major life changes

The past six months have been absolutely crazy, and it doesn’t look like life has any intention of slowing down anytime soon.  My own life has been full of new experiences and opportunities, some good, some scary, but all have helped me grow and understand myself better.  So this post is basically just an update on my life and everything that’s been going on.

First things first.  As we all know, the world is currently experiencing a huge crisis, which I know can trigger a lot of emotions, especially for those dealing with mental illness like myself.  Everyone is dealing with this in their own way and coping with it the way that suits them.  For me, that means I’ve been avoiding looking at the news, practicing self-care, and spending a ton of quality time with my family.  And since I don’t want to completely dedicate this post to the coronavirus (I have plenty of time to write about that) so I’ll finish up by encouraging anyone reading this to do the same. Take a break from the internet, eat some good food, and spend time taking care of yourself!

In August, I started college and moved two and a half hours away from my family (except for my twin, who just so happens to be my roommate).  Honestly, I was surprised at how easily I adjusted, especially since I had never spent more than a week without seeing my parents and younger sister. I fully expected to start off college being an anxious mess, but orientation went so well!  I made friends quickly and by the end of the week, I was ready to take on my classes as a nutrition major!

Fast forward about two months and things were not going as well as they’d started. I felt super out of place within my major and I had started to second guess my decision, even after splurging to attend a national conference in Philly (which I have no regrets about because it was a lot of fun). To make matters worse, I was practically failing one of my major classes, and anyone who knows me know that I absolutely hate it when I don’t do well in school. I started to dread going to that class and would force myself to get to the building half an hour early just to make sure I had enough time to panic and pull it together. What bothered me the most was that my grade wasn’t dropping because I wasn’t putting in the effort to study or because I wasn’t asking for help. Trust me, I spent so many nights studying till four in the morning, and on the nights when I wasn’t studying for the class, I was having panic attacks over it.

It was around the end of November when I reached the point where I didn’t think I was going to pass the class and I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it through the next couple of weeks. I was anxious all the time and struggling with the fact that I needed to continue appearing like I had my life together. My parents were doing their best to support me, but let’s face it, there’s only so much you can do when you’re a hundred miles away. At this point, I just wanted to quit. My sleep schedule was utterly destroyed, I was too anxious to eat full meals and too depressed to get out of bed for pretty much anything except my classes. Ironically, it was during this low point that I received an email from a girl in my scholarship group asking if I wanted to be a part of a panel that she had organized on mental health.

Was I in any condition to be giving advice about how to manage stress and anxiety? Umm no. Definitely not.

Did the idea of speaking in front of a ton of strangers make me want to cry? Absolutely.

Did my unconscious need to please other people cause me to agree to speak at the panel? You know it!

Looking back, this was one of the best experiences I had in my first semester. Sure, I was insanely nervous and thought I was going to die the entire time but after an hour of pouring my guts out to other people, I felt like I was on top of the world! I wasn’t alone, there was a whole room of people who felt just as terrible as I did! And yes, I know that sentence sounds awful, but it’s reality. I was struggling to hold myself together but so were all of the people that joined me in that room. That was a turning point for me because after the panel, I really had to assess why and what was making me so unhappy. After taking time to do some serious soul searching, I finally figured out that I wasn’t doing what I loved. While food and nutrition are pretty high up on the list of things I’m passionate about, I started to realize that I couldn’t see myself working in nutrition for the next couple of decades. I was drawn to the writing class I took that semester and after a million meetings with advisors, career counselors, professors, and my parents (thank you Facetime), I decided to switch my major to English. Yay! My life was all figured out now, everything got better, and I felt so much happier!

Yeah, not quite! Even after deciding to switch my major, I still had to deal with the fact that I had basically destroyed my mental state over that first semester. My anxiety and depression didn’t just magically disappear as soon as I submitted the papers to the Registrars Office. It took a ton of work to get myself in a better place. I joined a workout class with some friends, which was new and kind of nerve wracking because I’m usually scared to go to the gym but ended up being super helpful in releasing stress. I started journaling and writing poetry again, and found ways to cook for my friends, which gave me an opportunity to show love to myself and other people. And I surrounded myself with people who helped me grow and continue to do so today, (Here’s a little cheesy side-note where I gush about how much my friends and family mean to me, both new and old. You know who you are and I hope you know I love you!). But one of the biggest things I had to do was accept the fact that I wasn’t a failure or a quitter just because I switched my major. While I was going through this whole mess, my mentality was obviously not a positive one and deep down, I felt like I was switching because it was just easier and I wasn’t good enough to stick it out. I had to understand that sometimes things weren’t going to get better, even if I tried my hardest, and that it wasn’t a reflection of my effort. Not an easy thing to accept when you’re constantly pressuring yourself to succeed at everything you do, but I’d like to think I’ve made a ton of progress in that area as of late. My second semester of freshman year found me in a renewed state of mind, where I made myself the promise to not destroy myself over classes or grades and to make sure that I was actually enjoying college. And let me tell you, the last two months on campus were some of my happiest days!

It’s hard to believe that in less than two weeks, my first year of college will be over. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I’d definitely say it was worth every second of it because I’ve grown so much from the experiences I went through. I’ve stepped way out of my comfort zone, become a lot more independent, and most importantly, I’ve learned more about who I am and who I want to be, which to me is a pretty good reward for sticking through it all!

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