The illusive state of the college student. They procrastinate, study for hours, cram for finals and exams, have piles of schoolwork to do. They juggle work hours, volunteering, internships, schoolwork–then add in friendships, relationships, socializing. They may drink alcohol at parties, attend parties to begin with, have sex and do even more than I can imagine here.
Except, I’m not your average college student. And if you’re reading this and you have a mental health condition (that you’ve recognized and have relatively accepted) you’re probably not either.
I don’t go to parties, I don’t even know the people that go to parties. I’ve know a couple of people who go to bars, but that’s about it. The majority of my friends either don’t drink or don’t drink very much. I don’t drink so there’s that. (Since I’ve started this blog I’ve wanted to do a post on “Introvert At A Party”–that will come into existence for reals this summer, so stay tuned)
As a college student, I procrastinate. I have piles of homework. I have friends and do the socializing. But I don’t juggle work, not really. I don’t juggle with volunteering or internships (yet). I don’t really study for hours and I’m definitely not sexually active.
Rather, I juggle with my brain and all its bullshittery. That is a full time job in and of itself.
The reason I bring this up is because I don’t believe that the average mentally healthy college student behaves in the same way as a struggling with their mental health college student. Now, maybe that’s a BOLD statement to be making and I don’t even necessarily mean for it to be, but let’s look at it further, shall we?
The average college student without a diagnosable (could have sworn that was a word) mental health condition will procrastinate, spend odd hours of the night working on schoolwork (that they put off), wake up or sleep irregularly, eat sparingly, skip classes… Actually the more I think of it, I suppose there doesn’t seem to be a difference, does there?
I guess what I want to say is that there’s a difference between myself (and likely some of you all out there) and other college students. Maybe the difference isn’t necessarily mental health status. Maybe it’s about resiliency and coping strategies.
But what I hear the most is the excuse that a person doesn’t have TIME for coping.
Yet, I have to disagree with that.
There is TIME for coping, it’s just about how one manages said levels of time.
Is it easy? No. Is it tiring? Yep. But is it necessary? Hell yes!
If you’re not coping in an adaptive manner for yourself, your mental health will gradually decline and grow brittle, so to speak. It will be easier for you to get triggered or wind up with worse problems that what you started out with.
For me, I hear about other students being able to wake up at 2am to do a 5 page paper, or skip eating several meals to get their work done, or have dozens of exams and still come out on top. As an outsider looking in, I don’t know how they do it.
Maybe it’s because I’m not in that position that I don’t understand it. I must be different because when I try to do any of that stuff, my brain implodes and I wind up in a crisis.
My other main point is that basic physical needs come first. At least, for me, although I imagine it’s truth for others as well.
That means I have to work on getting enough sleep, eating enough, having shelter, basic hygiene (teeth, hair, showering), and securing my physical safety.
After that level of self-care, I need to take my meds and attend therapy. Then comes adaptive coping strategies and THEN there’s schoolwork, work life, other demands, etc.
Priorities. Many college students need to get that shit together. Including me!
Because if I don’t self-care I wind up in bad places. Like sticking shit in outlets that I shouldn’t be doing. Or throwing craisins around in the bathroom. Because fuck it.
I’m not sure if my point was all that cohesive through this post, but it often feels like to me that I’m different from the typical normative college student. I cannot pull all-nighter’s any longer. I cannot wake up at 2am to write a paper. I cannot wake up at 4am to write a paper. I can’t bang out a paper without freezing for several moments first. I lack the motivation to study or care about my schooling. In the larger scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. I can’t skip so many meals. I can’t work several hours.
Rather, I’m a college student that gets her 8-9 hours of sleep a night. I go to bed at 9p, 10 at the latest. I take about an hour nap during the day to recharge. I have to eat my meals because I can’t afford to lose weight. I try to cope as best as I can given the situations and the life that I’m living, because if I don’t I wind up in bad places mentally. I take my meds, I go to therapy, I work hard in keeping myself safe. I color, I blog, I watercolor. I listen to music and try to enjoy the bright moments of my days. I hang out in Craig’s office and with my friends. I’ll eat sushi ’cause it makes me happy.
I get my work done, even if it’s delayed and maybe not always my best.
But if I didn’t meet my basic needs, that work would be a lot worse.
Maybe it is just me, but I have to make the time to care for myself and be OKAY so that I can do everything else. ‘Cause if I’m not okay, nothing else can get done. I have to be ALIVE in order to get my schoolwork done.
And that’s what it comes down to at the start of each day:
Survival. Surviving. Being a survivor.
❤ ❤ ❤