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Mental Health

Take All the Time You Need to Heal: What I Wish I’d Known My Freshman Year

I know I am not alone when I say that my freshman year was hard. 

I went into college hoping that I could leave behind the struggles I’d faced in high school. I thought that by beginning in a new place, with new friends, I could forget about the eating disorder that I’d lived with since I was thirteen. 

I relapsed hard, very quickly. 

I was given an ultimatum from my dietician. I scheduled an intake for eating disorder treatment, something I’d sworn would never happen again. Less than a week later I was told a bed was waiting for me at an eating disorder hospital back home. I was terrified. I didn’t think I was ‘sick’ enough, but I agreed to being admitted, thinking I’d be back at school in a week or so. 

I sat in the Dean of Students Office, signing the forms I was handed. I remember the woman sitting across the desk from me. She looked at me with kind, sad, eyes, and told me that I should really consider taking the semester off, that the schoolwork I’d miss while I was gone would accumulate and it would be very hard to catch back up. I smiled, nodded, and assured her I would make it work. 

There are doctors standing in the hallway of a hospital.
Oles Kanebckuu

A couple weeks into my hospitalization I made the decision to medically withdraw for the semester. I was plagued with so many insecurities. I thought I was going to fall behind. I thought I’d be judged. I worried people back home would see me and wonder what had happened. I thought that choosing to leave school was a sign of weakness. 

I wish I’d known that leaving was the bravest thing I’d ever do. 

I wish I had known that I wasn’t throwing myself off track. 

I wish I had known that it is okay to take time off. 

I wish I’d known that there is no set timeline, no ‘right’ way to do college.

Happy Lifestyle
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash

I wish I could have known that in the years following, I’d go back to school and meet lifelong friends. I couldn’t have guessed that I’d become a yoga teacher and teach my own classes to hundreds of students. I’d go on to complete two majors and a minor. I’d join a sorority. I’d join Her Campus, and write articles published to a national collegiate community. I would travel the world, study abroad in South Africa. I had absolutely no idea how many incredible opportunities were waiting for me. 

When I left school my freshman year, I didn’t realize I was taking my life back. I was giving myself the chance to get stronger. Taking the time I needed to heal was the best decision I’d ever make. 

Please know that it is okay to pause, to take a moment (or a week, or a month, or a year) to check in with yourself and slow down. It’s easy to get caught up in comparisons.

Mary Oliver writes, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I’m going to take this one wild, precious, beautiful life of mine and never stop growing. 


Sarah Dwyer

U Mass Amherst '21

Sarah is a psychology and English double major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is hoping to become an English teacher. Sarah is a writer, a runner, and a registered yoga teacher. On campus Sarah is a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, a member of the UMass chapter of CHAARG, writes articles for the UMass chapter of Hercampus, and teaches yoga classes at the campus recreation center. Look out for Sarah’s posts on mental health, fitness, study abroad, and all things wellness.
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