advantage.

    Kind thoughts;

    Sez (hug)

    1 person found this helpful
  3. pinktulip
    pinktulip avatar
    28 posts
    27 May 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower

    Hi spontaneous sunflower,

    I think you shouldn't push yourself to study if you are currently unwell. Having your life "on hold" is really unpleasant...

    I once went on a medication (feeling really depressed beforehand, wasn't studying and wanted to study) and I was acting strangely - I got antidepressant induced hypomania but I didn't want to go off the medication (didn't confide in my parents because previously when feeling suicidal after being taken off an antidepressant was told "Why would you want to hurt us?) because I was afraid of feeling suicidal again. I think the memories of me acting weirdly were worst than the depression because no one knows it was caused by the antidepressant (like I didn't have "taking antidepressant" plastered on my face) and I had several years off recovering from that...

    My mother got me to do ballroom dancing, a book club and a choir but these were in a different age demographic and I didn't go by myself.. After going back to uni I stopped because I felt not really part of it in the first place (my mother got sick with flu for several weeks) so felt awkward going so I stopped... I also did genealogy which my parents subscribed to a service and looked on other free sites like Trove. Libraries often have subscriptions to Ancestry and Find my past and it can occupy a lot of time... However, demographic is older... I once joined a Family History Society and felt like a bit of an outsider (I think due to my age). Anyway, the genealogy got me interested in Genetics and hence I did some study at Uni in Genetics... (so I did eventually get back to Uni but I wish it could have been easier)

    Do you have any pets? When I was depressed, I started feeding a brushtail possum (slept in our garden) fruit and it made me feel better - because I felt it didn't judge me (Please note that I'm no longer feeding possums, it's not good for them in long term, and this was ages ago)

    However, I agree I hate how common questions re life are what are you doing? when depressed

    Having reached Uni - when you are studying - how many courses are you doing? (awkward when doing a reduced course load) when are you going to graduate? (awkward when you dropped out of courses due to depression in the past and told you can't have antidepressants again

    Also you can get to Uni through TAFE or Tertiary Preparation Programs or I looked there's Virtual School Victoria (I did Distance Education re senior due to illness)

    1 person found this helpful
  4. spontaneous sunflower
    spontaneous sunflower  avatar
    24 posts
    27 May 2020 in reply to Just Sara

    Hey Sara,

    thank you for replying!

    You're right- most of my friends and family don't quite understand my problems and feelings regarding making future decisions (which I don't blame them, although I do wish some of them, particularly my dad, were more empathetic and attempted to understand more). It's hard for me to not feel pressured by them and to do what I want instead of what they want for me, I can be a bit of a people pleaser sometimes!

    Not to sound arrogant or anything, but my whole life I've been told how smart I am, that I should be a writer someday, etc, etc. I've always been known in my family as the one who read and wrote a lot, who was good at school, was most likely to be successful. All that talk has given me high expectations to live up to and has made me into somewhat of a perfectionist. Slowly I am coming to terms with the fact I can't be what everyone wants me to be, but it's still hard for me sometimes to think about what I want without regarding what other people would like.

    Thank you for the advice! I do think it would be good for me to take my time and explore different opportunities and ideas. In the craziness of my life the past years, I feel like I've lost myself and haven't given myself much time to doing things I enjoy or things I want to do. I used to read a lot and want to get back into it, and I've always wanted to learn a language, perhaps those are things I can look into doing. The biggest battle for me right now is ignoring the pressure from family and feeling like I need to be working towards some big goal (like uni or a career) but like you said, with mental health issues it's not a great idea to be giving in to family pressure and rushing into things. It's not easy but it's doable, and hopefully my family (who I know really love me and want the best for me) will get off my back a little and see how taking things slow will be beneficial for me in the long run.

    Thanks again :) You're a lovely person and your advice was very appreciated and helpful!!

    - Nicola

    1 person found this helpful
  5. spontaneous sunflower
    spontaneous sunflower  avatar
    24 posts
    27 May 2020 in reply to pinktulip

    Hi pinktulip,

    Yeah, I agree, I shouldn't push myself to study right now if I'm not in a good headspace. It's difficult for me to accept that, I used to kind of enjoy studying and I always thought about being "successful" one day (and I always assumed going to uni was a part of reaching success). I'm still somewhat ambitious but I think my goals are changing. I want to be happy much more than I want to be successful now.

    I would like to take up more hobbies and whatnot, but it's hard when no one is your age. Earlier this year I was doing triathlon training with a club, but it was mostly adults who were 10-30 years older than me, apart from my 16 year old brother who reluctantly doing it alongside me. I would love to be more social and make more friends, I have friends but they're all in year 12 so I don't see them much. I think I would feel less crappy about not doing anything and my life being "on hold" if my time was being occupied by activities, hobbies and friends. I also miss the routine school had me in. As lovely as it might sound to those with set bedtimes + wake up times because of school or work, I hate that I can go to bed and wake up whenever. I also dislike just wandering around the house bored everyday of course everyone has been doing that recently due to lockdown, but now restrictions are easing. Everyday feels the same, time just flies by and it feels like I'm wasting time.

    I do have pets actually! I have a cat, and two dogs. The dogs are family pets but the cat is my cat. I feed her and take care of her, and she does make my day that little bit better. Sometimes I take the dogs on walks, and I enjoy doing that. Hahaha I also find comfort in the fact that pets can't judge us!

    Thanks for replying :) it's nice to hear from someone I can relate to

    1 person found this helpful
  6. demonblaster
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    28 May 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower

    Hi there Sunflower and other good peeps ☺

    I read your post darl and can see you poor thing there's so much on your plate.

    I'm just tagging this for now so I can catch up sometime soon hoping ☺

    Hope it's a nice day where you all are and that we can breathe deep and absorb some sunlight. If only it were that easy 🙄

  7. josh1245
    josh1245 avatar
    173 posts
    2 June 2020
    hi spontaneous sunflower I'm so sorry that your going through this struggle that you are currently going through but you are in the perfect place and I'm extremely proud of you for asking for help its extremely brave and I applaud you for that. firstly as you said your life is not over because you made one setback your 17 years old you have your whole life ahead of you to explore and form your identity. year 12 is not the be all and end all in this day and age there's a wide variety of pathways available for you to reach your goals as you said before you could go to tafe, go to an alternative school to finish off VCE like for example seda or even go to university as a mature age student theres heaps of options and your life isn't over due to not completing year 12.
    1 person found this helpful
  8. geoff
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    3 June 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower

    Hello Nicola, there have been so many great comments from those above me which makes it much easier for me to reply.

    Your 17 years old, 18 shortly, getting your car licence and free, whatever anyone else is telling you to do, only makes you not want to do it.

    If you do what they tell you to do, are you going to be happy in 10 years time, probably not and regretting listening to them, uni can be continued later on, in the years to come, only if you want, but there is no reason why you have to, not unless your career wants to head in one direction, but this isn't the case.

    You're at the crossroad in your life, don't be pushed down the road you don't want to travel, look after yourself and experience any venue you want, and never worry if you pull out, it's something you have tried.

    Contact KidsHelpline 1800 55 1800 by phone or online and discuss all of these issues.

    Take care.


    1 person found this helpful
  9. pinktulip
    pinktulip avatar
    28 posts
    4 June 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower

    Hi spontaneous sunflower,

    What sort of therapy has your psychologist been doing? CBT? There are other approaches to depression such as mindfulness?

    Also, just wondering whether if you changed schools partly due to memories... Like I seem to get a flareup of depression around certain dates (eg date when a friend died or her birthday) or certain locations with memories coming up... so I'm attempting EMDR (though I'm too distressed with COVID-19 isolation at the moment). I guess problem with high school is socialisation needs are mainly met with those in the same year so if you are having difficulties with motivation and focus; its hard to get away from it...

    I thought I should ask re therapies because sometimes I think people are different.

    For example, when I first got depressed due to friend's death and I was doing to Distance Education for 3 year senior re another illness and I wasn't seeing people because the school (prior to Distance Education) I was from took students from all of the northside of the state capital city (but I didn't talk much to the psychologist) and people had gone to Uni; and my psychologist instead of telling me I should revive social connections (despite grief not making me want to contact people who knew dead friend - in hindsight, probably should have been given this as advice) gave me errors of thinking re black and white thinking; jumping to conclusions; etc and said something about he coped with grief of losing his father re wearing a ring. Also got told that I should do a reduced course load for Uni - this made me feel really hopeless at the time (because it's hard being different) and it was August at the time in Year 12... There didn't see any point of hammering home that at that particular point of time... I don't think psychologist even imagined what doing Distance Education was like in the first place re isolation...

    Are you aware you can view some coursera or edX courses etc for free on the internet? If there's anything you are potentially interested in at looking at, you can give it a go re reading...

    Also, randomly I'm just wondering why is there no webpage regarding break from study either high school or Uni re current illness on youth beyond blue (surely, there have been multiple people who have this has happened to re unhelpful depressive symptoms re study)

  10. demonblaster
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    5 June 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower

    Hi Spontaneous Sunflower and all ☺

    I've been following your thread Sunflower, hope you're ok with the abbreviation ☺

    It's heartening seeing so many people supporting and with such good advice.

    I'm impressed as well at how well you write and express you certainly seem a natural with the written word.

    I can relate being very young with MH issues. I was about 14 ish when the heavy depression low self esteem etc became more prominent.
    It all adds fuel big time to teens that really muck most of us around emotionally. Gladly that does pass as often does various pain with good direction & teaching which helps us put the yards in thank goodness.

    There's considerable knowledge out there for how to cope with our incredibly powerful emotions which I find comforting knowing.
    It can take time but it's worth sticking with.

    I too left school before any certificates.
    I didn't see the point because I knew I'd fail and working was the best choice for me. Fortunately my lovely parents were ok about that as long as I worked. Fair call.

    I was happy working Sunflower in various jobs before/after nursing and a few yrs later as a mature age student became an Enrolled nurse. (1 yr training then) loved it then yrs later worked a few places in hospitality also loved. Few other jobs at times.

    That story because you asked if anyone has left early and how they got on.

    I don't think we have to have high qualifications and high pressure getting them until we know which can be later in life what if anything specific we want to do.

    I think you're very sensible and mature wanting happiness over success.

    There can be as you know great pressure and sometimes unrealistic expectations from others at times including ourselves which I think takes an edge of enjoying reaching goals and doing what we want.

    The best goal imo is being content and happy in whatever we do.
    I learnt many yrs ago you can pretty much do any job if the people you're around are nice or most of anyway.

    I think it's good to have other interests and you're bang on... you're only 17 yrs.
    You'll find your way hun ☺

    So glad you have lovely parents too 💗

    Take care and all the best.
    Be interested knowing how you go 🌱

  11. smallwolf
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    6 June 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower


    I hope you get to read this .. you might get something from it?

    You indicated having a plan of going to the Uni after high school etc and doing media. And then things changed. Even if it was not mental health related, decisions will change over time. My brother switched degrees after doing engineering after 1 week, and my son decided that Uni was not for him and dropped out. There are other stories I could tell. My son is now a qualified swim coach and life guard .

    Me... I did not get into Uni after high school and went to TAFE. The thoughts I had about not getting in is another thing! I also worked from home and listening to a radio interview was hearing a guy talking about learning how to drive a train and what they get paid. More recently when things went really bad for me I was studying at Uni again (part time). I have not been studying for 2 years - the feeling of pressure was too great and the lecturers understood as well.

    If things like concentration are difficult (as it was for me) then it becomes more difficult than it needs to be.

    We each have (to work out) our own way through this time. The main thing I said to my kids is to do something you like or are passionate about. People who are intelligent enough to do a medical degree might become a nurse or early education teacher because it is something they like.

    What are you passionate about?


    1 person found this helpful
  12. AheadMatthewawsome
    AheadMatthewawsome avatar
    10 posts
    16 June 2020 in reply to spontaneous sunflower
    Hi there spontaneous sunflower. I am in a similar situation as you are in school. I am 13 at the moment. And since I was 9, school has never worked for me. First with a school forcing me to be with a bully who would scratch, kick, bite, hit, and made me suicidal since 2016. I moved away from that school after a week that started. Then when my Grandmother died and had cyberbullies, I had a mental breakdown and I had to move school's to a special needs school where there was a kid who told me that I am the Antichrist, and he was the Antichrist. Would even if he saw a little bit of me would say "I AM GOING TO ******* KILL YOU!" With his arms out, he would try to push me over and chock me to death. I was punished by defending myself, that punishment was for another person who bullied me with this kid became School Captain. And I could not go outside to play, And I had to go to the Sick Bay at school. I also was not able to be educated since I moved there, so I have barely learnt anything at school. And have learnt almost everything that I know by myself. Last year, I moved to High School. I can tell you, it is not any better for me. I have these people near my class that I have to confront during morning tea and lunch. They call themselves "Wannabee Gangsters", and they pick on people who they think are weak. And try to knock me out with a soccer ball. I also do not have any friends that I can trust or be with at school. And I still barely learn anything at school. And this just makes me have anxiety attacks, mental breakdowns, and it has ruined my reputation. Because everyone says when they see me "Ooh, it is that kid that jumped into a construction site" "Ooh, it is that kid who screamed across the school and fled on a bus" "OOH, it is that kid who punched me in the nuts for making fun of the Christchurch Shooting". And now I do not wish to go back and have that repeated again. The Education system can't take care of people who have high functioning autism. I have been thinking of starting my own school, with a new system. Where you can learn, be safe, and literally be a school. But it is just that it is very hard for people to make a school, and it takes years to do and barely anybody makes it though now. I am just wondering if you might be interested to help?
    1 person found this helpful
  13. feelingblue97
    feelingblue97 avatar
    5 posts
    6 July 2020

    hey there hope you read this

    im a 23 year old dude who went to uni right after school, stopped after 2 years for feeling isolated and depressed and i never actually dealt with it and thought it was all normal. you know theres that stigma about depression. And then i decided to stop uni and just work, i worked for 3 years full time and saved a bunch of money able to travel and buy my first house, but at the end of it, still feeling that shitty feeling that i had during uni. my point in bringing this up is that we've gotta face the underlying issue no matter what, im currently planning to go back to uni after realising that basically 3 years of my life was put on a pause and i didnt get to finish my degree. You've gotta start by believing in yourself first, belive that things will get better if you go after the underlying, beliving that you are more than the depression that your feeling and that by a bit love and care you can overcome this. Get help, go to your GP, talk with your trusted friends or family if you have any cause i didnt, but trust me the sooner you get help and sort it out the better it is. Oh one more thing, dont under estimate yourself, dont under value who you are and you mentioned you wanted to go to uni and do a communications degree, thats good, hold your head high, love yourself and everything about yourself..

    one good exercise is to keep a journal, write down your thoughts and little goals, and always respect yourself and love yourself....

    sorry for such bad writing

    2 people found this helpful