If I can describe the past year (from today) in one word, I think I’d use “Remarkable.” During this time last year, I wasn’t sure how my life would turn out for the next few years because I was only 92 pounds. I barely started eating three smaller meals each day, and yet I still couldn’t keep any weight on. My body realized it lacked nutrition, apparently. That’s what happens when you start eating after you barely ate a meal a day for half a year––I was so thin that most doctors legitimately believed I was anorexic. I really tried to gain weight for a while, but it didn’t stick really until near the end of July after I had been back in the pool for a month.
At the beginning of May 2017 last year, I just finished my chapters for a huge research book a group of 16 students and I published for a class (find it here). P.S., the book we wrote is about immigration––a very timely topic––and it doesn’t disappoint so it would mean the world if you bought a copy!
If you asked me last year in May if I’d return to Biola for my final semester in fall 2017, I would have replied, “I’m honestly not sure.” It was all a toss-up––I gain weight and recover, or I lose more weight and face hospitalization. Thankfully, I only gained more weight over the summer and became a lot healthier.
That tremendous progress continued throughout my last semester of undergrad from September to December. I did lose a bit of weight the first month of school because I skipped some meals, so from then on, I reminded myself to eat, even if I didn’t feel hungry.
I didn’t make complete progress during that semester, but I at least made some changes. Instead of traumatizing myself with stress, I at least shut my laptop and went out with friends or napped if homework became too stressful. In addition, I took some sick days off work, allowed more time for hangouts with friends, cared just a bit less about my grades, and generally got a good amount of sleep––I had a couple of nights where I closed at the cafe and then opened at the pool. Plus, some days, I just didn’t sleep well, but I at least tried to sleep earlier on the nights I had time. Since swimming is my stress reliever, I also swam regularly.
When I first arrived back for the fall semester, I was required to meet with the school psychiatrist. Thankfully, the appointment was beneficial––I discovered I had ADHD, which opened up my eyes to a bunch of my behaviors and emotional tendencies. For instance, I don’t focus well during long lectures, I have trouble remembering information for tests, I sometimes don’t give myself enough time to look over my shoulder while driving, and I always need at least a bit of stimulation––without it, I can become depressed or anxious. Yes, I was embarrassed at first––after all, people with ADHD are usually troublemakers––but then I realized it actually contributed to part of my energetic, joyful, and puppy-like personality.
I’ll admit, some things happened during that semester that were a bit anxiety provoking––a stressful journalism project, a class with tons of projects that sapped my time, getting upset with myself because I never did well on tests for my Bible classes––even though I studied––, and conflict with my former roommates. However, I did enjoy my semester and generally managed my anxiety well.
Regarding my physical health, another turning point came in October. I inched up to about 122 pounds. After spending some time at home during winter break, I also gained a couple more pounds. Since then, I haven’t lost weight––I’ve mostly gained muscle, plus a bit of body fat! Most women try to lose any kind of fat, but as someone who was literally skin and bones a year ago, I’m thankful that I do have some body fat––it means I’m healthy again.
My emotional health also improved quite a bit. I fought depression for the month of March, but otherwise, I generally feel much happier. My classes this semester weren’t also overly stressful and didn’t have too many assignments, so my anxiety and stress level went way down compared to the previous semesters. I’ve told several people that I have way more free time as a grad student than I ever did as an undergrad. It’s usually the opposite and, ironically, most of my peers feel the opposite: they never have time for anything, especially sleep.
Regarding my anxiety, I’ve only had one panic attack this semester. That’s largely thanks to the fluoxetine I’ve taken, but it’s also because I’ve made some thought changes. I went through a year of CBT with a therapist, but I never really could apply the strategies until my serotonin levels stabilized. Now that they have, my management strategies generally work.
For instance, I give myself breaks when working on assignments. I’ll only power through a few hours of work if I feel really great and am on a roll, but if that happens, I generally recuperate the next day. Otherwise, I burn out a couple days later.
Second, I’ve quit one of my jobs for next semester. That was a hard decision because my manager and coworkers are great people, but here’s why. I always came home upset and stressed, but I didn’t notice until I wasn’t scheduled for many hours a couple weeks ago and had some time off. I eventually realized I felt much better, happier, and less anxious. I asked myself, why in the world is it like this? After thinking things over, I discovered that, due to my performance anxiety, that job wasn’t the best fit for me. Yes, I endured it for two years, but that probably wasn’t even the best choice. Things actually improved last semester, but about two months ago, the feelings came back.
I welcome constructive criticism, but it seemed like I got it every shift, starting a month ago. You made that mistake again. Don’t forget this. You forgot that again. Make sure you do this and that. I also don’t mind reminders, but when I’ve worked a job for two years and know exactly what to do, that just really ticks me off. I was tired of people not having confidence in me––one of our shift leads didn’t even trust me to take her position when she needed a cover and designated someone else as a shift lead. This is despite the fact that I work about 20 hours a week just at that job and work very hard Now, that really hurt my feelings. So, I was done. I know better opportunities will come elsewhere. Some people can handle that environment, but I know I can’t and my mental health is far more important than money.
Thankfully, I learned I’m not actually the only person who struggles with workplace anxiety––I’ll write my next post on that, but here’s a statistic: 56 percent of respondents in an ADAA survey said anxiety and stress most often affects their workplace performance. Plus, much of that anxiety comes from staff management and dealing with issues or problems that arise. Now, I know I can’t completely avoid workplace anxiety, but when it comes to the point that I get comments every single work day––I got one within three minutes of starting my last shift this month––that’s a tad excessive.
Last year, I also discovered I had a huge problem with giving myself enough rest time. I hardly slept, ate, or had free time. Netflix was a foreign subject to me. Now? I watch a movie on the weekends, read a book for at least an hour a day, write posts for this blog, hang out with friends, and sometimes just nap. One week this month, I didn’t even do homework for four days because I was so burned out. I just slept, read, and watched movies. Honestly, I really needed that. No, we can’t just watch TV all day all the time, but think about it––employers give us vacation time for a reason. Use it.
Finally, I’ve broken myself of academic obsession. I did argue with a TA over a grade on a paper (it’s hard when you graduated with a BA in journalism, have written over 200 articles and just finished a book, and have been a TA before), but I honestly don’t care much about my grades anymore. I try hard on my assignments, but I’ve learned grading is subjective. Some professors grade harshly, yet fairly, and others just grade harsh because they will not allow anyone to earn an A in their class. I give my best effort and leave the results in God’s hands. Even if a human doesn’t like my work, I at least know God is proud.
In addition, I don’t obsess over smaller assignments anymore. I’ve learned that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket (excuse the cliche, but it really works here), so it’s wise to invest in the bigger projects and just turn in the smaller assignments. As long as I learn something, that’s all that matters.
I’ve come such a long way in the last year. Who would’ve thought a perfectionist could learn to let things go? Who would’ve thought that a workaholic could break free from her drive and learn to relax? Who would’ve thought that a young woman that looked like a skeleton could actually look like a human being again? Thank you, Lord, for the ways you always work in my life. Thank you, my readers, for following this journey and supporting me. I hope these posts continue encouraging you.