There is this picture of me in kindergarten. It was our class photo where we each sat in rows with our teachers standing beside us. I was sitting criss-cross in the front row. Each face beside my own has a smile, some sort of expression, but nothing like mine. I am easy to spot in this photograph. My hair is in 2 braids, I am wearing a light blue dress with black buttons down the front. I am not looking at the camera. My chubby cheeks are bright red, and drooping down, and my eyes are swollen with tears.
This wasn't just picture day. This was every morning I was dropped off at school. Yes, I was 5, but I always felt that way. I was scared to be alone, "dropped off", to count on myself. I was scared of the unexpected, the unfamiliar.
Starting from middle school, I could not stop talking about college. I couldn't wait, I was just too excited. One day during my early high school years, I was in the car with my mom when she stopped at a gas station. She asked me if I could run in for her and pay. Immediately I panicked.
What? Me? I can't- how do I-?
"Haley all you have to do is hand them the money and say $25 on pump 5 please.."
I started fighting with her. Stubborn, attitude, assuring her I was not getting out of the car. Tears filled my eyes. My mom gave me 'the look', and I felt guilty knowing I was making things difficult, but I was just too scared to get out of the car. Annoyed with my behavior, she grabbed her purse and left me to wait in the car.
I sat and waited feeling absolutely ashamed of myself. When she came back she gave me a talk. I remember her saying,
"You're the one who can't wait to go to college, but Haley, I worry about you. How will you be ready if you can't do something like this I ask of you? What about when you get your license?"
Somehow she found words around, "You need to suck it up."
Of course, now I am in college and I have no trouble paying for gas or other things. At the time, however, her words pained me because they were the words I had feared to believe myself. I had all of these dreams and wishes, but the fear:
what if I can't? Am I crazy to think I can?
About a month ago I got a job here in Boston. And when I say "in Boston" I mean smack dab right downtown where people from all over come to experience this city. I got the job on a bit of an impulse. My cousin told me they were hiring, and I applied for the heck of it. One month later, here I am, taking the T each week to be a hostess in Faneuil Hall.
My confession, that I have honestly been embarrassed about, is that I have not had a job since I was newly seventeen. It is no secret why. 2015 and 2016- I was not in the place to focus on a job. I had 2 things to focus on. First, my mental health, then school. But I had been feeling guilty, being raised in a family that strongly stands for "you earn what you work for."
With time I have grown so much, but I still have been hiding away from taking certain risks. I have developed this fear of getting a job. If you have been caught up with my newsletter, you know that I was so nervous about this job because I was petrified of having anxiety attacks like I had with my old job. In the same newsletter, I recognized that I needed to view each new opportunity as a clean slate. That is not me anymore. I didn't have the tools then to take care of myself and communicate my needs. I do now. And this job, is not my old job. There will be new challenges, but this is also a new me.
Leading up to the interview, I hardly slept and my stomach was in knots. And as usual, afterwards
I recognized I had no reason to be anxious in the first place. Two days later, I got the call that I was on board.
But what if - oh..yeah, THAT-
My first day of training was exactly what I was afraid of. I believe this was karma telling me that if I was going to have anxiety over the unknown, karma was going to give me a reason to worry. I had a bad cold, on the start of bronchitis. I assume that my stress prior to the interview contributed to that. I needed sleep, but I thought it would look poorly to call out on my first day. I took DayQuil and left my campus with emergency cough drops and tissues overflowing my pockets. When I got there, though, I wished I had called out. I showed up for my first day of training expecting to be following someone for the day. (As they told me I would be) Instead, I showed up on a Friday (busy) and the main hostess who was going to train me had gone home sick. The assistant manager greeted me in a rush.
"Have you ever hosted before?"
"Have you worked at a restaurant before?"
"Have you ever used *name of software* ?"
"OK well, we are short staffed today, so..looks like today we are going to throw you into the fire."
I was left alone at the host stand. Not only did I have no idea what I was doing as far as working the computer, I also was dressed in work attire so the general public would just assume I had been working there for a long time. I was asked questions I did not know the answers to. About the menu, directions to places in Boston, making a reservation, and oh god if that phone rings- I panicked and locked myself in a bathroom stall. I texted my mom in all caps and she gave me the most "mom" advice.
no shit .. lol
Luckily my cousin would be coming in later for her shift, but until then it would be me alone for almost 2 hours, and the assistant manager didn't check in on me once.
One of the servers approached me first. He asked if it was my first day (like, can ya tell?) and shook my hand, and told me if I needed anything he would be around to help me out. Thank god for nice people. After him, about 2 or 3 other servers, a bartender, kitchen staff also came by to say hello and check in. Though I was tense and worried, that made me feel so much better. I knew they weren't told to do that, I was just working with adults who just genuinely were willing to help and noticed I was a new face in their work space.
When my cousin showed up she saved me from the 'fire.' I am so lucky to have had her there with me. It was such a comfort. Even she, had been stressed FOR me!
She vented to the others, "They left my cousin alone on her first day!!" One of the servers looked at me and said, "And you stayed?" And you know, it never really registered to me that it was an option to walk out lol. I just bit my lip and pushed through it. I realized that it was just a rough day, and that if I survived that, it would only get easier from here.
My cousin, Lydia was the one to continue training me. Those next 3 days I had a familiar face to ask even the stupid questions to. I could observe, and learn from her, as I've done all my life. I knew she would have my back, and I got really lucky in that way.
The more I work, the more comfortable and confident I become.
I can tell by my smile, my tone of voice, and my improved posture when dealing with people. Some customers bring out my sense of humor, and I can tell I bring it out in them as well. I even handle the lunch or dinner "rushes" quickly, but smoothly, realizing after how I didn't choke, I just did it.
I was walking back to the T station one night after work and I had to call my mom because I was just so god damn proud of myself. I started to think that inside me is that 5 year old girl on school picture day.
If someone were to tell her she would be working at a city restaurant years later she never would have believed it to be possible. It is crazy to me now, to remember where I was. Now, I deal with customers straight off tour buses, language barriers often, difficult customers, and work in the most populated area of the city. Still, I jump right in, I carry a smile, and live through kindness over any stressor. At the end of the day,
I head back to campus full of pride. That's me. The girl who once feared paying for gas in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut.
"How will you handle college if-" said the voice.
"With time I will get there." I should have replied.
This post is dedicated to my friends, and all the new people this year that have been a part in my journey.
By the first day of classes, I had already made over 20+ friends that I could say hello to on the sidewalk. And that, was because of my decision to move in early for the bridge program.
We shared our stories through narrative essays, we shared our nerves about starting college, and we all had a mental breakdown of some sort during those 2 weeks.
I want to stop right here, and reflect. When I started college I was not expecting to stay. I mean, stay here. I was not expecting to become connected to the school, and the people, so soon. [Many of you remember my goal to stay for one year (my mother's wish) and then go to school down south.] I also, was not prepared for the amount of goodbye's I had said by the middle of my freshman year.
Our school is not for everyone. Something I was not expecting to learn about my college decision- was that this school is meant for those who know what they want to do with their life. Like- who does? This school is for people that just "knew" they were going to be child life specialists and have known since they were little that teaching is their calling. It is driven for helping professions- teaching, child life, social work, juvenile justice, etc. This has not affected me. I am drawn to social work, and my school has one of the best programs.
I had to say a lot of goodbye's this year, because my friends were realizing where they fit as well. The small campus size- not for everyone. I thought it was not going to be for me, but it turns out it is helping me to shine, to stand out. Living on campus, or out-of-state is not for everyone either.
Within my first semester I had 2 friends (different scenarios) who withdrew from school, so they could receive mental health treatment. I praise their decisions to do so. It is a tricky decision when your health is rocky. Do I leave school, or do I stay and risk things getting worse? They are both doing amazing now.
My "dream" roommate, decided she was gong to commute her second semester to save money. I miss living with her. It was just easy. It was sad to see her half of the room empty. Things have worked out, though. She is forever my original "roomie" and I still get ultra excited when I see her in the campus center.
I feel blessed to be at a school where the students cheer each other on, and are respectful, and always willing to learn new ways of thinking.
I met some of my friends just by them approaching me as strangers, to compliment me after hearing my bridge essay read aloud. Now, I eat dinner with those people.
A moment that still stands out to me is when a girl in my class expressed her presentation anxiety. I, of course, could relate to. She had never given a presentation in her life because she always had accommodations. She gave her first presentation in our class, and everybody clapped and congratulated her and I just felt so much happiness for her, and to be a part of a community like that which gives everyone room for growth.
There are always the flaws, and the drama you hear about from being on a small campus. You meet people and question their people skills, and sometimes you have to ask yourself "how old are we here?" It is in class, where I forget about that. My courses touch upon big ideas, and current life events, and I am always thinking deeply. It is in class, where everyone is reminded why they chose this school in the first place. A school whose message is to "inspire a world of good" and asks us if we are "tough enough" to do so. There are always those little things that take you back, but you get back up by focusing on a study you are passionate about.
3 of my friends are not returning next year. This makes me sad because we are all so close, but I support their choices and we plan to stay in touch as our journeys take us in different directions.
My best friend this year, worked in our marketing office. She left a few weeks ago to return to her old job. My campus counselor, being this year's intern, was another "goodbye" that had to be said. And my first social work professor is retiring, and we were her last "intro" class.
Those are 3 more people I have connected to this year.
I guess I have not adjusted to this part of life. High school graduation is one thing, but every day we meet people and are unaware of how they may impact us. This isn't a sad thing. You take what you can from people. It's hard to go a day without those who made you feel good, but the point is you can go on without them.
I have learned this year that sensitivity is a part of me, and I am learning to see it as a strength rather than a weakness. College has allowed me to embrace more people in my life, and I am very attached to the feeling I get when they inspire, or motivate me.
Thank to all of my new friends that have stood by me this year. I look forward to seeing many of you again in the Fall.
and now, I am ready for a laid-back summer break
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.
I am back in Connecticut.
I have tackled my first semester of college and I am excited for this 1 month break. A long winter break is reasonable after the many mental breakdowns and stress filled assignments that the finals period creates. I had never been swamped with that much work before. At least now I know it is manageable.
I'm not sure how I feel being home. It's nice to see my family, my friends, my cat and all, but I'm not super excited to be here. I like being on campus and feeling like the world is my own. My living space is quiet, I am not bothered, and I feel relaxed that way. It's not that I don't have freedom here, I guess I just like being on my own, and returning to family mode makes me irritable. I realize as I'm writing this how "typical teenager" this sounds, but in a weird way I think it is much more than that.
This time of year does not help my mood. I spend the wintertime wanting to fly south, move away from home, and start fresh somewhere new.
Growing up, I never really felt connected to my home. My family is here, my friends are here, everything is here, but I've never considered this my happy place. I never imagined that I would like being in the city as much as I have these past months. I think the busyness is good for me. The noise, the lights, the life. I am much more active. I walk everywhere even if it is to a "T" stop. There are so many things all in one place, that I feel like I don't have to escape quite so far.
I feel like I am definitely putting a lot of pressure on myself. I feel as though I should know by now where my "happy place" is, meaning an actual place in this world. It doesn't help that I haven't really been many places. I work every day on my mental health so my anxiety does not get the best of me. Sometimes I wonder if I would be even happier somewhere where the grass is greener and I can feel the sun in December more than anything else.
This break, I am in Connecticut, therefore I shall plan to see people in my life who represent the sunshine I seek. Seasonal Affective Disorder can really pull on you and trap you inside the darkness. My plan: I created a schedule for every day during my break and I am going to make sure to go somewhere or see someone each day to stay busy and active and keep my spirits up. This Wednesday I am having a friend over to bake cookies with while we both wear pajamas. It's the little things.
In one of my last posts, I wrote about how I was struggling to find my fit at college. Last night I ate dinner with two friends and I was effortlessly being me. When we left the dining hall we were all laughing and I could just tell that they were enjoying my company and it felt so good. I was my crazy, giggly, goofy, silly self, and I found friends that love that.
I do have people that understand and adore my personality. It was a reminder to me.
It hurts, but I can't expect every person I meet is going to like me, or isn't going to judge me at first glance. I can't expect someone to see me as I see them. Sometimes, people just aren't a good fit for you, and that's okay. I know this, I have just forgotten this while I was in my lonely rut. I do have friends that fit, maybe I was just looking in the wrong places?
I left campus knowing that I have friendly faces to see and hug when I return to campus come Janurary.
I have formed positive relationships with my professors. One, encouraging me to work at the writing center, as well as to visit her sometime.
I have the counseling center on campus as a support, and at my last appointment I was left with the reassurance and confirmation that I am "resilient." and that it is something I am. I have people that help to build me up.
Now, I need to relax and have fun this break. I do not enjoy being irritable, but luckily I have writing as an outlet to help me out. Irritability is a main symptom of anxiety disorders. I am not accepting any anxieties this break- no no no.
And that was my post-finals babble!
I'm back to the keyboard, folks! Stay with me these next few weeks.
Winter break begins. :-)
Some of you high school students may be considering the military, or community college, or not going to college at all. That's okay. Some of you may have absolutely no idea what the hell you want to do with your life. That's okay too.
This post, in particular, is written for those who do want to go to college but are scared that they aren't "good enough" to get in.
So here's the thing:
School has never been my thing. I have always loved school, and done well at school, but it has never come easy to me. There are different types of intelligences, the same way there are different types of learners. It is easy to become blindsided by this when growing up, intelligence seems to revolve around the grades you receive on a test.
I have always been a nervous test-taker, and a distracted studier.
My brain does not absorb information like a sponge, and sometimes I will need things repeated for them to really click.
I wasn't made for the school atmosphere.
I wasn't made to sit at a desk. I was made to walk through the woods by myself, using my imagination, making connections, and relying on intuition. I loved writing and psychology, but I was rarely tested on those things.
I have talked to some highschool upperclassmen recently, who are all equally stressed and paranoid about college.
"I have to do well in sports, and get straight A's, and do well on the SAT, and go to work, and-"
"My SAT scores were shit, so I took the ACT and started crying 30 min before the start of the test. My anxiety gets so bad, I thought, "what if I get sick during the test?" A teacher came in and asked if I was okay and offered to let me take the test in her office."
"I probably won't be accepted to, but.."
"I literally can't do a presentation; how can I handle college?"
These are all statements I have recently heard from my high school friends, and family members. When I respond to those comments, I am not so much talking to them. I am talking to high school me.
This is what you need to know:
How do I know this?
Welp, I got accepted into 5 schools and I can assure you they didn't choose me entirely for my superb test scores and GPA.
I wish I could say, "don't worry", but honestly that never helped me. It is normal to worry, it is a stressful time with a lot of expectations. If you are applying to colleges, create a safety plan or a plan B, but also do not be fearful of taking a reach.
** There are very good schools with happy students that will accept students who work hard, care, but might not have had the "best" grades. **
You may not end up where you had wished in the first place, but things will work out.
Mental health issues are common among students, even though they are often invisible.
Many times colleges preach their "average GPA accepted" or "average test scores" but they do see beyond that and their website may not just come out and say it.
Your feelings do not define you.
I wish I could go back in time and shake myself and tell myself I was so much smarter than I believed.
My anxiety and depression have knocked me down and left me crawling, and I am a college student now able to say it is possible.
Your mental health never makes you "not good enough."
I have only 17 days left until I am home for my winter break.
At the end of the semester I have been focusing on myself more than anything. It is a stressful time.
I remember being a freshman in high school and going through this period of depression at the start of the winter season. I am now comparing it to my freshman year of college.
As a freshman, you meet new people. You cling yourself to whoever you feel comfortable with and just expect that will be your "forever" friend group. Many of my freshman year high school friends were still my friends by senior year, but many of us also fell out of touch just by our sophomore year.
I remember that freshman year of high school and feeling alone with myself. I thought I didn't have friends, even though I knew that I did. I thought I was a follower, or a backup friend, never anyone's first pick. I was completely putting myself down, and I knew I wasn't doing myself any favors by thinking that way. I just wasnt connected to anyone.
Now as a freshman in college, I am going through the same thing all over again. This time, I am able to look back and see that this is normal, and this feeling will pass, and that I can't expect to find "my people for life" within my first semester of college.
It's hard, and I can't blame this on myself. Some people I love, but can take in small doses. I get along with many people, but I still compare them to some of my friendships back home.
I called my 27 year old cousin crying the other day from my dorm. It's just been one of those weeks. She was also on the verge of a breakdown from her own bad day, so she said she was glad I called. "Haley, it is crazy how alike we are. If we were in college at the same time we would have been best friends." she told me. I agreed. She's 27, and I'm 18 but I can talk to her like I can't talk to anyone else. She just gets it. We have a lot in common with our personalities and our anxieties, and when she gives advice- it isn't the kind that makes me cringe or think "I shouldnt have said anything." She gives me hope, and makes me feel less alone. I need more people like that. She told me not to isolate, or be by myself. I said, "but I like being alone." She pointed out that as my issue. Introverts can easily isolate themselves because it's comfortable for them to do so, but doing so can also put themselves in a very sad and lonely place. We need a balance with people and time alone.
I got hot chocolate with one of my friends this week and seeing her just automatically lifted my spirits. But again, it isn't quite convenient. I need more people like her in my life. However, she isn't in my dormitory, or in my classes, or in my grade for that matter. She is a 24 year old that works in the marketing office at my school.
My cousin Erica and I facetime almost every week, and she's now over 2 hours away from me. So I'm lonely because the people I connect most with are not the ones I spend most of my time with.
I'm mature for my age, and I think a lot of that has to do with my past experiences. My personality also just makes me an "old soul" and I know that. I enjoy being around people that are older than me, sometimes more than people my own age. Age doesn't matter to me, I think I just noticed it ending up that way.
I think this is why I tend to shut down around certain people, and blame myself for just not connecting with others, or feeling out of the loop. There is nothing wrong with me, and I need to remind myself that.
Besides for reminding myself that, I'm not sure what to do. I am happy being independent and having my own time, but I'm also at a small school and haven't quite found where I fit yet.
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.
During my therapy sessions back home, and my counseling sessions in college I have found that I frequently bring up creative self care ideas. I have my stress ball, but do I pull it out when I really need it? I have my positive quotes, but do I read them? During a walk-in appointment this past week I said, "I almost need to fill a box of self care/ coping techniques so I can just have everything there when I need it." The counselor said, "That's not a bad idea!" I smiled and said, "Oh I know, I'm serious."
"OH I'm great at coming up with ideas to help myself, It's just doing them that is my problem."
I went home for the weekend, and returned to campus with a wooden box that I had found in the craft section of Walmart.
Just by doodling on it in colorful sharpie marker has been zen enough. Coloring is very relaxing for me. Whether it appears "artsy" or not, I just wanted to fill it with color. I'm still working on it.
SO FAR, This is what I have inside:
I haven't had an anxiety breakdown or "crisis moment" since I put it together, but it's all set. I can't always prevent my anxiety attacks. I can only ride them out. Instead of hating myself for them and fighting against them, I can be prepared to care for myself during that time.
My roommate is aware of my "self care kit" as well. I told her to redirect me to the box if I am having a down day, and she is on board.
I find it difficult to always tackle these battles mentally when I am mentally struggling.
I am becoming more knowledgeable and creative about physical plans to make for myself.
Since I've been on campus I have:
She pointed out everything I've been doing right that has shown I have been working against ending up where I was this past year.
She genuinely asked how I have been getting my work done and making it to my classes even with the anxiety I have had these past 2 weeks. I just shrugged, thinking I didn't have a choice. But I did. She looked me in the eye and said, 'I'm serious. You're a rockstar." I laughed a little but it was the mood booster I needed.
I left acknowledging the hard work I've put in, whether it feels hard or not. It felt fun to be called a rockstar, but I'm definitely in agreement that I'm doing okay. I'm liking this "college me." She has grown- big time.
Ok so that photo is a little dramatic, but it gave me a chuckle so I was hoping it would do the same for you.
I am going to be 100% honest:
2 weeks ago I was walking back from the store with 3 of my friends. I was swinging my grocery bag around and being a "typical Haley" by telling my story a mile a minute, probably not getting a breath it. I didn't finish my sentence when a buzzing sensation moved from my lips down, and my vision was blurry. Dizziness consumed me. I stopped dead in my tracks and just looked up and said, "whoa." My friends asked if I was okay. The feeling passed so I continued my story and kept walking, but was still a bit concerned.
Since then, this has become a "thing." I would be walking to class and it would start with a weird feeling in my face, and then I would feel lightheaded. Me being self-aware, and a psychology student immediately thought: anxiety. But no because I'm not anxious, that makes no sense. I've been dizzy from anxiety before, but it didn't feel like this. Me being a hypochondriac, yes..you guessed it...googled my symptoms. Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Brain tumor, etc etc. The list went on. Days continued and I would find my limbs going numb along with the dizziness. My entire arm was numb, it felt like there were bricks resting on the back of my neck when I was standing and so I did some more research, and increased my paranoia. "I don't know what's wrong with me." My suite-mates continued to hear me say. They offered to take me to the clinic, just to reassure me I wasn't dying. Instead, I curled up in a ball and let my anxiety take over me convincing myself I was experiencing early stages of paralysis..
At night..I've been having nightmares. The counselor I've been seeing here suggested I look for a "common theme" but nothing about my dreams are commonly related. Accidentally killing people with my car, getting attacked by a whale in a swimming pool, and putting out a fire in my house (childhood home) with a lighter? And even more twisted things.. My roommate tells me I've been whimpering in my sleep.
What the heck is going on with me?
I've been bringing a stress ball to class.
*Shoutout to the campus counseling center for providing those*
I couldnt make it to a mandatory event for a class because of an anxiety attack. (My professor was extremely understanding, and supportive..but still.)
Annnnd I've been needing emergency bathroom trips more often than I would like to admit. yay IBS yay
I see my counselor here every Thursday, but it was a Monday when I had my anxiety attack and by then the center was closed.
The next day, I brought myself to this magical thing the counseling center provides called "walk-in hours" and was ready to let out my problems to WHOEVER was available. Thursday couldn't wait.
With anxiety attacks, unfortunately, there is not much you can do in the moment to make it stop. You have to ride it out. And with me sitting there with a counselor like a confused Nancy Drew, trying to solve this mystery as to why the hell my body is behaving against my mind, I learn there is not much to solve with the missing pieces in Generalized Anxiety. Little bitch. Why can't I have a fear of spiders? That'd be easy to determine.
What I learned is that even though college has been going swell for me, it is still an adjustment and a change for my body. My body is telling me it does not recognize this change, and it is sending messages that say it's time to panic. I was reminded that this is still all very new and very different. I'm on a different schedule, I'm living with new people, eating new foods, and as okay as I feel about that, my body doesn't understand what's going on.
I'm dealing with this damn battle as I wait out these stubborn symptoms. After many panic attacks, tears, and showing my roomies my ugly side, I was able to calm down today. I find that I can reach air after counseling. I know anxiety is normal, I know I am not truly going crazy, but sometimes I just need to hear it. I needed to be able to sit with someone and tell them I've been happy, but my body isn't following that and it scares me. I needed someone to sit there and provide genuine empathy and apology that these feelings are scary, but reassure me as well that it is normal, and it will pass.
She used an example of self-talk that made me smile a bit. "Okay, Haley girl, it's okay to take a break." She stretched the importance of self-care during this time. My body is telling me it has reached it's limits when it sends me those uncomfortable signals. I need to respond by taking care of myself, instead of pushing myself.
I always say that change doesn't scare me, but now I think my subconscious does not agree with me. Anxiety effects can be residual, and very confusing. Anxiety and panic attacks can even create the same symptoms as a heart attack. Whaaaaat?
My anxiety disorder is a learning experience, and I am still learning just how it works. Not just with me, but in the general human body. I know I can not let my physical symptoms trick me. I am okay. I am safe. I am happy. Self-care is crucial for me, especially now.
The wrap up:
Listen to the cute little dinosaur thingy.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.