The things I learned in Undergrad

My undergraduate experience hasn’t been very conventional. And I’ve hated myself for that since I returned to school in Fall 2015.

But I just finished a 10-minute guided meditation on self-forgiveness (because apparently I’m a person who meditates now), and as cringey and fluffy as it sounds, I realized something important. Namely, that I have learned so much more since I started university in 2012 than I ever could have if things had gone differently.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had graduated in 2016 with my friends from high school. If I hadn’t switched programs. If I didn’t take time off for eating disorder treatment. Maybe things would have been easier, but they wouldn’t have been better. Because I went to university to learn, and that’s what I did.

2012-2013

I began first-year as an anxious but generally happy super-Christian. I went to church twice a week, I volunteered with a youth group, and I planned to declare Religious Studies as my major in second year. I hardly know that 17-year-old version of me now. I feel compassion for her, because I remember that Christianity gave her a purpose and a community, before it gave her crippling self-hatred for being a sinner and stifled her dreams. I feel compassion for her, but I barely know her. These days, she rarely crosses my mind. Anyways, at some point, this girl decided God was telling her to become a nurse. When I didn’t get into the Nursing program for the following year, I decided to major in Psychology for my second year then transfer into Accelerated Nursing.

2013-2014

At the end of Summer 2013, after university education and life experience left me doubting Christianity for months, I made the decision that I was no longer a Christian. When I went back to school in September, all my friends thought I was going to hell, I had no hobbies or interests outside the church, and I had no direction or purpose for my life. I tried turning to science to give me some sense of meaning. I thought if I learned HOW our species and our planet ended up where they are now, I would also know WHY. I wanted to switch into Biology. Then Biochem. Then general Life Sciences. Then physics. Eventually, I decided to stay in psychology after all and do something to help those with mental illness. I developed Bulimia in the Fall, and barely attended any classes in the Winter. I went to the Psych ER three times with suicidal thoughts. At some point, I thought a change of scenery might help, so I applied to double major in Math and Writing at a different university in January 2015. Over the Summer, I experienced a trauma and my eating disorder became restrictive and took over everything. (When I talk about this, I like to clarify that my eating disorder COINCIDENTALLY became worse and more restrictive at the same time, but restrictive eating disorders are not generally more or less severe than other eating disorders)

2014-2015

Just typing in those years brings me immense sadness. This year must have been the most miserable in my life to date. In the Fall, I couldn’t work, and I was waiting until January to return to school. I watched documentaries under a blanket in my room all day, and had energy/motivation for little else. All I cared about was food and calories and weight. And to be honest, I probably needed it at that time, because everything else had gone to shit. I accepted a referral to a Day Hospital program, because I thought I would be magically better in 8 weeks and go back to school like nothing happened. I started attending classes in February, and relapsed immediately. I still only cared about food and calories and weight. I dropped all my classes in late March or early April because I didn’t have the mental capacity to learn anything. I returned to the Day Hospital program in April. While there, I decided to return to my original university, as it was closer to my home so my parents would be nearby and the trigger of commuting would be gone. This school doesn’t have a writing program, so I intended to double-major in Math and English.

2015-2016

I managed to mostly maintain my recovery through the Summer. I met Jenn in the Fall. She made me happy and was a great motivation for recovery. I’m still getting over our breakup, so I’ll just say the recovery stuck and Jenn did not. I also decided to only major in Math, as that meant graduating with a BSc instead of a BA, and the English courses at this school are not remotely writing-related.

2016-2017

Jenn broke up with me a few days before classes started in September, so I started the term suicidal. I was in the hospital a few times for overdosing, and was very nearly admitted as a psychiatric inpatient. I managed to get my shit together just in time, and got through the term. In the Winter, my roommate was admitted inpatient, and everything was about her for months. I sound unsupportive and I honestly am, but I had zero support and she was incredibly selfish during this time. I don’t want to get into the details, but our friendship became very toxic, and it was all very difficult for me. I made no changes to my program this year, believe it or not.

After 6 years of undergrad, I will (if all goes to plan) finally receive my degree in 2018. That degree will tell the world that I came to university and I learned about math. And I used to take comfort in knowing it wouldn’t say anything else. Like the fact that it took me 6 years to achieve, or the fact that I changed my mind on my program 20394 times, or the fact that I entered school wanting to be a missionary, or the fact that I lost a year of school to complete eating disorder treatment. But today, I kind of wish my degree wouldn’t just say I learned math. I wish it would say that I learned where I stand on religion, how to survive when I don’t want to, how to cope in unhealthy ways, how to cope in healthy ways, how to break and then put myself back together, how to love, the fact that I love women, what heartbreak feels like, how to put my life back together a second time, what I really want to do with my life, and how to work towards the life I really want. Because I learned all those things, and looking back, I wouldn’t change my path one bit, because those struggles and setbacks and detours made me grow into the person I am today. And I learned things about myself and the world that I will use for the rest of my life. So my undergrad hasn’t been conventional, but thank god it hasn’t been.

Sarah

Weirdass Mood

This post will be brief, and strange. I am in a very strange mood. I might be happy?
I have been listening to Kimya Dawson songs for a couple hours and I feel very inspired and at peace with life and just… so strange.
I want to talk to all my friends about the fact that we’re all going to die someday. It’s a fact I think about a lot, but usually it causes me great anxiety, and right now it’s fine? Not because I’m feeling suicidal or anything like that… I just think the world is going to be okay? I don’t know. That’s all.

Sarah

In Transition

Today, a lot of things changed.

I moved out of a place I shared with my toxic best friend (whose best friend status is currently under evaluation). I moved in with 4 strangers whom I will live with during my final year of undergrad. Both my Summer courses began (I attended neither due to the move). I guess that’s not very many things, but it feels like everything.

I need my routines. My routines comfort me. My routines ground me in reality. But I’m in a new house now, and I’m taking different classes, so things will be different. My routines have to change.

This might sound bizarre, but I simultaneously feel like life isn’t real and that I’m falling off the edge of a cliff. I don’t know what to do with myself. What do I do tomorrow morning for breakfast? When do I shower? Do I need to prepare more for Wednesday’s classes? I just want to lie in bed on my laptop forever.

I was excited to use this Summer to fight my social anxiety, so I could be a happier person by Fall. And I still plan to do that. But everything feels so scary right now.

I can’t explain it. But I just feel so afraid. I’m afraid to socialize with the people in my house. I’m afraid of how my social situation will change as I rethink my closest friendship. I’m scared my Summer courses will be terrible, and that I’ll be miserable all Summer. I’m afraid to get a part-time job, and then have to do it. I’m afraid of finishing my undergrad next year. I’m scared to go to grad school, which will probably be in Germany. I’m scared to get a real job after that. I’m afraid of everything I’ll ever have to do for the rest of my life. And I thought facing my fears would feel liberating, but I’m remembering all these times I was forced to face them repeatedly and my anxiety did not improve. That’s where the depression sets in, where life starts feeling like a long list of things I don’t want to do. Usually, my efforts to avoid anxiety (like isolation) cause depression, so it’s a bummer when it’s caused by the anxiety itself. Like what am I supposed to do to live a full, happy life?

Clearly, my thoughts are now devolving into chaos, so I will take this opportunity to politely excuse myself from the internet.

Sarah

Feeling Positive

My desire to write is typically inversely correlated to my mood, turning my blog into a heap of depression. But right this second, I am feeling genuinely happy, and I want to write about it. This may be related to the fact that I should be studying, but regardless, here is happy Sarah.

I feel obligated to mention that objectively, my life hasn’t gotten much better. My roommate is out of the hospital, but our relationship is irreversibly damaged, and we have decided to live apart next year (aka May 1st). The Summer is a terrifying swirl of unknowns; I don’t know where I will live, where I will work, who I will hang out with, or whether I will enjoy my classes. So it’s an anxiety-provoking time, which conveniently follows a Wellbutrin increase (which is great for mood, not so much for anxiety). Blah blah negativity blah.

But today, right this moment, I feel happy. Maybe meditating for the past 6 days has caused me to achieve enlightenment, but I somehow doubt it.

Today is a snow day (because Canada), so I get to spend the day curled up in my apartment. If it didn’t lower my mood long-term, I would spend every day like this. Fortunately, I can enjoy this day indoors guilt-free with the certainty that I will resume my usual activities tomorrow.

I planned to go to the gym today, so I did something resembling a home workout with moderate kitten interference, because I want those gains. Then I showered and got right back into my cozy pajamas. Then I did my daily chores (feeding the cat, laying out tomorrow’s outfit, etc.) and meditated. The only thing left to accomplish today is studying for my midterm tomorrow, but I’m already feeling fairly confident about it.

So here I am, feeling clean and warm in my cozy pajamas, mindful and full of endorphins, hanging out with my cat and reading about commutative rings. Everything about this day brings me joy, which is something I haven’t felt in a while, so I want to appreciate it while it’s here.

I am facing very stressful situations later this week, and the uncertainties about the Summer will continue to cause anxiety, but right this second, I feel joy.

I don’t recognize myself and have strong urges to insert a bitter, cynical comment. But the things that make me cynical and bitter will still be around when this joy passes, so right now, I’m just going to enJOY it. I’m so funny.

Sarah

Switching Meds

I have been on antidepressants since I was 16 years old. My doctor at that time didn’t know whether I had GAD or OCD (plot twist: it’s both) so she put me on Zoloft, a medication used to treat both disorders.

Years later, I became very depressed, and the Zoloft wasn’t doing enough in that regard. At one point, I was on 250mg daily (the maximum dose is 200). During my second stay in the Day Hospital program, the psychiatrist switched me onto Effexor XR. I found the Effexor to be much more helpful with depression, but slightly less helpful with anxiety. But I would choose anxiety over depression any day, so that was a step in the right direction.

After I recovered from my eating disorder, I began feeling stuck. I had been eating properly for months; I was exercising; I was receiving individual and group counselling. I was doing all the right things, and while I felt much better than before, I wasn’t quite happy. My doctor and I discussed changing my medication, and first we tried adding things to supplement my Effexor. I began taking a small amount of Wellbutrin. At one point, I was on Lyrica for anxiety. I now take Seroquel at night. But I’m still not happy.

I have been wanting a bigger change for months now. I have brought it up multiple times with my doctor and my psychiatrist, only to be told it “wasn’t a good time” to make such a change. It was the middle of the school year, then it was Summer and I had a full-time job, then I was doing poorly and (correctly) wasn’t trusted to keep myself safe, then apparently things were “going well” and it would be a bad idea to rock the boat. Through most of this time, I was eating well, exercising regularly, and engaging in regular therapy. I was working SO hard to do whatever I could to improve my mood. But it wasn’t enough. I still felt shitty.

Finally, I felt semi-comfortable complaining to my doctor, and said I wanted to make this change over reading week when I wouldn’t need to worry about unpleasant symptoms interfering with school. My doctor surprisingly agreed, and consulted my psychiatrist to come up with a plan.

Today is day 1 of this transition. First, I need to slowly taper my Effexor, so I took 225mg today instead of 262.5. I will stay at this dose until I see my doctor next Tuesday, and we will go from there. Apparently, my psychiatrist has two ideas for what I can switch to. I don’t know what they are yet, but psychiatry is essentially reaching into a bag of pills and saying “I don’t know, try this one?”, so I don’t really care. Once my Effexor dose is a little lower, I can begin cross-titrating with the other medication. This is what I did when I switched from Zoloft- it involves slowly increasing the dose of the new drug while decreasing the dose of the other. It’s a complicated process, so usually a psychiatrist comes up with a specific schedule for dose changes.

I am pretty scared that this will be difficult. More likely than not, I will experience unpleasant side effects. But I don’t want to live the rest of my life at my current level of happiness. So if there’s a chance I could feel better on a different medication, I’m going to find out whether I do. I thought my roommate’s hospital stint would long be over by now and I would have someone to hang out with during this process, but whatever. I am growing increasingly resentful towards her, but that’s a whole other issue.

On the other hand, I am very excited about the prospect of feeling better. Medication changes always give me hope that things will improve. And I would really, really like that.

That’s all the information I have for now, but I will definitely update once things get going. I hope everyone is well!

Sarah

Staying Informed Vs. Staying (Relatively) Sane

I need to keep this post short, so I can go journal or knit or meditate or do whatever will make me feel less pissed. If you have found yourself feeling this way recently, you might be suffering from “Political-Knowledge-Osis”, a painful condition that can develop when one consumes a large quantity of information regarding current politics.

I love politics; on some level, I always have. But my interest has grown in the last 2 and a half years especially. Unfortunately, I also suffer from various mental illnesses, and thus am more susceptible than most to hating the fucking shit out of everybody while crying intermittently.

That is not an exaggeration for comedic effect. Today, I cried multiple times watching CBC coverage of the Quebec mosque shooting, then gave myself a headache from my sheer level of hatred towards proponents of Trump’s Muslim ban.

I honestly don’t know what to do. I avoided watching the news for most of last week, and I hated it. I take pride in my knowledge about politics and current events. I felt like shit seeing headlines on Facebook referencing events I hadn’t heard of. I felt anxious about the dozens of videos piling up in my YouTube subscription box. I felt bored watching episode after episode of Friends while I got ready and did chores, instead of CBC, MSNBC, and the Young Turks.

So what am I supposed to do? Following the news leaves me deeply unhappy, but so does ignoring it. I feel deep sadness and passionate rage when I stay informed, but I feel hollow and purposeless when I don’t. Maybe there isn’t a good solution. Maybe I’ll just have to be unhappy. Ugh.

Bernie would have fucking won.

Sarah

Fuck it- Let’s do something exciting

I remember being an anxious person as early as I have memories at all. Needless to say, I’m not a huge fan of excitement.

I enjoy math because, for the most part, there’s only one correct answer. I enjoy knitting because it’s repetitive and straightforward. I like crosswords and Sudoku and basically anything you can do in bed while wearing pajamas. I love cats, because they’re as happy as I am to be a homebody. I like to do safe, predictable things, with my anxious thoughts providing more than enough excitement on their own.

But avoiding anxiety isn’t living. It’s cowering inside my tiny comfort zone, waiting for nothing to happen, but why? I don’t want to spend my life knitting and doing math and petting cats. Okay, that actually sounds amazing, but that’s not all I want to do. I want to be adventurous. I want to take risks. I want to be an exciting person.

So tonight, I’m going to do that. And I have to announce it, or I will 100% change my mind. I have been meaning to go to a gay bar in Toronto for months- possibly over a year. But my ex was no fun and my best friend always has some reason she can’t go. So I’m going to go alone. The bus ride will be 1.5 hours both ways at best, and I’ll be out at least 4-5 hours past my bed time, and I might have to dance, and holy shit my heart is beating so quickly.

But what’s the worst that could happen? I could get kidnapped or assaulted, or I could get too drunk to find my way home, or I could be so horrifically rejected that I fall into a deep(er) depression and never recover. Deep breath. Okay.

What’s the best that could happen? I make cool friends and find the love of my life and learn that I enjoy club dancing and say “fuck you” to my GAD, OCD, and SAD all at once. That’s pretty cool.

I won’t know which of these will happen unless I try. And I have handled some pretty shitty things… I think I can handle this. My heart is currently beating out of my chest… not sure when I became so terrified of living. But anyways, I will update you guys later. Still over 12 hours until this even happens, but the emotional preparation must begin now.

Sarah

UPDATE: GOT TOO SCARED OF GETTING KIDNAPPED AND/OR NOT BEING ABLE TO NAVIGATE HOME FROM TORONTO DRUNK. GOING TO LOCAL GAY BAR. SAME THING BASICALLY THOUGH.