Looking Backward, Stepping Forward

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

It has been 3 weeks  now since I have been home from college. I managed to get through my third year of college, and my first year at Ithaca. And I am very, very tired.

Going into Ithaca I struggled. I felt incompetent. My brain felt rusted-over from a perturbing semester abroad, and a distressing summer spent working jobs that well, I sure as hell didn’t love. I was hoping, dreaming that Ithaca would be my place, that I would find my people. The strain of the cost of college and being unable to find employment gnawed at me constantly, and I faced an immense fear that I would not do well in my classes and that I would not succeed. But in the end, I pulled through and managed to make Dean’s List. Twice.

While I  had at least come to accept that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was still living in denial. At midterms in October, I pushed too hard, stressed too much and had a painful flare that left me incapacitated. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t finish my midterm essay. At the moment, I was frustrated, but there is still an immense wave of frustration and shame. I can’t work the way that I used to anymore. I felt like an alien trapped in my own body.

But I made it and whipped my mind back into shape. I approached the next semester eager and ready for my second round with 18 credits. But within a month, I realized that it was way too much. The cold of CNY winter chilled me to the core. My body, already exhausted from engaging in RA’s driving my immune system into a warp speed frenzy of ‘cannibalistic’ practices tired so easily with the cold. I could sleep for 12 hours a day, and still be sleepy. My class load was more intense, wading deeper into upper-level classes that require more time, thought, and homework I found I had next to no time to socialize. Sleep and School. On top of this, I forgot how cloudy and dreary CNY is, and I felt the lack of sun in my productivity and my overall mood.

There comes a point in all of this that I suddenly realized that part of me regretted my decision to come to Ithaca. That perhaps, I made the wrong choice. As the semester progressed, I realized that while I was making friends, I was making more acquaintances than friends. I felt so incredibly lonely. As an old soul, non-drug/non-alcohol user, who is always incredibly emotionally invested in everything, and a painfully shy introvert posing as an extrovert, I felt like I hadn’t found my people. And I need my people for support. As I thought about reaching out to other friends in other places, I found myself hesitating and stressing over whom to turn to.

I felt super shaken still about grades and academics, and for a few brief weeks seriously considered dropping my second major in history down to a minor. Will I even be capable of grad school, or would my RA reduce me to a dependent, pathetic mess? Which rattled me enough that I became unsure of what it is that  I want to do.

On the brink of despair, I finally admitted that it was time to sit down and see a therapist. So I did. And I will continue to do so in the fall. I still have a lot of mourning and emotional processing to do with my RA. And the first step has been realizing no more  18 credits a semester. The second step had been accepting that I need to exercise and yoga consistently to keep my body strong but to also manage stress and keep it low. Thirdly I need to choose wisely where and into whom I put my time and energy.

I still feel lost, I still feel uncertain, I still feel alone. But I know that I must, that I can, and that I will endure. I know that I will make the most of my remaining classes, and next year will continue to cultivate the good friendships and things in my life. I’ve bought some books on RA to help educate me moving forward. So far this summer I’m already feeling recharged. I’ve been running with my mom and I have been significantly less stressed. I have spent some beautiful moments with some friends that have made me feel loved and supported and capable of taking on the world.

It is difficult some days but I have to keep thinking forward, to not let my pain and new limitations get me down. I can, and I will succeed if I put my mind to it.