Most students lament the end of summer and the start of classes, butnot this chick! I’ve always (secretly) liked buying new school supplies, sharpening up some pencils, and packing up the backpack to begin a new school year. From first through twelfth grade, getting ready for the first day of school also involved buying uniforms (I went to Catholic schools) which most students hated, but yet again I secretly loved. Let’s just say in middle school – when you’re already feeling pretty awkward – life is a lot easier when everyone is forced to wear the same thing.
But tonight is a little different. Tomorrow is my last first day – at least until I start medical school, which will not be until a year or two after I graduate Cornell. So it’s my last first day for awhile. I have a few of my books, I finalized my schedule (I think), and I have a few dull pencils leftover from my summer class. I didn’t lay out an outfit, make a lunch, or pack my backpack. If I really take a look at my preparations (or lack thereof) I’m showing some signs of denial of the end of summer. Denial is something I couple write a whole post (or ten posts) on, so I’ll save that for a rainy day 😉
I think what feels different is that I’m more self-aware – both positively and negatively. I’ve learned a lot about myself throughout my recovery and now put more value in my beliefs, views, and morals than I do in grades or athletics. BUT – at the same time I’m more aware of my ED thoughts. Although recognizing the thoughts is definitely a good thing, it is frustrating when I can hear these thoughts in my head but A.) not be able to get rid of them and B.) not totally get why they are cropping up in the first place.
I saw my therapist today for the first time in three weeks because, long story short, she went on vacation, then I went on vacation, then we were both on vacation. While I was on vacation, I felt really great and relaxed. I admit I had my usual “low-level” of restrictive thoughts from time to time – but these are the guys I’ve totally learned to tune out. These are the little, tiny guilt trips I get after eating something I consider “bad”, etc…but they are completely manageable because my rational thought is much stronger. I follow my meal plan from my nutritionist and thus have been able to conquer these thoughts, which I had been having less and less for awhile.
However, over the past four days since I have returned to Ithaca I’ve been having much stronger restrictive thoughts than I’ve had since the beginning of my recovery in February/March 2010. I told my therapist all this (I try to catch these things before they get out of hand). We discussed change, and how change apparently makes me so anxious that I return to the only coping mechanism I know that “works” for me for that level of anxiety. She said that even though these thoughts make me uncomfortable and angry, it’s more comfortable for me to think this way than to sit with the anxiety of starting my senior year and all that goes along with that.
After my appointment I let that thought sit for awhile and then began to pick apart exactly what is going to change this year. I’ll be taking at least one gap year before applying to medical schools, so I have to find and apply for short-term jobs in labs or hospitals. I will not be living in Ithaca, and hopefully not moving home, after this year. I will no longer be a competitive swimmer (I’ve already made the decision that this will definitely be my last year of swimming after swimming competitively for 15 years). But when I think about all of that, I’m actually more excited than anything. When I’m done here I feel like I’ll be able to really start my life – to pursue my passions on a daily basis, to choose a life and activities I want, and to move on and forward from here. I can’t really pinpoint any specific change that I consider negative – I’m probably just anxious because of all the changes happening at once.
I’m almost grateful for the thoughts because they allow me to see when something is out of balance in my life. Right now, I think it’s the limbo between having an amazing time with my family and old friends while I was on vacation and the start of classes and swim practices on the horizon. They also help me notice when I might be cutting something out unconsciously, be it using a little less peanut butter on my sandwich than I’m supposed to or having too small of a snack while I’m at work. Now that I can recognize the thoughts, they’re more like a warning signal for me to look at what is mentally, physically, or emotionally out of balance. And though I despise having the thoughts, I’m really glad I am strong enough to combat them now and get back into a healthy balance.
On a not-so-deep note, I’m super psyched for classes to start tomorrow! I was getting a little lonely just chilling watching TV the last couple days (Oh how I will give for a couple of days of TV watching once exams come around). I really like having a routine, meeting new people, and seeing my friends for practices and in classes. Andddddd…my first class tomorrow is “Creative Writing!!!” So I’m really excited for that. Writing is such a great tool for me and my recovery, so getting three credits while doing recovery work can’t get much better! Thursday I start my 5 credit Genetics class (my last HUGE hurdle as a Bio major) and a class called “Natural Remedies and Ethnohealth” that sounds so odd but cool at the same time. I’ll also be a teaching assistant for a class, but that won’t start up until next week. Swim practices start next week and I’m psyched to get back in the pool with my new and old teammates.
I’ll sum up with the words of Billy Madison: “Back to schoooool, backkk toooo schoool, to prove to Dad that I’m not a foolllll.” 🙂