An Unexpected Year, Healing and Care w/o Pretense

Hey all… welcome back to my pink room!

Grab a seat, get comfortable… we might be here for a little while. So last week I began a story that today I hope to finish. We are going to jump right back into the story so before reading on make sure to check out “Monday Musings” if you haven’t already. Today’s chat might be a little longer than usual so buckle up.

Okay, let’s get started. Last week we left off with a girl, frozen under the weight of a burdensome world somewhere in an on campus infirmary that banned the use of scissors at the close of her sophomore fall. Oh and if somehow you missed it that girl was me.

So you might guess, this would be the moment for me to finally accept that maybe, just maybe something was wrong. Either I was unwell or something really need to change. And I am not going to lie when I found out about the whole no scissor rule, definitely started to feel like I had completely gone mad.

I remember video calling my mom, from this kind of disturbing white painted room, lying propped up against a white pillow under bright white sheets and she looked at me like in that moment I was going to break. And in a kind of whisper, looking at me but not really to me she said “you know they must think you are going to hurt yourself or something.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say. The therapist had just asked me if I wanted to rest a little and I was so tired. I had been tired for months. But I should have known. There must have been a mistake. I assured her that this was no more than some kind of mixup. I didn’t belong there. I had been fooled or hoodwinked or something. I was not sick. I was well.

Nonetheless, when I finally went back home for winter break my parents were pretty freaked out. My mom was kind of hysterical and kept asking if I should really even go back there. Why did they send me there, etc, etc, etc. But I despite her pleas was unrelenting on my desire to go back in the spring. What they did not know was that I needed to go back. I knew the plan all fell apart if I didn’t attend a top university for 4 years.

My parents ultimately relented but insisted if I did go baCk that then something had to change because they were really having trouble believing that I could be “well” and end up in that no scissors white-painted on-campus infirmary room. And to be honest as much as I fought them on this, part of me wanted to try something else because at this point I really hated working so hard to just do normal life things I guess. If you have ever felt worried that you were not safe with yourself then you know what I mean.

So the big change was sophomore spring I began to see a therapist weekly.

She was nice and all. But I still wasn’t quite sure what was supposed to
happen. I was still having on average 3-5 panic attacks a week, which was
actually better than the 2-3 a day that was sophomore fall but nevertheless not fun. I was afraid all the time. I still wasn’t a genius. And felt exhausted like most of the time. But all in all, I was doing better. School and I were kind of on a break though. I skipped my first-class sophomore spring. And got my first C in a class. And handed in my first essay 2 weeks late.

Despite the year I had, I still managed to get an internship that summer and spent 3 months living in Germany which was pretty amazing. I came back junior year and made a choice that given my relationship with school had felt kind of radical and that was to switch majors (from math to philosophy). Junior year was like 100 times better than sophomore year and I actually was decently good at philosophy classes it seemed. I got my first and likely only A in a math class. I was eating regularly. And had become pretty comfortable with my weekly therapy sessions. In total last year, my junior was by far my best year at college. It was the year I had been wishing for since freshman year.

And then you know the story that followed already (if not you should really check out “Books and Executions (Part 1)“), but long story short this past summer was an absolute assault on my well being and quickly sent me back to the waters of panic, grief and the constant flow of tears.

But it was different than before.

I was still seeing the same therapist from sophomore year every week. I honestly was dealing with everything much better. And the panic or even the fear did not stop me from really enjoying my summer. I started an educational justice initiative in my hometown and it was giving me a lot of meaning and purpose. I spent two months working as a research associate with a professor I adored. I was writing a play that was supposed to be performed the spring of my senior year. And was still continuing to build strong relationships with friends and family despite the distance.

So by all accounts, I wasn’t broken or at least I didn’t feel broken. Yeah I wasn’t well all the time but also in so many respects I still was able to thrive. So why the gap year? If you had me asked me honestly just months before I would have told you gap years are saved for when all hell breaks loose and you literally need to take a break or risk no return. But …well that’s actually where the whole freedom and growth part enter the conversation.

Let’s jump back to the end of my junior spring. At this point I had been thinking a lot about a possible gap year because well COVID was nasty as ever and I had become increasingly invested in my new educational initiative and also deeply moved to fight on behalf of my brother’s academic dreams.

I thought I might need some time away from school to really pursue my passions. And with pandemic life only extending, the uncertainty of an unstructured year somehow seemed just slightly less daunting. The world was already completely out of control, so no matter what I chose I wouldn’t be able to force it back into the comfortable submission I had enjoyed prior to a global pandemic. As time continued into summer, my desire to pursue a gap year actually continued to increase. I wanted to take a year and explore a terrain I just never would have imagined before.

But remember that plan I told you about… well it started speaking, well yelling back at me. My thoughts began to spiral as much around a ruined plan and therefore a decimated future as much as it did around the excitement of something new. I wanted to rest. I wanted to actually enjoy the bit of energy and wellness I had found somewhere amongst the numbness and grief before throwing it away for school and all its accompanying demands. But honestly it was like at my core I knew that I just wasn’t sick enough to care for myself.

But here is the crazy part on August 16th, I just decided to do it. Despite all the rumbling in my stomach and panic in my thoughts I just did it. And it was in that moment I claimed my freedom. Because I realized that there is no masterplan behind life. It’s just life. I realized in the moment following my confirmation for a 1-year-leave-of-absence that my journey towards freedom was deciding that sometimes its okay to just choose myself. I did not need ulterior motives or the next steps in some master plan of success to choose rest. And sometimes I can be completely okay and still choose to invest in my own healing.

So that was a lot I hope you enjoyed the ride. but You now have a little peak into the kind conversations and stories I have been telling myself over the past few weeks. I hope my story might inspire you to continue to write and tell your own stories.

But that’s all I got guys. I just wanted to say again as we move into week 7 of this blog that I am so grateful for all of you who have stuck around to join me on this pink room journey. It has been such a pleasure and I know my walls are happy too finally for a little relief from the constant sound of my voice. Well, I hope to see you all back here real soon in the pink room.

Till then!

P.s. For those of you who have been patiently waiting in anticipation for the next installation of our “School and Roots” series, I promise we will be jumping back in very soon. Next time we’ll be talking about Pink Valley’s first attempt at a school of their own making but in the meantime definitely check out “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions (Part 4)” from a couple weeks ago to make sure you are all caught up.

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