by Colleen Baker, mental health blogger
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how different my college experience has been from high school. I’ve seen my disorders become more under control and have found myself riddled with more joy in this short year and a half than I ever did back then.
High school was a time of crazy expectations—from myself, my parents, my teachers, my friends and my school as a whole. Being the over-involved, “Suzy High School” as I was so lovingly called, I felt wonderfully busy and respected, but found myself spending more therapy sessions discussing how to be happy with myself for me and not for what others wanted me to be. As choir president, editor of the paper, musical star, etc. I found myself in a constant state of self evaluation, never feeling that I could live up to this title that I was given.
One thing that I loved to do in high school and that set me free from feeling under surveillance was write. My mentor, Ms. Lauren Fazzio, gave me the drive and confidence to get everything down on paper. So I wanted to allow my readers to get inside my psyche at the time of my bulimia’s peak, my anxiety’s takeover, and my fears of not making it to the end of my senior year. It was also at this point that I realized who I really was and finally had some level of pride in how far I had come. I entitled this “Me.”
“Gross. I look in the mirror, horrified at what I see. I haven’t eaten in about 36 hours, a pimple mocks me on my lower left chin, my eyebrows scream the need for heavy plucking and my teeth that were once perfect have gotten less than white lately. I am a mess. Today sounds unappealing and the depression etched onto my brain refuses to rub off. I lean closer into the mirror and examine every blotch and acne scar. I find it amazing that anyone would find me attractive, especially today. My stomach gargles, reminding me of my hunger, but also shoots the idea into my busy head to stare at my stomach some more. There remains to be a tiny portion of fat still hanging by my hip bone. I got a B on my math quiz yesterday and I barely had a voice in choir. I am such a failure. It takes all of the might in my body to push myself on with the day instead of crawling into and hiding in my warm bed. This is a step up from last year, I suppose.
Flash forward four years. Now, as a senior, I throw some makeup onto my tired face and run a straightener through my newly-dyed brown hair. Changes mentally bring about changes physically. Perfume splashes onto my neck, sending out a violent scent of Britney Spears through my room. Its time to put on the “Colleen Baker” face that I have mastered over the years, including a huge, white-toothed smile, eyebrows that almost always stay in a raised position and witty comments to follow up intelligent statements. But I don’t need to pretend anymore. I really am just about that happy. I hear the beginning “hellos” of the day as I walk into school.
It is right about here in my routine that I realize I am Colleen Baker. The Colleen Baker that has respect and has seen and been through things that many couldn’t even fathom. I have seen the insides of many therapists’ offices and have worked from the bottom up. A mental disorder has always seemed to follow me, ranging from anxiety to bulimia, but I take these experiences and put them to use in my life somehow today. When you’ve been in the depths of personal hell and can climb your way back up to civilization, life seems a lot simpler afterwards. Everything from there on is a pleasant surprise. I walk by my “Student of the Month” picture hanging in the Commons and give it a wink. Somehow I must have worked on myself enough to attain a level of success.
I look in the mirror and see an ugly witch on some days. Other days find me greeting the mirror back with a huge grin and a refusal of giving into my fear of life. Baby steps are what I take toward ultimate happiness. I look deep into my eyes and accept that there will never be a complete cure; there will always be something in the back of my head, nagging at my sanity. My golden brown hair meets my cheek bones with a little bit of a healthy full layer, highlighting my astoundingly blue eyes. My body is ever-changing, but I have learned to love every curve and imperfection. Every morning is a challenge, but also an opportunity to create a miracle for myself.”
I felt as though this little ditty sums up a large part of my experience with my varying disorders thus far. Perfection may be what we think is expected, but life is far from all about satisfying expectations. Loving yourself is the most important part. I’d like to think that this bulimic/anorexic/anxiety case/obsessive compulsive “crazy” has come a very far way. So, as finals are upon us and we find it easy to fret and badger our brains, we have to look back and be proud of what we’ve accomplished. It is probably much more than you’d think.
Counseling Center: 315-443-4715. Help is never out of reach.
Editor’s Note: What the Health Online and What the Health magazine are not licensed to give medical advice. The tips above are simply tips from a student with experience. If you are struggling with a mental disorder, please refer to your doctors to seek options that are right for you.