Thinking Out Loud: My School Career
Everyone’s gotta go through it. Yet everyone has their own experience with school, and their own reasons for going. Maybe it’s an enjoyable experience—school is a place where your creativity is born. For others, school is a place that brings fear. For me, school is a place that triggers stress. Lots of stress.
It didn’t always used to be that way. I remember starting my first day of kindergarten. I ran home after school that day screaming ‘Mommy! I have a new best friend!’. I genuinely enjoyed learning and discovering new things. When I first learned how to read, a whole new world opened up for me.
For as long as I can remember, I worked hard at school. I strived to be the best, and enjoyed the multiple projects and assignments I had to make. Of course, I did not love every aspect of school, but I generally did love going. Even when I was admitted to the hospital for being underweight in seventh grade, school was one of my biggest motivations for gaining the weight. I wanted to get back to learning, discovering, and growing.
I graduated my eighth grade with straight A’s, and could not wait to see what High School had to bring me. I took all honors classes, and worked my a$$ off. But that’s where things got stressful. I felt overloaded with essays, projects, and tests. I stayed up past midnight every single day to perfect my homework, and got upset when I received anything less than an A. I felt absolutely exhausted, and my mind was turning on me.
Then, I turned to my one trusted coping method: my eating disorder. I would skip meals because I ‘had to do homework’, and worked out to calm my stress before an exam. My weight plummeted, but I water-loaded and put coins in my pockets at the doctor’s so I would not have to go to treatment. I continued going to school, and was proud of myself for keeping it all up.
But the thing about secrets is that they never last. After six months of hiding my ‘fake weight’, I peed all over the scale at the doctor’s office. I had manipulated over ten pounds of weight, and was immediately sent to treatment. Even here, I spent all of my free time working on things that I was missing at school. It was so important to me to keep learning and showing my teachers what I was worth.
When I finally came back to school, I picked everything I was behind on, and felt very supported by all of my teachers. At the end of freshman year, my family and I moved to the Netherlands. I actually really wanted to move at the time, but it was for the wrong reasons. I wanted to run away from the doctors, from the people at school that judged me for being sick, from the limitations. I hoped the Netherlands would be a fresh start.
I was wrong.
That summer of 2015, I lost the most weight I ever had. I had to leave for treatment after just starting at my new school (where I was repeating freshman year (3rd year in the Netherlands) due to the move). When I returned, still sick, I wanted to leave because I told myself I could never get better as long as I was attending this school. I wanted another fresh start. The following year, I started my sophomore year (4th year in the Netherlands) at another new school. The first month, everything felt positive and I thought this was going to be the school for me.
Again, I was wrong.
The workload increased, and the demands got higher. I turned back to my eating disorder for comfort, and lost weight yet again. In the middle of the year, I was so sick that I could no longer attend school. At the end of that year, I flew to North Carolina for six-month treatment at Carolina House. From July to December of 2017, I worked on my recovery, so had to miss the start of school in August.
If you’ve been following me on instagram for a while, you know I was considering getting my GED during this transition period back home. I discussed the possibility of staying in the U.S. to take a high school equivalency test (so that I could shortcut to college), but in the end I decided I wanted to be with my family and go to school in the Netherlands after all.
I started sophomore year (4th year in the Netherlands) at yet another new school in January of 2018, doing the grade over again because of the timing. By this time, I was eighteen years old—almost three years older than most people in my class. I tried not to make a huge deal out of it, and told myself things were the way they were. I had moved, I had been sick, and my circumstances were simply different than other people in my class.
This half-year of school was extremely stressful for me. I had not attended school full-time in over three years, so doing so now was a major shock. My mind was (and still is!) healing from over six years of malnutrition, so concentrating was (and again, still is!) a disaster. I hoped the summer would help give me some peace and prepare me to start my full junior year of high school. I was not going to get sick again, there were not going to be any exceptions for me, I was just going to do the year like everyone else.
But this is where I am now. I started my junior year (5th year in the Netherlands) in late August of 2018, and was happy with how it was going. I was planning out all my homework, making deadlines for myself, and was confident that I could finish my last two years of high school just like everybody else.
However, I now feel the stress rising higher and higher as the weeks go by. The workload is increasing, and I am starting to drown under the pressure. I am making myself physically sick due to the stress, and am often unable to even attend because of my physical and mental state.
If I want to stick to my planning and get everything done, I have no time for myself left. In the beginning, I accepted that this part of being a student. But I am also still living life. Or rather, just starting to live my life.
I was locked in a box for so many years, and am finally in good health to break free from my eating disorder and start living. I need more time and space to discover who I truly am. I need more time and space to record my journey, share my experiences, and inspire others struggling with the things I struggled with.
The past few weeks, I have had conversations with my school mentor about my struggles, and she too, realizes something has to change. My health is becoming compromised because of school, which is honestly the last thing I need after gaining my health back after too long.
Something has to change. I’m not exactly sure what it is yet, but the way school is impacting me right now, is just too much. This coming Friday, my mentor and I are going to have an important conversation with my mom as well, to discuss my options on how to finish school. Maybe it’s going down a level. Maybe it’s doing junior and senior year in three years instead of two. I really don’t know. And as absolutely nerve-wrecking it feels to not know, the only thing I can do is trust.
Trust that everything will be okay.