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

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

Recovery from Social Anxiety Disorder

Today was my last session with a counselor I’ve seen for over a year and a half. So that’s a bummer. But it was actually a really good session, and it helped me focus my goals as I continue my mental health treatment.

I have been aware for a while, albeit to varying degrees, that social anxiety is among my most pressing mental health concerns. I was only diagnosed with SAD around a year ago. Until that point, I attributed my social avoidance to not liking people. And the times I knew I was anxious, I assumed my Generalized Anxiety was to blame. But when I was finally diagnosed with social anxiety , it shed some light on my struggles, and on what I can do to overcome them.

I believe that my Social Anxiety Disorder is currently contributing to around 85% of my mental health problems. And I have many diagnoses among which I must distribute these 100 percentage points. So that says a lot. But my social anxiety causes me to isolate, which makes me incredibly depressed, and which can make it difficult to succeed in my life. It is also difficult for me to find employment, as customer service roles are currently out of the question, and the thought of ANY job greatly heightens my anxiety. But I think that SAD’s contribution to my depression is the most damaging.

The thought of conquering my social anxiety fears makes me want to retreat into a hole forever. It feels so impossible to face these situations over and over until they no longer scare me.

But there was a time when recovery from an eating disorder felt impossible. An age when I could not imagine ever loving my body at a healthy weight. And I accomplished both of those things. I took risks that terrified me and that felt horribly wrong, with the hope that I would eventually find something resembling happiness. So I need to do that again.

I am completely terrified, and I don’t remotely have the support I did when recovering from my eating disorder. But I need my life to be different, so I need to do the work. Here goes nothing.

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

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.

Today will be Rough

I promise I’m not sad all the time. I have been having a lot of mood swings lately, so I’ve actually been finding myself incredibly happy at times. But when I’m happy, I am less motivated to share the tortured thoughts of my blackened heart with the world for catharsis.

Anyways, as the title suggests, today will be a difficult day. The morning has been fine; I slept in until 7 and went to Algebra for 10:30, and now I’m home to have lunch. But now the shit begins.

I know I bitch about my roommate on here all the time. I have Social Anxiety Disorder, and thus cannot handle confrontation, so I can’t tell people directly when I’m mad at them. This leads to me silently raging all the time, with no real outlet or effective coping methods. I bitch about most people to my roommate because she’s my best friend, but when I’m mad at her, I don’t have many options. Even my therapist used to be her therapist, so I feel uncomfortable bashing her in that setting.

But today, I feel like my roommate is being horrible. And I don’t know if I am allowed to feel this way, or if I am being a dick about it. She suffers from depression (as do I), and it has worsened over the past week for no external reason. I understand that depression does that, and that isn’t my issue. But she keeps threatening to kill herself, and she must know that she’s upsetting me. Obviously she needs support, but I don’t have the emotional energy to talk somebody out of suicide every day. She sees a doctor today, so maybe that will help. But she keeps making jokes about how today is the day, and she’ll probably end up either in the hospital or dead. What am I supposed to do with that?

She might be trying to reach out for support without actually talking about her feelings, but I am starting to feel like she is looking for attention.

I know that’s a horrible thing to think about somebody with Depression. I know how it feels for somebody to assume that when you’re in that much pain, but I don’t understand why she is doing this. If she is serious about hurting herself, she should be on her way to the hospital. She is smart; she knows how to access those resources. There seems to be no reason to constantly joke about this if not for attention. And I think it is highly inconsiderate, given she knows that this is difficult for me to hear.

I also know that I tend to automatically convert anxiety into anger, probably because anger is easier to deal with. And I experience my emotions very strongly, so when people make me feel negative things, I am furious. To me, it feels like torture, so why would I not feel angry with my torturer? And today the one selfishly torturing me is my roommate. I know she is sick and I know she is suffering, but so am I. And I would like to think I try not to hurt people when I am at my worst.

I probably did that a little after my breakup, but at least that was in response to an event, and I haven’t done it since. My roommate has these crises a lot, and it’s frankly becoming exhausting and hindering my own mental health. I think this relationship might be getting destructive. I don’t know.

Again, I have been having mood swings lately, so maybe I’ll be feeling differently in a little while. I might make a crisis counselling appointment on campus instead of attending my DBT group. I am not considering hurting myself in any way, but I am extremely distressed and need advice on how to deal with this today.

I could never say these things to my roommate. And I probably shouldn’t. So these feelings will probably never go away.

I don’t know. Those are all my thoughts for now.

Sarah

UPDATE: I made a crisis appointment and found it extremely helpful. I wrote an assertive-ish (while still being gentle) letter to my roommate about how I can’t handle certain things, but that I still really care and can help in other ways. I took an Ativan at one point, so I’m a little hazy right now, but I think things are okay.

Great Fucking Night

Warning: Author is tipsy. Reader discretion is advised.

My sarcasm game in the title is strong.

Hello, everybody. It has been a little bit since I’ve written. I think I always say that.

I’m pissed. I’m fucking pissed at everyone and everything and I hate it. Tonight is Math and Stats pub night (Sorry, I can’t be tamed). I had to miss the last Math and Stats pub night because my ex went and rounded up a whole group of her friends to go with her. I was determined to go this time, and I still am. My roommate agreed to go with me earlier this week, but she’s having a pathetic meltdown because of a midterm she knew was today when she agreed to come with me.

I have OCD. I get incredibly triggered when plans are changed on me. So I know I’m being a colossal fucking bitch, but how about you rally because it’s a midterm? The professor uses different grading schemes, so that midterm doesn’t even need to count. Get a grip. She didn’t even tell me she wasn’t going with me anymore until I asked.

I have been looking forward to this event all week because I have zero time to socialize ever. And now I’m going alone and I may not know anybody and my ex may or may not be there, but that’s neat. Did I mention I have Social Anxiety Disorder? So my roommate wrote a midterm that doesn’t even count, and that is grounds to trigger everything.

Not to mention the fact that I am actually lonely as fuck. I miss having somebody so much, and it’s incredibly hard to meet queer women because they’re a much smaller proportion of the population than straight men. Part of me just wants to take some guy home to feel better about my life, but I’m really not about that life right now. Unless maybe they’re trans and I don’t have to deal with a penis. I’m being really inappropriate; I apologize.

I’m just really fucking sad and everybody is letting me down which was my entire fucking childhood because I’m an idiot. Wish me luck at finding somebody to love me because I’m going to be a sad, pathetic asshole until then.

 

Sarah.

PS: Probably more drunk than tipsy at this point. Let’s pretend I live in a timezone where it isn’t 6:46. It was 7:46 at this time a couple of weeks ago? I’ll stop.