The Last Days of College
I sat in my bed unable to grasp the idea of the morning. Morning means I must get up and go to class, again. But when did yesterday end? Why does today have to begin? My mind dozes off for another 15 minutes after realizing I fell asleep only three hours prior. With my body weak and my stomach nauseous, my mind overflowed with lists; lists of assignments, projects, tests, research, goals, ambitions, dreams, expectations, procrastination, perfection, the GRE, fixing my family, money…everything. Everything remained in the forefront of my mind daily. Time was a blur and so was my idea of eating breakfast. My stomach longing and screaming for food. Class! I have to get to class. I dragged myself out of bed and into my 9:15 am class. No food. No rest.
This pattern exists as my morning routine for most of my weeks. My days consist of dreadful mornings and long hours.
The more I worry and leave self-care behind, the more an unfamiliar sensation brew in the pit of my stomach. Walking around campus became foggy. Exhaustion is now my new normal. I am a zombie, slave to the regular routine of the student. All work.
Days pass by and nothing is better. I keep going. Work. Work and procrastination remain my cycle until the unfamiliar sensation manifested itself into existence.
My breath is short, my mind blank, my hands clammy, my chest heavy, eyes filled with tears looking into nothing, stomach aching, rocking to feel something. Breathe in. Breathe out. I’m all alone. I can’t catch my breath. I can’t do it. I can’t do any of this.
After some persuading, I found myself in the counseling center once a week for only a few weeks, then in psych services for the remainder of the semester. I must fix myself. I sat in her office, uncomfortable, nauseous, exhausted, and depressed. Talking didn’t help my daily nausea or worried soul, but I kept going. I kept going to class, finishing assignments, papers, and projects, and finally getting my degree. Magna cum laude with anxiety.
Post-Graduation and Anxiety
I can’t say actually getting sleep or eating reverses the effects of anxiety, but it helps to see better. The fog is clear now even though I often find myself nauseous. Every time I do something a bit risky, like taking a high-stress job to start paying off my loans, the tiniest amount of stress results in panic. My mind can’t take any amount of stress. It feels attacked overwhelmed.
I must explain to others what I have even though I don’t believe it’s valid or real. I felt embarrassed and ashamed at first. It’s difficult to admit I have a problem, but that is my first hurdle to overcome.
The first step I took in my mental health journey consists of addressing and saying out loud that what I have is real. I write to make all the lists real and tangible. What aids the stress in my head is no longer in my head, but instead reversed into something positive. I write down everything.
I’m in control again.
The Process of Achieving
It’s been two years since I graduated and I’m now starting to get back my ambitious spirit. I found myself afraid and unable to take risks because fear became my mirror. I’m no longer a robotic perfectionist expecting no mistakes from myself, I take my time, and I put myself first.
Self-care isn’t an idea we teach ourselves to prioritize but it’s the most fundamental necessity — the mental just as important as the physical. We must learn our boundaries and limits and figure out if the risks and stress we take are worth our energy.
Having anxiety, depression, or any mental illness or limitation does not mean we can’t have high standards, ambitions, and goals. We just know where our boundaries and limits lie. We must prioritize our self-care over anything else and that is ok. The constant task of weighing our options and declining some opportunities will be our regular because we know that we can’t do everything. That’s what self-care is.
We are able to do what we want despite the obstacles we face. The more we learn how best to take care of ourselves, the better we become at making sound and reasonable decisions about your future.
We can do this “adulting” thing.