Monday, September 1, 2014

First Day of School

I survived my official first day back Gettysburg in almost a year. I managed to make it through each of my three classes today without much trouble, but now I am extremely exhausted and ready to sleep for a while (especially since my anxiety kept me up much of last night, which is just how you want to start a new semester at college...) 

Awkward first day of school picture.

Today didn't suck. Parts of it did, but as a whole, today was okay. 

I felt a great amount of shame walking into and sitting through my stats class and Introduction to Brain & Behavior, mostly because I should have completed both of these courses last fall. It is really hard for me to come to terms with having to retake them, even though I know those medical withdrawals last fall were for my health and will be best for me in the long run. Most of the time I can't see the forest for the trees, especially when it comes to my future and my recovery. 

(I know most would think retaking these courses would give me an advantage because the majority of the material--at least for the first two months--will be review. This is not the case! I was active in my eating disorder last fall, which means my brain was not processing information to long term memory as effectively as usual, thus resulting in my not remembering much of what I learned last year. I am in for a frustrating semester with these two courses... So please, stop telling me they should be easy for me.)

On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, I'm taking this course called "Writing through Conflict," taught by Hugh Martin, a contemporary author (read more about him here). It'll be an interesting course, for sure, albeit a ton of work. I think the hardest part of the course for me will be handling the stress of its workload, as well as the memories the professor's presence brings to my mind--he reminds me of someone I'd much rather forget. 

Academically, I think this semester will be okay. It'll be an intellectual challenge, but I think the hardest part will be acting against this perpetual exhaustion I've been feeling to get myself to class, get myself out of my apartment, get myself to do my work.

The most difficult part of this semester, by far, is going to be dealing with the loneliness/aloneness I've felt since arrival. Don't get me wrong--I have friends here. At least, I think I still do. Little by little, I've been realizing the friends I still have here, although it's going to take time before I feel loved and cared for and supported here again. It's going to take time to build my relationships back up. I know that, logically. 

I can't help but feel I don't have someone I can turn to here when I'm having a bad day. I feel like I'm fighting the war all on my own, which is a hard thing to do when it seems each battle is never-ending. I feel I can't articulate my needs to people here. I feel I can't share my emotions here. I feel I'm walking on such eggshells here. I thought that was because of knowing if things get bad again, I going home and not coming back, but I'm realizing it's not. 

In a conversation with someone today, I was told, "Congratulations on beating eating disorders!" I was a bit taken aback by this statement at first, until I thought about it some more. 

I think there is this expectation of people--my friends, professors, acquaintances--that once I'm back, I'm better. That ten months at home is enough to "fix me" or "make me feel better." I don't think it's anything uncommon, but most people believe mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders can be cured, when in reality, I don't think they can. 

My Brain & Behavior professor gave an example from the media in class today when talking about depression and I think it applies well here. He said someone (I forget the name) rich and famous was being interviewed on the radio and was asked how he could be depressed when he was so well-off. This person responded with a question, inquiring how someone similarly well-to-do could have asthma or cancer or any other more socially acceptable illness. 

My professor was trying to illustrate the idea of mental illness being a result of an inconsistency in the body, but I think his analogy was slightly incomplete. Mental illness is more accurately depicted as a chronic condition--asthma or allergies, for example. It's not something you can treat once and then it will go away. (Wouldn't it be nice if it worked that way?!) 

Eating disorders, like depression and like anxiety, are something you learn to live in spite of (Most people say you learn to live with these conditions, but they suck the life from you, so I think it is more accurate to say live in spite of these conditions). I am learning to live in spite of my disorders. I am earning my education in spite of my disorders. I am back at Gettysburg and got through my first day of classes in spite of my disorders. 

Let that be enough.