Three days ago, I was informed by my college that because I am taking medical leave for the rest of this semester that I could not return for Spring semester. Three days ago, I was incredibly pissed off about it. And three days ago, I was ready to end treatment, walk away from my health, and go back to school.
Three days ago, I was ready to quit.
And then I found this post on Psychology Today which gives advice on when it's okay to quit. The post contains these guidelines on when quitting is okay:
It's okay to quit...
...when you've gathered new information that makes the original plan unworkable;
...when the timing is wrong;
...when you thought you could do more than you can;
...when you're changing directions;
...when to keep going will deplete you of energy you need for something else;
...when you made a mistake;
...when quitting is the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself at the moment.
When I was growing up, my parents taught me not to be a quitter--that if you're going to start something, you better finish it. You don't quit. So making the decision to take a medical leave from school this semester--to quit for the rest of the semester--caused a lot of cognitive dissonance. But reading that article made me think. And it got me to thinking about my current situation and whether or not it was okay to quit a second time simply because a policy stated that I had to take next semester off from school as well.
Does not being able to return next semester make my original plan unworkable? Originally, I planned for taking some time off of school, going through treatment, recovering, and returning to school for spring semester. Well. The spring semester thing was a little bit unreasonable. Recovery from an eating disorder that has taken over six years of my life is not going to happen in two months. That was an irrational part of my plan.
But now, because I cannot return to school in the spring, does that make taking time off, doing treatment, recovering, and returning to school unworkable? No. In fact, it is probably the wiser decision. Because rushing through treatment and not achieving full recovery before returning back to school will just land me right back here in another year or two.
When the timing is wrong...
The timing for treatment and recovery will never be right. I will never 'be ready for recovery.' Actually, the timing is kind of perfect--I have a school willing to work with me, parents here to support me, and no major obligations in the foreseeable future. The timing, no, is not perfect. It throws off my four year college plan. But the timing will never be perfect. The only things that are wrong with the timing are things that ED wants to get in the way of my recovery. Otherwise, the timing is pretty dang perfect.
When you thought you could do more than you can...
I'm going to apply this to a couple of different things. First, finishing this semester at Gettysburg. It was okay to quit there because I definitely was trying to do more than I was capable of in that situation. I was in a severe relapse of my anorexia, depression, and anxiety--severe enough that I was not going to class or participating in any outside activities. Quitting, or taking a medical leave, was exactly the right decision.
Second, quitting at trying to come back in the spring. One of the reasons that I was given for not being allowed to return is that there is not enough time between now and then for me to show a prolonged period of stability, which is true. As much as I and many others would like, the recovery process is not short and sweet. It's not something that I will be able to rush through in a couple of weeks. Thinking that I can achieve a point of stability and be ready to return in the spring is irrational. Full recovery takes time. And I know that if I returned in the spring without having achieved full recovery, although I may be fine for a while, I will eventually relapse. It's appropriate to quit trying to return before I am ready.
When you're changing directions...
I am changing directions with my life. I am going from a half-lived life of an eating disorder, regulated by food rules and calorie counting and routine, to a fulfilled life of walking in freedom. My life is completely changing directions. So it is okay to quit on school for a while in order to change the direction of my life.
When to keep going will deplete you of energy you need for something else...
Continuing on the path of putting my schooling ahead of my health would literally kill me. It would allow my body to waste away because of anorexia. All of the energy spent feeding my eating disorder is better spent absorbing knowledge, taking walks with friends, and living my life. Continuing on the path of anorexia will deplete me of the energy I need to live.
When you make a mistake...
I did make a mistake. My mistake was made back in high school when I choose not to buy into treatment and the idea that I had a problem. My mistake was ignoring all of my team's advice on how to avoid relapse. My mistake was thinking that I could do this on my own. And my mistake definitely cost me a lot. GPA. Friends. Experiences. I made a mistake, so quitting right now is okay. It is okay to go back, start at the beginning, and work to learn from that mistake so that I will not make it again.
When quitting is the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself at the moment...
When I first got the idea to write this post, I was thinking about the question, 'Is it okay to quit treatment because I can't come back to school next semester?' When I started writing, that's what I was thinking. But I've realized now that in the back of my mind, I've still be stuck on the idea of taking medical leave from, or quitting, school for the rest of this academic year. In the back of my mind, that was still what a question that I had. 'Is quitting school temporarily the best thing for me?'
It's this part of the philosophy of quitting that strikes me the most. Yesterday, I got into a car accident on my way to the doctor (everyone was fine--it was just a minor rear-ending because I wasn't paying attention on the off-ramp). When I went to the doctor, she was concerned that my heart rate was so low after an accident, so she did an EKG, which showed bradycardia. Basically, my heart is beating a lot slower than normal because it is having to work much harder. It's a sign, in my case, of malnutrition. It signals that my body is beginning to eat away at its own organs because its nutritional needs are not being met by actual food. She told me that I was not allowed to have caffeine, do physical activity, or any other type of stimulant. She also told me that it's probably best for me that I do not return to school in the spring because recovery takes a long time.
I know the physical complications of anorexia. And I thought I was fine. It's so easy to be wrapped up in the disorder and in fighting school policy to not look at what my body needs. My physical body needs my attention. My body needs nourishment. My body needs treatment. Quitting school for the rest of the year is definitely going to suck. I'm going to hate not being there and not having my friends around.
But it's like the article said, it is okay to quit if: "Quitting is the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself at the moment."
And right now, for me, it is.