Over these past few months, I have had a rough semester. This was a result of familial issues and issues regarding my mental health. I reached a point where I had to decide if I should stay in school or take a leave of absence for a semester to focus on my health. Ultimately, I decided that I was going to fight through the pain, given that it was the second semester of my senior year of college.
In my last week of classes, I was talking on the phone with my mother about a research paper for my class. She told me that my grades scared her because she knew I had been struggling with the paper. I realized however that the success of my paper and my GPA could not possibly encompass all that I had overcome this semester. I had been consistently bingeing and purging, self-harming, and spending nights on the phone with friends and family as I could not fall asleep due to anxiety. Despite all of this, I survived. It would be a lie if I said I haven’t thought of suicide. I had visions, graphic visions, of doing unspeakable things to myself. In therapy, my therapist frequently discussed how exhaustion puts us in a state of vulnerability, which makes us more likely to fall into bad habits. Without compassion for ourselves, there is no way to overcome the exhaustion.
There were times when I had to skip class or spend longer sleeping. There were times where I had to hand in assignments late. When compared to other students, it can make you feel at times that you are lazy or irresponsible. However, if you had a busy and productive day and know that exhaustion will ensue, then practice self-compassion. Take a 10-minute nap in the library. Give yourself a massage. Go for a walk. It’s better to survive and take care of yourself than to survive and not feel stable enough to take on the future.
When in school, we think that grades are the only thing that define our success and ability to have a bright future. However, if we aren’t taking care of ourselves and repeating habits rooted in self-deprecation, then how are we supposed to be tackle all of the obstacles that are to come in the future? In the future, I hope to reach a place where exhaustion doesn’t always result in the return of bad habits, but mentally I have not reached that place yet in my life. So, for now, self-compassion has become my ultimate priority.
When my mother said she was worried for my grades, my response was that my success will not be determined by my grades this semester. Instead, my success will be defined by my ability to persevere through all of the obstacles thrown my way this semester. I am surviving. I am taking care of myself. I am focusing on my health. At this point in my life, those are the greatest successes I could possibly hope for. The more I realize that, the more I realize the change and growth I’ve been able to make on my path to recovery.