Time For Myself

So today I started classes for the first time since my hospitalization for my mental breakdown in April. If I could describe the experience in one word, I would say it was eye opening. Being back at the campus where everything happened, where I started to realize something was wrong, where I had my first panic attack (and second… and third…. and fourth….) where I cried in the bathroom of the library while begging my dad to come get me, is all very surreal. I thought I was ready to start taking the bull by the horns, and deal with everything head on, but the reality is, I’m going to need to take my time readjusting to the college life.

The emotions that hit me as we drove closer towards campus were not at all what I had expected. I was planning on returning, and having everything go back to the way it was before my mental breakdown, before the hospital; before bipolar. This was not the case at all, because things have changed since April. People have changed, some graduating, some coming in for the first time. Campus has changed; there is now a huge construction zone directly in front of Bierce library (Thanks Akron!. Classes have changed, as I am now reconsidering my music performance major in lieu of the recent (and previous) anxieties involved in performing weekly in front of my peers. I’ve changed. I am no longer the freshman living on campus, whose only worries were what kind of food they were serving for dinner at Rob’s and whether or not my friends would be at the party I had just gotten invited to. Living with bipolar has taught me to find the things that are important, and hold on to them as tightly as possible, because otherwise, they can disappear into the sea of confusion that is my mind. With limited mental resources in terms of stability, and the amount of stress I can handle before sending myself into a relapse I’ve had to learn how to learn to prioritize my life like never before, because wasting my energy (or lack there of) on stupid sh*t that isn’t going to help me in the long run is no longer an option. I’ve cut back on the number of things I participate in, the number of social functions I go to, the number of hours I push myself to try and work while also going to school, the number of credit’s I’m taking, and I’m finding that cutting out all the unnecessary stressors made me realize just how hard I was pushing myself before.

Being the perfectionist that I am, all I wanted was to make everything work. The reality is, by doing everything, from school, to studying, to practicing, to socializing, to working long hours at night, in the end I accomplished nothing. The energy I exerted on all these tasks was minimal because there were too many things taking up my time at once. When I started scheduling less, I actually found that I was able to achieve more. Having time to sleep, eat, destress, and unwind might sound selfish at first, but this “me time” is an absolute necessity in order to survive all of the challenges that come at us as college students, and active members of society. I found that telling people “no” was incredibly hard at first, but with some practice, something that was in fact do-able. “Can you babysit tonight?”

“No. I need time to do my homework. I’m not going to put it off until 2 am and spend the next day walking around half awake and looking like a zombie.”

“Wanna go to this party with us tonight?”

“No. I have studying I need to do for next week’s test.”

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do anything fun, or that it’s bad to have a social life, or a job outside of school, or a club that you go to, but what I am saying is there is a balance. Knowing what the most important things in your life are, and scheduling time for those first is the most important step in succeeding. Then, realizing that there are things that aren’t as important and planning those more sparingly will help you to accomplish the things you want to. Saying “no” to an invite is not selfish, but necessary for your survival in college, and beyond. Unless of course you want to spend every waking moment chugging copious amounts of caffeine and ripping your hair out as you try to cope with an unmanageable amount of stress while anxiety slowly destroys your body and your mind. In that case…. Good Luck!

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