I’m two weeks into the fall semester of my junior year and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I’m at the same school, in the same program, surrounded by the same classmates but everything seems so different. I’m rested. I’m not overwhelmed. The storm inside my head has been relatively calm. I’ve even loosened up enough to allow myself to go out twice since I’ve been back. This eased state of mind terrifies me.
I’ve been very anxious since I began my college education. I would stay up late night after night, studying until I could hardly keep my eyes from shutting. Then, I would pour myself a cup of coffee and press on. I spent the past two years like this. Pounds evaporated from my body until skin and bone were all I had left, and I didn’t bother putting on makeup or wearing presentable clothes. Rather, I dressed more strategically, layering on all sorts of tights and sweatshirts and coats to keep myself from freezing to the bone in the frigid winter. I looked more like a scared little girl than I did a young woman. I felt more like a scared little girl than I did a young woman.
While the state of mind I spent the first half of my college education enduring held me captive in a perpetual state of emotional turmoil, the idea of continuing my education without such a mindset is unsettling. While I was incredibly unhappy, my grades were nearly impeccable. Driven by anxiety and self doubt, I would study day and night, doing whatever it would take to achieve stellar marks. At one point during my freshman year, my lab instructor even referred to me as “the girl who gets hundreds on everything”. Comments like this make me squirm. Receiving a good grade always makes me feel a little sad. All I can think about is the extremes I push myself to, the despairs I collapse into, all for a mark on an assignment or exam. Honestly, I don’t believe I’m actually smart. I’m nothing but an anxious perfectionist- a fraud.
Everyone in this program is brilliant. All my classmates seem so knowledgeable, confident and ambitious. They have their shit together, and they still find time to have friendships and happiness. I’m not so brilliant. I’m the polar opposite of confident. I don’t have friends and I haven’t felt much happiness since I began my college education. My classmates are truly and genuinely intelligent. I, on the other hand, simply get anxious. The past two years have been grueling as I’ve slaved to the irrational worries spinning in my head; however I’m afraid that if I finally quiet my mind, my cover will slip and it will finally be revealed what a phony I really am.
I’m not quite sure what I’m more afraid of at the moment. I worry that this is only the calm before the storm, that my anxiety will return in full strength and drown me in its illusions of doom. At the same time, I’m afraid of not being afraid. What if I can’t do this without being fueled by anxiety? While I want to be happy and have friends and enjoy college, I also want to be smart. I want to pass my NCLEX and be a good nurse and maybe even get into a good grad school. I just can’t find a sense of balance, or a sense of acceptance for myself.
It should play out to be an interesting semester and an interesting year. Hell, it should play out to be an interesting rest-of-my-bachelors-degree. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever be successful, if I’ll ever be happy and if I’ll ever make it. I guess all I can do is be kind and gentle to myself and to the world around me. Maybe then, I’ll find acceptance in the world and acceptance in myself.
Thank you all for reading.