How Fountain House Helped Me Go Back to School

Posted on December 11, 2014 by Alexis Preston

I’ve suffered from depression most of my life. If you live with a mental illness, you know how hard it is to overcome the rampant stigma that comes with it. That made it harder for me to come to grips with my depression.

It made college really difficult for me. When I first started school, I couldn’t face the fact that I needed help for my depression. Through a mix of denial and sheer stubbornness I just assumed I could tackle school without the necessary supports. I thought that since The New School was such a great fit for me, everything would just fall in to place. I was wrong. When I did well, I usually did really well. But when I ran in to problems, I’d stop doing the work or just stop going to class. I felt like I was drowning but I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t register with the office of disabilities, reach out to my family or even my friends at Fountain House. Depression and mental health in general have such a stigma and I wasn’t comfortable acknowledging my issues. Eventually, I had to leave school because of my low GPA. It was a wakeup call. During my time off I worked on becoming a more productive person. I talked with my therapist. I became more involved at Fountain House. I was finally able to analyze and discuss what went wrong at school.

Alexis in the College Re-entry classroom

Alexis in the College Re-Entry classroom

One of the most important things I did during this time was learning to share my story. I spent most of my time at Fountain House. I was even able to travel to different countries and train, work with, and befriend other people who were developing Fountain House modeled programs around the world. This experience was so valuable because it helped me to grow confidence in myself and open my eyes to new things. Sharing my story with others helped me to come to terms with my depression in a way I never could before. I came back a stronger person, with a renewed appetite for learning things. It was during this time when I discovered my love for teaching. Not only did I take pleasure in working with children, but I was also good at it! It gave me a sense of pride and purpose, but it also lead me on a clear path to my future: I want to become a teacher. 

After that experience, I talked with my Fountain House worker and my therapist about the possibility of going back to school. At the time, Fountain House was just starting a new pilot project called College Re-Entry, a program designed to help students re-enroll in college after leaving because of a mental health issue. I’ve been a part of the program since September and words cannot even begin to express how much it has helped me. I’ve strengthened my computer skills, faced my fear of public speaking, tried yoga, realized I love working with animals, re-discovered my joy of reading and writing, and done many other things that I feel have helped me to become a more resilient person.  Fountain House’s College Re-entry program helped me to understand that asking for and receiving support is essential to my academic success. 

Next Spring, I’m ready to go back to school.  I have more confidence and determination than ever, and the love and support from my parents. Plus, I know I’ll certainly have Fountain House College Re-Entry encouraging me every step of the way. 

 

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