It is the end of the semester, finals are coming up, and I can now see the difference between a high school and college workload.
My sleep schedule is just insane. Some nights I only sleep 2 hours. I get in bed before 11pm most nights, but some nights I don't fall asleep until 3 am. On the nights I get very little sleep, I find that I am struggling to keep my eyes open during the day when I am trying to get assignments done. I then choose to take a nap in order to regain energy for the rest of the day, but then my sleep schedule is even more destroyed when nighttime comes.
Welcome to college!
I have never been a good test-taker, and though my school gives very little tests, I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel on my written work so that my grades balance out.
There is this one class that is getting to me. It's mandatory for first-years and I have to take the first part now and second part next semester for my major. I just don't clique with my professor. I have him all year so I am worried about that. Most of classes are discussion based, with a mix of a lecture. This class is just an entire lecture at 8 am and he goes way too fast and rarely goes back to old powerpoint slides, and I'm basically learning more just by reading the textbook on my own time.
Besides my sleep problems that are always existent, and my overload of assignments, I just haven't been feeling like "me."
I'm stressed, I'm not even anxious. I am irritable, and the smallest things are getting on my nerves. I'm at a small school, so it is more of a challenge to create boundaries from negativity.
I loved Thanksgiving, but honestly, I couldn't wait to go back to school. Going home has been changing my mood in a negative way, and I don't know why but I need to improve that before winter break or I will just be miserable.
I started crying yesterday about nonsense. It was one of those moments where I knew I was being ridiculous and my logic was fighting against my emotions, but I still felt them anyway. I basically was putting myself down about numerous things and convincing myself to believe them. Why can I be my own worst critic?
I called my mom. I just needed to vent to her that I was "going crazy" and hated feeling like this. I needed to hear her make norm of it. "Well, Haley, at least you know you're being silly."
I haven't been my happy haley self. I haven't had my typical silliness of dancing and Disney music. I am in an extreme introverted fog. Except this time, I don't like this feeling of being alone. Not this way.
Sometimes I think I should try to isolate myself, because I lose energy when I'm around people. But then I think, maybe I'm just around the wrong people. I have made a lot of friends since the start of college but I am still unsure of who "my people" are and that is making me more upset right now than it should.
I can think back to every year since freshman year of high school, and possibly before that, I always seem to shut down at this time of year. I definitely get seasonal depression, but oh no I'm not taking it this year. I'm done with feeling like this.
I went online and was looking at light therapy boxes, and salt lamps. Why not try it? I still don't know the difference, but they both have similar effects.
I started taking Vitamin D supplements, so we'll see how that helps too.
Whenever I feel the least bit "off" I get scared. I worry that there is something wrong with me and that I'm depressed or that I don't fit in with anyone. Just scrolling through mindbodygreen yesterday made me feel better. There are natural ways to feel better, because this feeling is normal. I'm new to college, this is more work than I have ever had in my life, and on top of that my sleep, mood, and my health have always been a work in progress. I know that this time of year is hard for me. I don't do well when it gets dark early. That's when my negative thoughts and worries creep in and it's hard to leave my room.
I must be doing okay. I'm aware of these things. I am going to my classes, getting dressed, wearing makeup most days, and trying the little things to keep me moving. I do not like this feeling, and I need to work on not letting my "off" days or feelings scare me. They happen. I'm doing okay.
This isn't me. This is not myself. I know what is "very haley" and this just isn't it.
Yesterday I went out for coffee with my old school social worker, that I can call a "friend" now that I've graduated.
It was so nice to see her, laugh, and catch up on where our lives have headed.
I wanted to start with this at the beginning of my Thanksgiving post-
She had said that 5 years ago, or so, she would not have expected her life to turn out as it has now. Though she hadn't expected it, she is so happy with how it did turn out.
Now, I have not had the life experiences she has, and I have heard other adults say the same, but I too was in complete agreement.
This time last year I had not yet received my acceptance letter(s) to college, and my biggest concern then was if I was good enough to be accepted to college.
This time last year I had cried myself to sleep (or didn't sleep at all) every night.
This time last year- I was so very unhappy.
This time last year I did not believe in myself, I struggled to see a future, and fear was my most frequent emotion.
Time may not heal all wounds, but it definitely makes an impact and opens doors for positive change.
This time last year, I remember sitting at my Thanksgiving table trying to think of something to be thankful for. Not that I didn't have anything to be thankful for, I was just focusing on everything I was missing.
My Papa was not sitting at the table with us, and anxiety and depression were mixed together like cake batter with the wrong ingredients.
How can you be thankful when you feel so poorly everyday? When nothing seems to be going right? You feel like a failure? The world doesn't seem like a "happy place" anymore?
That was me.
A passage from my Thanksgiving post on last year's blog site, November 27, 2015:
[Here I am blogging now, so I’m obviously okay now. Anxiety/Panic Attacks are very scary. I remember my mom holding me earlier today and saying, “You got through both Thanksgivings. You did it.” She and everyone else knew how hard it was for me. Our first Thanksgiving was with a larger crowd, so why did it affect me today? I think I just crashed from trying so hard the past few days. I crashed hard.]
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for:
The holidays are tough. They aren't always happy and joyous, as much as we try to make them that way. They can be filled with stress, loss, worry, and difficult memories.
If anyone is in the place I was in last year, or is just having a tough time overall, I want you to know this:
I don't think life was made to be easy. In fact, I do know that.
We can get caught in the past, or have our heads too far into the future that we waste precious time worrying about what has passed, or what could come.
I am no TedTalk motivational speaker, and this may sound cheesy and dramatic, but it's true..
Last year there was a 17 year old girl who felt absolutely hopeless; believing nothing would get better for her.
Now she is 18 and you could swear she is a different person.
For her, it took 1 year to see growth; see things start to fall into place.
Life takes us through bumps, halts, and even bigger challenges.
Nobody said it'd be easy. Why do we expect it to be?
Pain doesn't last forever. Even if it feels like it..
Smile more. Reach out to someone. Be gentle, and mindful that the people you pass could be some of the best individuals the world has to offer, but are caught up in their own troubles.
Be thankful. Something may be missing for you today, but find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is not what we don't have, it is about acknowledging what we do have. Treat yourself with care and patience this holiday season. I wish I had known then, that it is okay not to be okay. The things that pain you the most, can make you a stronger person in the long-run. Mistakes are not the universe fighting against you; They are there to teach you a lesson.
Give things time. Time can take you to some of the most beautiful places you would have never imagined.
I am choosing to be thankful, and I am choosing to be happy today.
I wish you all the strength for a healthy, happy holiday season.
With hugs and smiles,
INFJ: (introversion, intuition, feeling, judging)
Ambivert: a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.
Empath: (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
Growing up, and even still, my biggest flaw was that I believed there was something wrong with me. Why do I shut down so easily? Why does the energy around me make me so sad sometimes when others are having fun? Am I an introvert or an extrovert? I am social, but I can also be shy depending on who I am with.
At this point in my life I am just beginning to educate myself ON myself.
I am often asked in therapy, "What are your triggers?"
I have to pause for a while. I have no idea. I know that I have triggers, I just become so absorbed in such complex things that I cannot explain.
This past year I became extremely interested in learning about why I act the way I do, and why I am the way I am.
I was diagnosed with an anxiety and depression disorder; okay that makes sense It's not just me, something isn't biologically right.
I took a personality test and discovered I was an INFJ; I have never read a description so accurate to myself.
I also tend to fit the "ambivert" description. One who has a balance of introvert and extrovert features.
Other things I have recognized about myself:
There is nothing wrong with me. I am a little complex. My needs may be different than the needs of others. I can get easily overwhelmed. I have a gift of an incredible intuition. I am able to see the world on a deeper level.
I am learning how to be the best me I can be, while knowing all of these factors about myself.
I feel like that is a reason why so many people go unhappy. They deny their true feelings, they try to be something they are not, and they don't take the time to learn how to live the best life as the person they already are.
I grew up living in my head. I would go outside in my backyard by myself, and spend hours back there doing absolutely nothing but exploring my mind. I would write fiction stories for fun, I had imaginary friends longer than I would like to admit, and can still picture to this day. I would convince myself that the imaginary was real, and I could get myself truly upset over false memories or my own creations.
My flaws, can have incredible benefits for me as well.
There is a lot going on constantly in this head of mine. I have trouble focusing, eye contact is a struggle of mine, and I can dissociate almost anywhere. My face doesn't always fit my thoughts. I often hear, "Are you okay Haley?" "You look sad, Haley." "You look pissed off Haley." Oh my god that's what I look like??? No I'm fine I promise! When inside I am in another world probably thinking of kittens or what my future home will look like. And sometimes I appear to be okay, when inside I am struggling.
Maybe my past traumas and struggles were contributors to my anxiety and depression. But..maybe I was prone to them anyway, just because of the way I am.
Over 2 hours ago if you had asked me why I was going to attend the town hall meeting at my campus, run by the student government, I would not have said "so I can blog about it later."
Being a freshman can feel like the bottom of the food chain. It isn't the label that bothers me; it is the unknown that goes along with it.
When you begin your new life on a college campus your first task is to learn the basics. This may be where your classes are, what is expected of you, the dining hall, or all of the above.
I have now tackled my first 2 months of college, and it is truly sinking in. I feel the desperate need to leap over the basics and "just know" whatever knowledge I am lacking about my new found community.
When school first began, I had absolutely no idea what the town hall meetings were all about. I received the emails, but I just opened it and moved it aside with the other notices in my inbox. I'm still finding my place. How can I benefit by attending this? Is this even something first-years are welcome at?
I am from a very small town in a rural CT setting. At home, "town hall meetings" would be a gathering of the adults that are active members of our small community to discuss the board of education or small-town politics, I don't know. I didn't know that this event was on my campus. [Which I probably should've figured since Boston itself is a city] I didn't know it was run by students. I didn't think to look deeper into another email on my account. I didn't know that this was for faculty, staff, AND students to come together as one community.
After I missed the first town hall meeting, I felt very left out when hearing side conversations about the impact it had left others with. After the second one, (I don't remember why I couldn't attend), I wanted to promise myself I would get to the next one.
I saw the message in my email address this week. Town Hall Meeting November 7th 5pm-7pm topics: "self care, coping, progression." I, of course, was drawn to the words self care. I was going.
When the time came, however, I found it difficult to get myself there.
I just stood outside the room, waiting for a friend to pass so I would have someone to sit with. My friends all had homework, appointments, or just weren't interested. I was on edge and very anxious. I walked by the room a couple times to imagine what seat I would sit in if I found the courage to walk in. I realized how ridiculous I was being. Meetings, events, or actually- anything new- make me anxious.
I was then standing in the back. Nobody could really see me, and I could get a feel for the environment and just listen. Just breathe. I didn't want people looking at me.
I spotted another one of my friends among the chairs, and I snuck by people and planted myself next to him.
I didn't use my voice, but it was my first meeting, and I was listening.
I believe you have the right to listen as long as you want and need to before you choose to include your voice in a new setting. I didn't speak, but I was learning.
I paid a lot of attention to the vibes of the room. There was some tension, a lot of care, and separation and holiness all at the same time.
Everyone was there for a purpose, even if each had a different purpose.
There was discussion about creating a safe environment on campus.
Physical safety is not our biggest concern. Our biggest concern is feeling safe on campus, emotionally.
Other topics discussed:
I just thought.. wow..I didn't imagine I would end up here..but I ended up at a really special place.
The faculty and staff care about their students. Truly. I believe it, even as I hear it. They want to help us outside of the classroom, and get to know us. They are willing to hear us out, and help us with any concerns.
To me, that's special.
I had never wanted to go to a small college, but now that I have that..I am grateful.
I have had teachers in my lifetime just like that, but there is an entire community of the faculty that are in the same agreement.
It feels good to be respected, taken seriously, treated as an adult, and a peer.
Since tonight was focused on self care and community, I am going to say my stance on the two topics.
Self care, to me, is a valuable balance. It is not ignoring the outside issues. It is making sure you have to time to take care of yourself; giving yourself time to stop and breathe with it all. Self care is acknowledging that you can find peace within a stressful situation. To me, is taking time to do something you love. Anything that triggers a positive reaction. Something that makes you happy, something that makes you laugh, something you're good at, or something that simply relaxes you. It is a time to check in with yourself. The balance, is being realistic. Acknowledging our inner self does not always eliminate the problems in the outside world. The positive balance is so we can recharge, and keep moving forward.
Community, to me, is being a part of something. At tonight's meeting, I wouldn't say I was super involved, but being in the room with other members of my school made me feel welcome. I was among my community. My mom has always told me that it is great to feel connected to your school, not just in the classroom. It is important to feel as though your campus is your home, you feel supported, and are able to be involved. Community building is about including your own voice, as well as welcoming other voices to be heard. It is respect, and wanting to better one another.
Our motto is "inspire a world of good." We are about social justice, and making a difference. We want to be social workers, child life specialists, educators. We all have a story and are here for a reason.
I am blogging tonight to gather these thoughts, as well as express gratitude for my new found community. Every school has its flaws. Not every student can say their school actually gives a shit about them.
At the meeting, flaws were admitted. It was admitted that there are things that have been a problem for too long, and need improvement on. I listened, but as a newbie I was also thinking..but what about all of this good I am hearing right now? My professors actually give a shit about me. About us. I think that's awesome.
I'm finding new ways to get myself out there and be involved. In my school, AND the world itself. There is a lot going on in this world, and a lot of hurt and baggage being carried around us. Being a voice, a listening ear, and a member of a supportive community big/small, makes a difference.
Do you ever feel defeated?
...because YOU let something get to you.
...because YOU know that you have the power to decide who/what hurts you.
...but you still let it hurt you?
It hadn't reached my understanding until this year that you can choose to be happy.
It sounds like total BS to say, because clearly- shit happens. In a depressive state, nobody wants to hear "just choose to be happy." It doesn't work like that. There is no way you can be happy all the time. It is perfectly normal to have down days, or moments where you fall apart.
Most of the time, you can choose to be happy. You can change your point of view, to change an outcome. You can decide to bite your lip, take a breath, or do whatever you need to keep doing you.
Earlier this week, I allowed my past to creep into the present and disrupt it.
I have been protecting myself for a while now.
I spent my early adolescence taking care of everyone but myself. I've been working to break that pattern by learning the difference between self-care vs. selfish.
Sometimes, I slip from my duty. My obligation. I take 3 steps back and question whether or not I'm doing the right thing, or if this "self-care" thing is morally wrong if it is protecting me but hurting others.
I was in class when I got a text.
I just went into a downward spiral. I thought I was doing the right thing, but is this the right thing?
I held back my tears until my class was over. I went back to my dorm, unzipped and kicked off my boots, took 4 melatonin supplements and climbed in bed. I slept 3 1/2 hours. I was mentally exhausted. I didn't want to be awake to feel that emptiness and sadness.
These intrusive messages- I have had this happen before, many many times. I have always just ignored it, not putting pressure on myself to reply, and surrounded myself with positive people to keep my life on track. Why the hell am I letting it sink me now?
I hadn't fully noticed how low I had gotten myself until I woke up, almost slept through our dormitory fire drill, and missed my advising appointment while in my "coma."
I did this to me.
Instead of blaming myself, I realized that this week I may need a little more rest than usual. I forced myself to say "yes" or "okay" when my friends asked me to go out. I made sure I got to yoga class Wednesday night..
Today, I had an appointment at the counseling center. I honestly look forward to these appointments. I leave feeling drained, but I recharge soon enough. It is like getting new batteries for my system, or putting gas in my car.
I expressed my frustration that something I have dealt with for years, is bothering me now. I was reminded of the word that does it all: change.
College is change. Whether I feel it or not, I have brand new stressors. College classes, a new social life, a new schedule; So maybe some of the things I have been able to handle before, are just not cooperating with this new environment.
Back to my issue:
I have been distancing myself from negativity. My mental health is everything to me. It is fragile, and I must take care of myself. I am protecting myself by choosing happiness with what I want and need around me.
The best way I can explain it is... that the negativity is still there, banging its fist on the door to the content lifestyle I have finally pieced together. I am having trouble ignoring the sound. I am having trouble moving forward. I know if I stop, and answer that door I could be risking things for myself. I have already gotten this far.
[At this point you are probably extremely confused with my sound-like guessing game.]
I still don't know what exactly I should do.
However, I now know that it is OKAY to feel what I feel.
I have members of my support system who have been reassuring me that my feelings are valid, because I have spent too much of my life fighting my feelings.
I don't know whether or not to take the risk in opening that "door."
I do know this:
I am going to continue to take care of myself, trust myself, and remind myself that I am a good person who is doing what's best for me.
At my appointment today, my counselor told me that something she has noticed about me is that I am very resilient.
Being able to "keep going" doesn't have anything to do with gliding through greatness.
"Keep going" is everything about picking yourself up when you fall down.
I continue to prove to myself that good things are around the corner. Even when I am caught up in questioning morality, self-doubt, and worries, I am still able to spring back into shape like a boomerang.
My therapist back home would always refer to our troubles being waves. They come, and go. It is our job to ride them out.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.