This post is going to be entirely dedicated to me.
Writing is reinforcing self-talk. I have been so hard on myself, as I always am with schoolwork.
I've said before that I tend to focus on everything I am not doing, instead of praising my own tiny accomplishments.
That has been these past few weeks. Finals are tough. I am not downplaying the stress that all college students endure, but I can also say that with my personality I find it difficult to keep up at times. My severe anxiety, my tendency to be lost in my thoughts, forgetful, and my trouble concentrating are only worse when I am overwhelmed. I have a quiet demeanor, and my friends often describe me as "chill" because that's how I appear. Inside me, is a different story.
And, boy I am overwhelmed.
I don't get homesick, but lately I'm so desperate to just go home. All year, I hadn't been the one calling mom wanting to come home. Lately, my mom has practically been on my speed dial. Even my mom knows I am not the type to call home crying about papers, so she just knew I had hit a breaking point.
No, a 15 page research paper on social class in America is not the easiest/most exciting thing I could be writing. It is challenging for me. I write like I'm telling a story. I write from my heart, and the thoughts just floating inside my head. Research papers are difficult for me, because I don't write like that. I can't share my story, or my own opinions because they don't matter.
This paper has been the death of me. I truthfully want to cry just by looking at the thing. It's done. It's written. It's a rough draft, though and it needs much more work.
I had a conference with my professor and I expressed how overwhelmed I have been by this assignment along with my gazillion other final papers.
"I don't know why I've always struggled with research papers."
"I can tell you why" he said, "they are really fucking difficult."
The thing is, I'm not even doing terribly. He even told me I described it to be much worse than it actually is. But during those full 15 minutes I sat with him, I was choking on air, struggling to hold back tears. When I left, there was no holding them in anymore, and my phone was ringing for my mom all over again.
I am just burnt out. I feel brain dead. I just want to turn in my assignments as they are as long as I "just pass." That is where I am at.
I am tired of the stress, the tears, the fact that I have had trouble eating because my anxiety is so severe, and I just want the relief to come. I have less than 2 weeks left. I just want to be back home with my fluffy cat, watching movies on the couch, laughing with my mom.
Even my professor's last words to me as I left his office were, "You got this, be confident-." and some other words I can't remember.
I know it's a me thing.
As a 2nd grade student, my teacher had watched me while taking a test. She told my mom how I would tense up, and how she could visibly see me shaking. 2nd grade.
I know I am doing just fine. My grade point average is better than it has ever been, I am getting my work done, passing my classes, I haven't given up. I just always beat myself up knowing I could be doing more. My mom, my professors, everyone tells me to breathe and believe in myself. They can see it written all over me that I am hard on myself.
I have always been a smart kid who tries very hard. But there are things like my attention span, and my anxiety that have impacted my grades. My mom even said, "I wonder sometimes if you should have had a 504 plan in elementary school." I cried in frustration. Just wishing these little self esteem flaws were addressed when I was young. If someone had seen past the quiet girl in class who was well-behaved, and had been there as a support for me. What if I have inattentive ADD that was never diagnosed?
"Haley, honey you have to stop digging." my mom said.
I am not looking for things to be "wrong" with me. I may be digging, but only because I want to be supported. I don't want to feel like I'm struggling to keep up, or that I could be doing better when the "average pace" is too much for me.
- and that is where I am going to stop. The worries have been released, and now it's time to snap back into shape.
I have made SO many accomplishments this year. Public speaking, articles published, the people I have met, declaring my major, my field placements- the list goes on!
In late August of 2016 I showed up at my college's counseling center.
Why I was there? Why I was seeking counseling? I remember the words clearly, "I do not want to end up where I was."
Now it is almost May, and my counselor reminded me of that. She reminded me, to show me that after all the kickass things, and struggles of my freshman year, I accomplished my original goal. I stayed safe.
It put things into perspective for me. My standards, my needs, are different from others. Everyone has there own. I need to stop comparing myself. I need to stop forgetting that I have every right to be where I am at, right this moment and every moment after that.
At the end of the day it does not matter how well I did on a paper. What is important to me is that I keep going, pushing through every obstacle, and be able to say "I got through it." My challenges are my challenges for a reason. Education seems to be one big fish bowl and everybody has equal expectations. How can you not compare where you are at, to another student, or the student you used to be?
I may not be able to change how I get easily overwhelmed, but I can learn to change how I respond to myself because of it. Maybe that is my new goal to work on for next school year.
For now I shall see my happy vision of summer around the corner, and bang out my final assignments and presentations even if the tears follow.
Yep, welcome to college!
Last year I was pretty active during Mental Health Month 2016, but this year I want to do even more! The awesome thing about this awareness month, is that the smallest effort you bring to make an impact will contribute to the greater voice!
This is what 2017's Mental Health Month is all about:
Source: Mental Health America
"This year for May is Mental Health Month, MHA is talking about Risky Business. We believe it's important to educate people about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves. These include risk factors such as risky sex, prescription drug misuse, internet addiction, excessive spending, marijuana use, and troublesome exercise patterns. We hope the tools and resources that we've put together help individuals and communities to raise awareness of the risks that these types of behaviors present—especially to young people—and help people who may be struggling to detect early warning signs and seek help early, before Stage 4."
learn more at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may
Here is how I get involved, and how you can too!
My favorite mental health accounts:
#mhmchat , #SOSchat
2. Take the pledge.
Quick, easy, and making an impact!
If you go to Stamp Out Stigma's site, you can take the pledge to be stigma free. To recognize, reeducate and reduce. "It begins with me."
3. Share your story.
- With friends
- On your blog
- Contribute your writing on:
4. Wear green.
The green ribbon is used to open the conversation of mental health and to challenge the stigma associated with mental health problems. Something as simple as wearing the color can show your support!
5. Be mindful of how you use your words.
There is much stigma found in language. Never diagnose or attach a label to another person.
- Being "neat" doesn't always mean one has OCD.
- Being "moody" doesn't always mean one "is" Bipolar.
One may know this logically, but it is important to recognize how these words can affect others. Especially because mental health is invisible.
6. Have questions? ASK. Do not assume.
Want to know how to help a friend with anxiety? with depression? the difference between an anxiety or panic attack? more about mental health conditions you are not too familiar with?
You can find answers online, through research, and through people (respectfully)
Be open to learning about the experiences of others.
7. Be mindful of your own mental health.
Everyone has mental health. You do not need to have a mental health condition to be mindful of your mental health. Take care of yourself. Use kind word [to yourself]
Mental Health Month is for everyone. A healthy mind is a precious thing many of us take for granted. Check in with yourself. Do you have your own forms of self care? Or could you be doing more to take care of yourself?
You can take a free mental health screening online at:
8. Send a message to someone you know who is in recovery, and/or struggling.
A letter, in person, a note - reach out. Or just a person you care about in general! Let someone know you're thinking about them, and believe in them. They may not believe in themselves.
As for me, I will do my part as well.
In addition, I am still wrapping up my daily blog post challenge for May. I'm looking forward to this.
Do you have a place that heals you?
A place where you go when you're feeling down?
Or maybe you need to travel to get to the place that heals you?
I wish I had a treehouse as a kid. I would get into these sad and angry spells where I would want to run away and wouldn't come inside for hours. I wish I had a ladder to climb (which is ironic because I don't like heights, especially ladders) and a place up high to separate myself from the world.
Adults can benefit from the "treehouse effect" too. And I don't mean sitting in your car, though sometimes a drive can heal too. I mean a place. Outside. Fresh air, but a place that feels like your own.
For me, it has always been the ocean.
Now, growing up in rural Connecticut I did not have much access to salt water. Instead, I had the woods, and large grassy fields.
So, how do I know the ocean heals?
My second home, is Martha's Vineyard.
In middle school I became friends with "Trulia", the real estate site.
I would email my parents links to homes for sale on the Vineyard and found joy in looking at the Vineyard school websites. I was happy at my school, but I wouldn't have minded leaving for the island. Of course, my parents always said no, that we couldn't afford it, that they wouldn't find jobs there. I didn't give up though. In 7th grade I had an "I am myself" project, where I had to write an essay about "me at 28." I said I would be living on Martha's Vineyard with a career as a fashion designer. (chuckle)
I would cry every time I would leave MV. I would wave goodbye to my grandparents as I got on the ferry and I couldn't help the tears from falling.
My dream even distracted me in school. When I would finish my work early, I was allowed to take out a book and read. I never read. I only looked at the pages, while daydreaming about my next trip to the Vineyard. It was my happiest dream to escape to.
The ocean always had an effect on me. It is calming, and it carries so much light. I think I wanted to be the ocean.
It is confusing to me now, how my dreams have changed since my 7th grade self. Half of my family is on the Vineyard, so of course I would have a connection there. Things change, though, and I find that I am no longer fighting as hard to go back.
I have an estranged relationship with my father. I don't write about it for the public, so I am leaving it at that. My brother wanted to go to the Vineyard to see him for Easter, and he didn't want to go without me. I gave in, knowing it would make my brother happy. I did it for him, and for me. I would be taking my own "mental health trip" and it would be good for me to reunite with my happy place.
- and it was! (I even used the Peter Pan bus system for the first time- haha)
It was as if time stopped just as I had wanted it to. I was able to breathe. I was able to laugh. I was able to enjoy. It was a full long weekend I spent free of tears falling!
Sometimes I wonder if it's a sign. Maybe I should live by the water someday. I do believe climate has an effect on depression. It helps that spring is here, summer is coming, and I have reunited with the sunlight.
I do have to say, estranged relationships are hard. There is this sense of brokenness and now when I leave the island, I have a different feeling than I had when I was pre-teen. Now I feel this weird emptiness, and confusion. I am reminded what I had, and what I could have. It used to take me a little while to bounce back after these trips. This time, I am noticing the "bounce back" to be happening faster.
I think this is because I have become more sure of who I am, even when I try to make sense of somebody else. I know myself enough to give myself a break, and know when I need one. I know to pause, before I keep going. This pause is a lot quicker than it used to be. I think that is because I have learned how to
cope by myself?
[not finding the right phrase..]
Or maybe I haven't learned anything new at all.
I am simply growing.
A caption or "insight" of mine in a recent Instagram photo on Sunday.
A little message from me to you: This morning I went to a service at my grandparents' church. I gained a little wisdom about this holiday when I was there. There is much focus today about "rebirth" and I think that is a universal symbol. Many of us are fighting great battles, or know of someone who is. You can be reborn again. You can fall down and get back up again. One foot in front of the other. I know for me, I thought of my personal journey with depression, and how at 18 I have already experienced climbing out of a low low point.
I have just 2-3 weeks left of the semester.
I let the ocean air recharge me, and empower my thoughts.
Now May is coming, and if you remember this time last year...
May is Mental Health Month!
I will organize a set a daily prompts for the month and post the list sometime next week :-)
As always, topic suggestions/questions taken and appreciated!
They warned me about spring semester of college. They were not kidding.
I'm not sure what is going on with me. I am having trouble focusing in my classes, I am forgetting things, and it is affecting my work ethic. I'm hard on myself with a lot of things, but one of the biggest factors is my education.
It has just been the week. I felt as though I was disappointing myself, my professors. I know I am a better student than this. I feel as though I'm drowning in assignments. My anxiety is through the roof, and I haven't been good about self-care. In class yesterday I had this continuous feeling like I was on the verge of a heart attack. I couldn't stop scratching my hand, and I was so stressed it hurt in my chest and I fought back tears. I wanted to throw up. Papers, and exams, and presentations, and projects and just 1 month (less actually) left. I'm almost there! I'm so close! I know I can do it! But getting there...feels like hell.
When my anxiety becomes severe, I get stomach sick. I stop eating, I become overwhelmed to where I can hardly motivate myself to do anything. It isn't laziness, it's anxiety.
I am reminded that college is stressful. Being a freshman is stressful. I know I'm not alone. I know I am not the only one overwhelmed at this point in the semester. At the same time, I know I need to take steps back. I know that everyone has different needs, and moves at a different pace. When my anxiety becomes too much, and I don't address it from the start, I can head down a dark road. I know this. I've been there. I know anxiety about college is normal, but my anxiety history creates a different story.
I emailed a professor about missing class in need of a mental health day. I assured her I would get missed information, and work on my assignments out of class. I felt weird typing "mental health day" because in the past I would just say "I'm sick." I wanted to be honest though. I am overwhelmed, and it will help if my professors know that. There is fear that goes along with it. "What if she doesn't believe me?" "What if she thinks I'm just skipping on a nice day?" As nervous as I felt (I hate missing class) I was proud of myself. My counselor noticed that I tend to push through the pain, expecting things to fix themselves. I guess there are pros to that, but I also could be doing the fixing. My anxiety is generalized. I am overwhelmed often because I let things build up into one big gum-ball mess. I have trouble concentrating in class because my body is telling me I am under too much stress, and it is trying to cope.
Yesterday I missed my only class of the day. It was a warm, sunny day, but that is not why I missed class. I need to stop being so go, go, go. I needed a night of extra sleep. I needed a day to relax and catch up, or get ahead of things so I can finish the semester strong.
I asked for a mental health day and there was something weird about that. Why is having a cold more acceptable of an excuse than being under too much stress?
Why am I worried about honesty, when many professors are genuine and understanding?
My professor did reply and was understanding. I heard from other students in my class that my she had decided to push back one of our assignments because a lot of students have been overwhelmed with work lately. It's not just me.
I have made many mistakes recently. At times it feels like the world is out to get me.
Though it has been a rough past few weeks, and my days are more of a struggle than a serenity, I am able to see the good. It's there, I just need to look a little harder to find it.
I wasn't sure what to write about today, because lately what has been consuming my time is: crying myself to sleep, not having the appetite to get a real meal in me, forgetting plans with friends, and missing appointments to take a nap.
They've not been the glorious of days.
I am being honest, though. Just as I was with my social work professor.
This is just a rough patch that I'm fighting to get through right now.
So about gratitude..
I used to do a daily gratitude journal. It was helpful for me to see that even if I only had 1 or 2 things written, there is something good in every day. I haven't kept up with it, but I think it is a great way to end today's post. My week may not be as bad as it seems.
Ahh the innocence and motivation
of Haley from August
Best of luck to my other college folks or anyone else going through a tough time.
We will get there.
To start, this article well describes the difference between normal anxiety versus Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I recently was looking at a list of early signs of developing an anxiety disorder. I was then inspired to write my own post about signs I showed, but never considered. They are weird to write down, and they are weird to share, but if it raises some awareness of anxiety, (and anxiety in children) then I am all for adding my voice!
When you are a kid you don’t look at your behaviors and think, “hmm I think I have an anxiety disorder.” No, instead you just know some things make you more uncomfortable than they do to others, and you have some behaviors nobody else seems to be doing.
I could write a completely different list regarding my early signs of social anxiety, but for this post I want to focus primarily on generalized anxiety.
Also note: Anxiety is normal. Some of my examples are also common childhood anxieties, it does NOT mean there is a disorder present. These are just 8 scenarios which had contributed to something more for me.
I wish I was taught grounding techniques from a young age. I wish someone had seen past these "bad habits" and instead of telling me to stop, looked into why I was doing these things. It's good that I am able to reflect on them now, because I have formed an awareness and perspective with the behaviors of myself and others.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.