Taking on University without the Financial or Emotional Support of Family
I was raised in a strict house with four other children, all younger than I. Throughout our childhood we were constantly told that having a roof over our heads and meals to eat were privileges, and that our parents did not owe it to us. Needless to say, going beyond those simple necessities—like helping with post-secondary education—was not a priority for my parents. They never saved money for any of us, and we did not even receive high school graduation presents. At a very young age, we were on our own. Each of us got our first job at age thirteen, and knew that our futures would quite literally be decided by how hard we worked. In retrospect, for me this produced great work ethic and a stubborn ambition that I will never escape. Given today’s economy and the size of some families, financial support from one’s family is not always available. But what happens if you find yourself without their emotional support as well? What if you find yourself in university surrounded by expectation and new people, drowning in student debt, and with no one to call and cry to about it all? What if you are—in actuality—all on your own?
In my third year of university I was diagnosed with ADHD, something I only found out because a breakdown that stemmed from loneliness and financial anxiety that sent me knocking on the university counselor’s office door. After a handful of sessions and a background check of my school patterns, the councilor very carefully asked if I might want to take a few tests. I was opposed to it, but desperate to get better; at that point focusing on things—which had always been a problem for me—had become so impossible that my schoolwork had come to a standstill. Since I was a child I have always been a kind of an open book. It’s very difficult for me to keep things in and I am constantly talking and telling stories. As the years went by these seemingly harmless traits accelerated and turned me into an extremely anxious and scattered person.
ADHD has not been widely researched in women, and moreover it has a certain stigma as many—including myself—believe it to be over-diagnosed. Being diagnosed as a twenty-something was very strange and difficult to explain to people. But the truth is that many women with ADHD experience low self-esteem, eating disorders, obesity, depression and anxiety. And as you can imagine, being enrolled in university with this kind of setback and no family support can be crippling, but there are habits you can set for yourself to make things easier:
Don’t run away from financial talk.
Eliminating stress is crucial, and as a post-secondary student finances can always be on the brain. Even though it may seem easier to ignore the mess university can create for your bank account, stay on top of it:
• Keep note of what is coming in and what is going out.
• Constantly be on the lookout for scholarships and grants.
• Have a financial advisor, either at your school, at your bank or both that you see periodically. Be aware of your debts and have them advise you on long-term payment plans.
Always have someone you can talk to.
If you’re dealing with mental illness, make sure to see a professional on a regular basis. Even if you’re feeling fine, sometimes a quick check in can work wonders for your health.
Build a family of friends.
Surround yourself with people who truly care about you and who you value as well. A support squad can keep you feeling motivated and provide you with people to talk to and team up with.
Fight the urge to be resentful.
This is the absolute hardest part. Grudges can cause anxiety and depression, the very things you are trying to avoid. It is so easy to be angry, and so hard to forgive. But if you surround yourself with positive people (see above ‘squad’ suggestion), and keep the conversation flowing about overcoming your obstacles, you will find that resentfulness will feel exhausting and you will avoid it. School, relationships and your health will flourish.