Tag: College

Tales of Recovering in College Pt. 1 – “Oh My Gosh, She’s Eating!”

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on December 7, 2017. 

As you may or may not know, I committed to the process of mental and physical healing from my eating disorder and trauma the same week I began college. “Recovering” while simultaneously being a full-time college student has been the most difficult, rewarding, and eye-opening time of my life.

I’ve always been an observant girl, but recovery – and education gained from therapy – has granted me with such a unique perspective on the things that happen around me. In addition, recovery has provided me with some special opportunities for learning, growth, and outreach. I would love to share with you some random, personal stories from this season of my life.

  1. “Oh my gosh, she’s eating!”

Something I’ve grappled with and struggled through is watching how other college students and teachers treat food at school. When I started my first few months of school, I was quite sick, and it was crucial for me to stick to a meal plan of 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Now, at that point, it was a struggle for me to follow the meal plan, because I was not far in my recovery. Food felt like an obstacle for me to overcome every day. I was severely uncomfortable with my body and with the idea of eating around people. To make things more challenging, most of my classes were around lunch time.

In one of my classes – during my first year – I had a stern teacher who made it an actual rule that we couldn’t eat in her classroom. This was really bad for me and my sensitive blood sugar, and I often left her class feeling dizzy or faint. I don’t understand why she was so against the idea of eating, because her class was from 11:30-1:20.

In the classes where I was allowed to eat, it was almost equally challenging. In two other lunch time classes, I knew that I needed to eat my lunch. However, I can promise you that I was the only one who ever ate in those classes…It perplexes me. As a girl who was (at the time) fighting against personal urges to skip meals, it certainly didn’t help to feel like the odd one out. Yet, I chose to take care of myself. I’ll probably never forget the boy who sat next to me and made comments about my food choices every single day. He always drew attention to my lunch, making me feel like I was weird for eating.

(Pause: You’re probably thinking, “Jeez girl, just stop scheduling classes at lunch time.” But it’s not that simple. I had to take specific classes, and most often, the ones I needed were at that time.)

My therapist always encouraged me, saying, “I bet if you continue to eat in class, others will get the courage to do the same.” Yet, our hope never came to be.

I remember walking into a new class one day and seeing that we were going to sit in a circle instead of rows of desks. I knew that if I were to eat, people would certainly be able to watch me. Time went by, and again, nobody else ate in that class during the lunch time hours.

One day I had a sandwich and some veggies, and it was probably the most agonizing lunch I’ve had at school. The boy next to me commented on it, and I was sure the crunching of the sliced bell peppers could be heard by several people. So, I got creative and started making smoothies for that class. I felt like pulling a cup out of my backpack and drinking out of a straw would be less distracting to others, and would keep their eyes off of me.

But hold on! Why should I have to feel alienated? Why should I care or change because of what people might be thinking about my food choices and my decision to eat at school? Sure, crunching can be slightly distracting, but I don’t think it’ll ruin anyone’s day. It’s not like I’m chomping away during a test.

That was a turning point for me. By the end of my first year, I was really tired of feeling like I had to hide or feel like I was “wrong” for eating. It was really inhibiting me from being able to relax and focus on academics as much as I wanted to.

I decided that I didn’t want food to feel like an obstacle at school anymore. Year two rolled around, and I was ready for things to be different.

Of course, then, on the first day of Biology, my teacher said “You can’t eat in this class, because there could be chemicals in the lab. Only drinks are acceptable.” While I understood the safety hazard, I was not sure how I’d get through 12:30-3:20 without eating. (And I had a class that ended at 12:20, so eating lunch before that class wasn’t an option.) But, I care too much about my health to neglect to nourish my body anymore. So, even though I don’t prefer substituting lunch with a smoothie, I had to make lunch fit in a cup. But let me tell you: I have become the best darn smoothie maker there is; and I had fun finding creative ways to pack enough calories and density into my cup.

In that class, I would unashamedly pull out my clear smoothie cup, and others could see it. Sadly, most classmates were often dozing off, having difficulty focussing, complaining of hunger, and running on coffee for three hours. There were a few instances where my classmates would say, “I’m so hungry! This class is so long, and right during lunch time!” In response, I would always say, “Yeah, that’s why I bring big smoothies every day!” But none of them ever did the same. So, yet again, I was the only one who fueled myself each day. I’m guessing some people were able to eat before that class began; but judging on so many people’s comments and tiredness, I think many of them did not.

All of this has made me so curious, and I’ve been trying to broaden my perspective to figure it out. A friend and I were trying to solve this mystery of why people don’t eat in classes at our school, and she pointed out: “For a lot of people, I think eating is like sleeping. It’s a normal thing to do, but we prefer to only do it in front of people we’re comfortable with.” I think this is a good point. It seems like there’s a general stigma or discomfort about the idea of eating in classes. Though, I’m not sure where this discomfort is stemming from. While my personal discomfort stemmed from an eating disorder, I don’t suspect everyone else has the same issues I had. Why aren’t the average, healthy students bringing food to classes?

Possible reasons are that some people eat beforehand; others say they don’t have enough time to make food; and in some classes, engaging activities could prohibit one from eating. Now, I can’t get inside everyone’s heads, but it looks like a lot of people don’t feel comfortable eating in front of others; and some people do not prioritize it. This is something I’d love to see change.

You see, eating is a natural, survival instinct and action. I really think is should be treated as a normalized thing to do at school. I don’t want to feel alienated for being the only person eating lunch. I shouldn’t have to look forward to the days when I getto eat lunch at home, because I won’t feel people’s eyes glide over to me and silently judge (or envy) my food.

Food is necessary. Eating to fuel for success in school is necessary. Eating is normal. Let’s all treat it as normal. Let’s feel comfortable taking care of ourselves.

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Calm after the “Storm” (or the Meltdown in My Car).

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on November 18,  2016. 

I feel like an update is LONG overdue…But I got caught in the whirlwind of my first term of college. So, I’m forcing myself to rest and write this post today.

I just finished week 8 out of 11 in school! It’s such an eye-opening and stretching transition from homeschool to college. But truthfully, I’ve handled it better than I had expected. By the grace of God, my anxiety was relatively low for the first 4 weeks. And I still have not had a full blown panic attack. However, at the end of week 4, I found myself sobbing in my car because I was so worn out. Though I was getting by okay and getting good grades, I had no real joy, no extra energy, no time for enjoyable activities, and no margin! My quiet times with the Lord were also suffering. After thinking for a while, I realized I was stretching myself too thin and trying to fill too many roles: I was trying to be sister, daughter, perfect student, friend, small group leader, Christ-follower, and blogger; All the while, I’ve been intentionally focussing on taking care of my physical and emotional well being and recovery. Though some people are totally able to handle this many roles in life, I am not one of those high-fuctioning people. Something had to change immediately.

Unfortunately, the only realistic option I could see to alleviate my stress was to step down from ministry. So, currently I’m taking a break from leading a small group of middle schoolers. It was a really hard choice to feel at peace about, but It’s not forever. And it’s made an incredible difference!

I’m really valuing the idea of having margin in my life. Before this, when my schedule was wall to wall with homework, family time, and ministry, I didn’t really have time to say yes to anything spontaneous. I was using any free time I had to rest at home. But now that I’m freed up a bit, I’ve been enjoying the ability to say yes to some random opportunities!

Some examples are having time to be with Jesus, talk to a friend on the phone, or write a blog. Another is just going to my grandparents’ house after school to sip coffee, do homework, and have quality family time that’s been absent.  Also,  just going out to spend time with friends has been so nice. I can not tell you how nice it feels to laugh again…I feel so much more like myself than I have in a long time! Now, I can even go on an occasional run and get some endorphins released.

I think that balancing a schedule is probably one of the hardest things to do. I’ve heard lots of other people say the same. It’s a fine dance! I mean, we’re never REALLY done working, but we also HAVE to limit ourselves and allow for rest and fun. Otherwise we’re going to get tightly wound, sick, and lose our sense of self. So, that’s why I think it’s so valuable to have some margin.

I still struggle with perfectionism and over-working myself a lot, as well. But I am learning the value of rest and flexibility.

This is just the season of life I’m in, and I’m trying to do what I know is best for me. But I hope that my choice to take care of myself will encourage you to also think about whether or not you’re making the best of your own time.

The Voyager Left On Her Own

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on November 4,  2016. My first post as a college student!

Tuesday:

It was a normal day in my college writing class until my teacher (she calls herself our “captain”) threw an unexpected group project on us 40 minutes before class ended. The assignment was to collaborate and come up with a problem and offer a solution.

Unfortunately, I was partnered with three students who all displayed obvious discomfort and lack of confidence with this assignment. I could sense their lack of motivation right away, so I pulled out my laptop and started researching ideas. Figuring out an issue took half the time, and the last half was spent trying to come up with possible solutions. Now, I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but truly my colleagues offered little to no solutions, and I came up with all the ideas. Two of them sat there staring into space and one was just laughing about it.

Recognizing that this assignment was important because of extra credit for the winning group, I had to take charge. I offered to give the presentation on the day it was due if they would research and come up with some more details on how to solve the problem (homelessness in Salem) and email them to me. I would put all of the info into a constructed presentation.

Sounds reasonable, right? They looked relieved when I offered to do the technical work.

With everyone’s part of the project delegated, I gave them my email address, so that they could send me their findings by the next afternoon. (The presentation was due Thursday).

I got nervous and started doing my own work. Eventually, this happened:

Wednesday:

I had already made a bit of progress when partner #1 emailed me. He gave some random paragraphs which had no links to where he found the data; and he offered zero solutions. So I replied, saying thank you and asking for clarification and more help…

No response.

Then Partner #2 emailed me about 3 sentences saying, “couldn’t really think of anything     else.”

And partner #3 sent me nothing…

I became frustrated as I realized nobody was taking it seriously and that I was going to be doing all of the work. But I pushed through and completed the assignment in a few hours that night. I emailed my colleagues again to see if they’d like to suggest any changes to the proposal, and they didn’t.

 Thursday:

Before class, two of my classmates asked me how the assignment went. I explained to them how stressed I felt and how I was dreading the presenation. “It’s gonna suck. It’s really subpar,” I explained. Because that was truly how I felt.

I approached my teacher, telling her exactly what had happened, because there was extra credit on the line for this assignment. I felt it would be wrong to let any of my parteners take credit for what I had done. She thanked me and said, “Wow, in all my years of teaching this class, I’ve never had this happen. They won’t be receiving the same amount of credit as you.”

My teacher had a chat with my partners, and we decided that I would present the proposal on my own. I was going to be my “own group.”

So while every other team walked to the podium as a group of 3-5 kids, I gave mine by myself…And that was a very unsettling feeling for me…I felt that I was being looked at differently and the I was at a disadvantage. At the same time, though, I was glad that I was presenting my work as my own.

So, after I read my proposal with the most passion that I could, I looked up, everyone started clapping, and my captain looked proudly at me. She pounded her fist on her desk, saying, “Politician, Jessica! You’re going to change politics!”  Now, I don’t know exactly what she meant. BUT, to get that woman to smile and react was a great feeling. (She’s a tough cookie).

Here’s where it got interesting. It came time to offer constructive feedback and criticism to each group one by one, and I was NERVOUS to be criticized…I’m awfully hard on myself when it comes to the quality of my work (and really everything else I do).

“What did you all think of Jessica’s proposal on how to solve homelessness?” Ms. Tobey asked the class.

Much to my surprise, nothing but positive feedback was given! My captain even said, “You constructed it perfectly! That could almost be handed in as an essay.” These words from her are a big deal. Again, she’s not an easy judge.

“But why were you the only one alone?”one boy asked. An awkward silence fell across the room, my partners hung their heads, and before I could say anything, my captain said, “Well, she was a voyager left on her own…”

After everything was over, I was finally feeling better about my work. I had received so much validation. And then it was time to vote for which proposal was best. And that group would all receive extra credit.

I handed in my vote, went outside during our 10 minute break, and walked back in to see this: fullsizeoutput_72a

See that? “Group Jessica” won. And after all the criticism I put on my self; after all the frustration I felt; after all the nerves of standing up there on my own; this voyager took the victory. And this lone voyager received extra credit, validation from her captain and her peers. Most of all, this voyager learned not to be so hard on herself in the future. And that hard work and late nights pay off. Sometimes we just have to try our best given our circumstances.

“Today had a lot of firsts for me. In all my years of teaching this class, I’ve never had someone get left to do all the work on their own. And I’ve also never had anyone WIN by THAT many points. Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to a milkshake ”  – Captain Chris Tobey