Good afternoon, friends. I know that it has been quite some time since I have written up a self-care post. With the holidays being a terrible time for me and my mental health, as well as some family things going on and prepping for my return to school, I haven’t had the inspiration nor the time to write up a good one. However, speaking of school, for today’s post, I wanted to chat about something that I feel a lot of people will be able to relate to, particularly if you are an individual who is returning to school after a lengthy break. So, grab a comforting beverage, maybe a snack or two, and join me for today’s somewhat TL; DR post.
** Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I am simply one person who is reaching out and sharing their experiences and techniques that has helped them be able to move forward in life. Do not take anything that I say as medical advice as I am not a medical professional, and information provided here on BiblioNyan should not be construed as such. Thank you. **
Last year, around the middle of August, I had made the decision to return to school. I talk about it in this previous SCS post, where I go into detail regarding all of the difficulties I encountered that led to my break from college, and then the things that made me realise it was time to go back. Unfortunately, one of my cats became gravely ill around the same time and it forced me to post-pone my return by a semester. Honestly, I almost didn’t go back at all.
Ever since I was a child, I knew that a college education was important to me as an individual. I know it’s not for everyone, and I believe the choice to attend or not is a deeply personal one. Going or not going doesn’t make one person inferior/superior to another, ever. I loved learning and there were subjects that I wanted to get a pesky, over-priced piece of paper for that acknowledged my passion for those subjects. I won’t go into the whole mess of that here (you can read the post mentioned above if you’d like to learn more about those struggles), but I felt that whenever my chance for college arrived, it came with so much bullshit that I had convinced myself it was a sign from Boss Man that maybe higher education wasn’t for me.
It was exactly that: bullshit.
It can be so powerfully easy for us to make excuses and conjure up reasons as to why we shouldn’t do something, more so when it revolves around anything that we are vehemently passionate about, or don’t want to associate failures with. College is that thing for me (so is writing a book, but that’s a whole other box of Scooby snacks). When I got divorced and moved out, it was agoraphobia and PTSD, which are legit reasonings. Mentally, emotionally, and physically I knew that failure and disappointment would be eminent. Then a year after that it became Depression and sever paranoia, which again, is also a bit legitimate. Then last year, after Azizi became sick, it was, “I don’t want to go to school and risk coming home to one of my senior kitties being dead.” While this can still be construed as a good reason, it’s also a bullshit one, and one that led to other excuses.
- “I’m not ready because I still have crippling anxiety.”
- “I’m not ready because I’m mysophobic and germs on campus range in the trillions.” (Oh yes, I said it).
- “I can’t leave my cats. What if they’re sick again?”
- “It’s such a waste of money and I don’t want to be in that much debt again/add to my existing debt.”
Now, if these are any of your reasons for not going, I want to acknowledge that they are genuine and real reasons. When I chat about them here, I’m speaking strictly from a personal point-of-view, and it in no way whatsoever is a judgment on anyone else. I would never use my experiences to judge another person. That would be very egotistical and selfish of me, not to mention offensive and disrespectful.
All those excuses were really just costuming for only one actual reason that I was hesitating on returning: I’m too fucking afraid to move forward with my life, and to pursue my aspirations, because I’m afraid that failing will make my mental health worse.
Fear is a motherfucking bitch of a burden. My screensaver on my computer is a tumbling chromatic font that says: Fuck you and your fear. So, if that was the motto that I wanted to abide by with my existence, why was I was still letting it control me so much? Why was I allowing myself to be oppressed by the very thing that I loathe?
Sir Betrothed has a saying and that saying is:
You’re never a failure when you pursue something that interests you, because then at the very least you can say, ‘I tried.’ When we admit defeat and tell ourselves that we shouldn’t do this thing or that thing because we’ll suck at it, or we aren’t good enough, then we are failures. Life is about taking chances and learning from those chances, whether they work out or not because if you don’t even try, how will you ever know if it was meant for you to begin with?”
I love that human so much, and their absolutely correct. How did I know that school was going to be a disaster if I didn’t get off my arse and go to my first day? I have these presumptions and this fantasised notion of how everything will go wrong, but what the fuck would I do with myself if it ended up being the best day ever? Was that something I wanted to deprive myself of, simply because I’m afraid and have mental health illnesses that many other people and still find ways to do what they love? Fuck that noise.
That was the very first step in preparing myself emotionally and mentally for my return to college. To stop being afraid, or at the very least to break the leash it had around my throat.
The second step was to sit down and create a plan, or a few plans, on how to deal with things related to my anxiety, paranoia and tendency to panic, insecurities, and unhealthy pattern of overanalysing every minute detail. These were the facets that I knew were going to be the biggest obstacles and potential hindrances to my success. Part one of the plan was to look at the picture of attending college in a small, digestible doses. For example, taking it one day at a time. Instead of focusing on the entire semester from the beginning, I was going to take it one day, and then one week, at a time. Nothing more than that. When I began to train my bran to focus on that simple notion, the rest of the pieces began to fall into a comfortable place and the daunting fright start to whittle away into dust.
I have categorised coping methods into three distinct categories (this is where my OCD comes in handy! Yay, go OCD!) starting with a pre-campus ritual, following by an on-campus ritual, and then ending with a post-campus ritual. I say ritual lightly because all of the things beneath each category will be relative to whatever I am feeling in the moment or on that specific day, if that makes sense. I even have a small emergency only section for when nothing is working, and everything feels hopelessly irrevocable. Check them out below.
💛 Have a breakfast routine. When I wake up, before I sit down and work, I eat a bowl of cinnamon and spice oatmeal with dark chocolate chips, and then have a cup of milo or two cups of coffee. If I’m sick, then I’ll have herbal tea. This small routine helps me wake my brain up with familiarity and then it can prepare to tackle whatever is next, whether it’s 14 hours of blogging or reading and annotating book reviews or anything else. The rest of my day is never planned due to my ADHD, but this tiny 30 minutes to 1-hour chunk of time gives me just the right amount of comfort and positivity to get started with life.
💛 Meditation. Meditating before school is an excellent way for me to utterly clear my head of all the garbage that hangs around to trigger insecurities, anxiety, and worse. I close my eyes, recite the Nembutsu (Buddhist chant), and sit in a comfortable spot for about half an hour with a blank canvas. Occasionally if my head is too busy and unwilling to be calm, I will think about the ocean and the cold waves lapping around my ankles. If the silence makes me uncomfortable (a PTSD thing for me), then I will listen to soft stringed instrumental music, usually anything by The Yoshida Brothers.
💛 Dressing Confidently and Comfortably. This may seem like such an unnecessary or inconsequential thing, but I’ve come to realise that for insecurities, it can be a huge boost of positivity. I used to wear clothes that made me feel super confident and badass, but they weren’t that comfortable and later on in the day, it would cause me to feel even more self-conscious. However, my cousin told me that when you find a balance between total comfort and feeling good about everything looks, then there’s very little room for insecurities to pop in and aggravate you. I practised it for a few weeks and was blown away by the difference. Now, I do it all of the time, whenever I can.
💛 Listen to positive/upbeat music. Another one that may seem pretty basic but listening to fun music just makes me feel like having fun. Indian dance music makes me laugh and feel like dancing (which I suck at currently) and helps me go into the day wanted to make it just as festive and exciting. Upbeat rock music helps me feel like a total badass that can conquer any monster that pops into my path. When I have these strong positive emotions, it makes it far more difficult for negative thoughts to filter into my mind.
💚 Fruit-infused water. I specifically take fruit infused water with me to school because it greatly reduces nausea that stems from panic attacks, or strong, overwhelming sense of paranoia and anxiety. I’m not sure what it is about the fruit flavours themselves, but it’s so alleviating to the tension and feelings of being sick. Regular, non-infused water actually tends to make my nausea far worse. My body is weird vessel, what can I say. Feeling sick to my stomach in public, especially in school, further inflames my feelings of paranoia and will for-sure induce an attack of sorts.
💚 Listening to music. Continuing that trend of upbeat/happy music will help me stay in the positive mode much longer and most of the time, I will daydream about the most random and ridiculous things (like being a superhero or a savvy cat charmer), which then helps keep my brain occupied enough to avoid ruminating or focusing on teeny, minute details that can become triggers for things later on.
💚 Changing my focus to nature. If it’s a beautiful day outside, I will go out of my way to look at all of the details in nature that I can, especially if I have my camera on me. By allowing my brain to get lost in the greens, yellows, and oranges of leaves, or the vibrancy of grass and flowers, it takes my attention away from the actual people—the number of people, whether they’re staring at me (how I feel, even if it’s not true), their conversations, their expressions, etc.). If I’m taking pictures then I start thinking about angles, lighting, and all of that stuff. It’s quite therapeutic.
💚 Studying & reading my textbook. I tend to do this more around exams or when nothing else that I have tried is working. I’ll put in my headphones, listen to Vivaldi’s violin pieces, and read and re-read my textbook, or study my lecture notes and homework to help prepare for the class. If it’s a language class, then I’ll also flip through my flashcards and practise grammar structure. This prevents me from feeling really uncomfortable in class and will alleviate the social anxiety part of participating in class (when the teacher calls on you, presenting, etc.).
💚 Vaping. I know, this is really unhealthy for me. I don’t do this that often at all and usually save it for when I feel shaky and antsy due to social anxiety or anxiety from being in public. It takes just enough of the edge off for me to relax and then be able to try out other activities that I’ve mentioned. I tend to save it for the first day of instruction, days with exams or quizzes, presentations—situations where I know I can’t escape the anxiety no matter what else I do.
💚 Bento of Healthy Munchies. Stress eating is a big problem that I have, but I have been training my body to accept healthier options when the urge to stress eat pops up. By keeping a bento of crackers, veggies, or fruits, I’m hoping that when the incessant desire to stress eat arises, I can use it as an excuse to nourish my body rather than fill it with a bunch of crap that is only going to be fuel for feeling shitty later on. I don’t need to prevent one set of triggers only to exasperate more of them later on.
💚 List of Breathing Exercises. My health and wellness coach, as well as my psychiatrist, have both given me lists of breathing exercises to do that work unique to keep me from hyperventilating and from keeping my heart from excessive palpitations. This one is extremely vital because in the event of a severe panic attack, if I can’t regulate my breathing quickly, I’m at a super high risk of having heart attacks, which can then lead to my dying given my heart condition. So, this is one I never leave the house without.
💚 Purell & a Small Blanket/Towel for Mysophobia. Being afraid of germs is one of the things that my brain likes to use to keep me afraid of being out in public. I can’t stand germs and being dirty or gross. It’s a little different if I’m out hiking and I get mud on my shoes or the bottom half of my pants. But Anyhoo… After chatting with my psychiatrist, I thought I would try keeping a bottle of Purell (brand of hand sanitiser) with me as well as a small towel or blanket. The blanket is for me to use when I begin to feel lost and paranoid. I can lay it on the ground and sit down on it and literally allow myself to feel grounded. I can put my hands on the ground and feel the grass, concrete, or sand and take deep breathes to alleviate the tension. Then I use the Purell to clean my hands up! Of course I’d use it far more than just this scenario, but you get what I’m saying.
Post-Campus (At Home)
🧡 Lunch Routine w/Herbal Tea. Eating comforting foods that help nourish my body, both literally and figuratively, helps keep me full so I won’t stress eat at home. It will also make it easier for me to focus on other activities, self-care routines, and more without the chance of getting migraines or feeling super sick. Herbal tea always calms me and I can always use the caffeine boost after a draining day of classes.
🧡 Comforting Bad Films. I wrote a whole post about my love of bad films as a form of self-care, but basically, as most of the other things mentioned here, watching favourite films takes my mind off of anything and everything that has the potential to turn into toxicity within the walls of my grey matter. I will purposefully choose ones that I can’t help but quote (The Mummy is always number one, I can quote it start to finish) that way I’m concentrating on the film’s progression and don’t allow myself to ruminate or fixate on bad things that may have happened, or little details that I can turn into negative processes.
🧡 Calming Activities. Various activities help with my ADHD, which is rampant after getting home from school. It probably has to do with sitting still for several hours while I listen to lectures. During this time, I will read first, but if that doesn’t work then I turn to playing video games, creating calendars, photography, blogging, cooking, and/or cleaning. If I sit in one place then the ADHD elements transmit to my brain and it goes into hyperactive analytical mode, and that always results in self-deprecating contemplations or beliefs.
🧡 Journaling. If for whatever reason, nothing else works at all, I will take all of the negativity that I’m feeling, no matter what it is, how terrible or harmful it is, and I will write it down in my journal in great detail. This gives me an outlet for that crap so it’s not sitting in my brain and stewing. If they are extremely self-harmful, then afterwards, I’ll rip the page(s) out and burn them or put them in the garbage disposal as a literal means of destroying the negativity. It’s sensationally cathartic and helps me stay away from depressive episodes or prevents them from lasting for hours and days on end, and much more. I cannot recommend this enough.
🧡 Napping (last resort). Napping always impacts my insomnia so I try not to nap whenever I can help it. It also throws off my entire sleep schedule, which is only bad when I have classes at seven in the morning. But if my depression gets very bad, it aggravates my chronic fatigue syndrome (I feel incredible bouts of fatigue and exhaustion and literally can’t get out of bed to do anything; even going to the lavatory becomes extremely challenging) and all I can do is sleep it off. Worst cases it lasts for weeks, sometimes a month. Best case it lasts only a couple of days.
❤️ Contact Loved Ones. In the absolute worst-case scenarios, where my anxiety, paranoia, and discomfort are so heightened that I’m fearful for my well-being, I will contact a loved one. For me, it’s either my mum, my cousins, or Sir Betrothed. They will stay on the phone with me and talk me through the episodes, or they will stay with me to ensure that I don’t do anything harmful to myself, mentally or physically.
❤️ Sit in a Safe Space. Before I contact people, or if no one is available, I sit in a safe place. In my first SCS post, I chatted about what this entails and why I refer to it as “safe.” I feel that anyone struggling with anxiety or panic disorders, should have a similar safe space; just a place that you find the most comfort in, where you can stay for extended periods of time if need be.
❤️ Call Helpful Hotlines. Lastly, if I can’t contact anyone I know, or if for whatever reason I don’t feel comfortable talking to them, but I know that being alone is not a healthy option, I will call hotlines that can help talk me through whatever is going on. You should never be afraid to use these resources as they are an excellent way to get help in the moment. I’ve never encountered anyone who has been harmful or rude, or judgemental.
I know this post became quite amazingly long, but I wanted to take my time and talk about the different things that help me and the plans that I have for dealing with whatever situations that may arise as I embark on this new chapter of my life. Hopefully, if you are someone who may be facing similar struggles, this post can provide you with a sense of comfort, inspiration, and guidance.
If you would like to talk to me, but don’t feel comfortable commenting publicly, please don’t hesitate to contact me via Inquiries, or to send me a PM on Twitter or Instagram. I can always give you my private e-mail after that.
Wishing you the best in your future endeavours, no matter what they are! Fear doesn’t have to control you! You control you, not fear or even your mental health, and if you’re not ready then that’s perfectly okay too. Make sure to do whatever is the kindest to you and your situation.