I decided to go to Florence in the fall of 2016. It’s something I’d been planning for years and years and I really truly felt that I had no choice but to follow through with it. Unfortunately, at the time, I was extremely mentally unstable and in no position to be leaving the country on my own. I cried session after session for four months in therapy leading up to the trip, and even my therapist thought it was a bad idea. But I had to do it. I had to prove to myself that my bipolar disorder would not get in the way of yet another exciting life event.
And that’s why studying abroad was the worst decision I ever made.
Don’t get me wrong. There were good times. I traveled, I made amazing friends, and I tried something new. I learned so much about other cultures and even about myself. I learned what I could handle.
My relationship with my boyfriend was strained almost immediately. I met someone that I really clicked with and sort of held onto for support in the very beginning of my trip, which caused some major trust issues (that were later resolved) with the love of my life. Truthfully, I was just so lost and I needed to be understood, which is something that this person was able to provide for me.
I had a roommate whose mission was to make my life miserable. I guess I was an easy target. But still, I persisted. I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I started taking trips to amazing places, like Amsterdam and London and the South of France. And while that was all so amazing, I still needed serious help.
I began seeing a therapist, which went well, until I had a suicidal episode, causing her and the psychiatrist she had recommended to me to team up against me and force me to take Lithium. Yes, the stuff they put in batteries. The stuff that causes kidney failure. The stuff that barely anyone has used since the ‘60s!
But if I didn’t take it, I was at risk of being sent home. So I started taking it. That worked out really well for me when I threw up five times on a bus to Sienna with my friends. And when I started bloating like crazy. That really set me over the edge because of my history with Binge Eating Disorder. I wasn’t even binging! But I somehow still looked six months pregnant. I hated lithium. And as it turns out, my psychiatrist at home in New York had been in contact with the Italian doctors and specifically asked them not to make me take it. But they lied to me and told me she said it was completely fine.
Luckily, my aunt, my FAVORITE aunt, was visiting, and so was her friend, who happened to be a licensed psychologist. She took one look at me and said that she felt very strongly that I should go home. I probably should have gone home even earlier, but I was determined to stick it out and finish the semester. But sometimes you have to do what’s best for your health. So after a tearful thanksgiving, my aunt and I decided to leave a few days later. She took me home. She really saved me. I was in such a bad place and she got me home safely. I’ll never be able to repay her for that.
So, we flew home. I finished the last few weeks of my semester back in New York. My boyfriend and I worked everything out and are very, very happy together. I’m off the Lithium and back on some much better meds. And now I have a therapist that doesn’t threaten me. So you could say things have gotten better.
Certain experiences are made out to be what are supposed to be some of the best times of your life, but life is different for everyone, and these experiences don’t work out for everyone. So it’s okay not to study abroad. It’s OKAY not to do anything you’re not ready to do. You don’t have to do anything that is going to put your health in jeopardy. Take care of yourselves. Take it from me.