Content Warning: Eating disorder behaviors
Yesterday I had my last final of spring term, and that concluded my time at Portland Community College. My first term was actually fall of 2015, but I ended up withdrawing from all of my classes after the second week. After taking a little over a year off after finishing my GED I thought I was stable enough to handle college. I had been in treatment two different times within a six month period, and I thought I was finally ready. Unfortunately, I was not. I got on the waiting list for Portland DBT and tried to work really hard with my therapist so that I could start 2016 in college. Well, I did that. I finished my first term with a 4.0 and felt like I was finally getting on track. What I want to do in this reflection is to shine some light on the many obstacles I faced during my time at PCC, and how I overcame them.
When I first started at PCC almost 2 years ago I started out part-time with 2 classes. I had accommodations that allowed flexibility with attendance and I took all tests and quizzes in the testing center. I had really bad test anxiety, and I needed a quiet area with little distractions. I missed a handful of days from each of my classes because of panic attacks, depression, or being physically ill. Some days the biggest accomplishment was just getting myself to class even if I didn’t have the homework done. When I wasn’t at school I was struggling with binge eating disorder. The end of my first term is when I started at Portland DBT, and that certainly helped slowly diminish the disordered eating behaviors.
In the fall of 2016, I started going full-time, and that meant having 2 classes some days. That meant I had to pack a lunch and eat somewhere at school. My anxiety flew through the roof some days. For almost that entire term I ate lunch in my car because I was terrified to eat alone and in front of new people. I was afraid that people would look at me and see a fat girl and think I didn’t deserve to eat. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t made hardly any friends yet and had no one to eat with. On the rare occasions that I either sat outside or in the cafeteria, I was shaking almost the entire time. I had my headphones on and just stared down at my food with the hope of not being noticed. Some of the days when I did try to eat in front of people I ended up eating little to no food. I would sit down and then just freeze. I couldn’t always bring myself to open my lunch box. Unfortunately, that often set me up for a binge at home because I was so hungry.
Gradually my anxiety around eating in front of people at school began to lessen, and I started eating outside or in the cafeteria more often. I even started to enjoy it. When I could manage to look somewhere other than at my food I saw that most people were eating alone. I realized that all of the fear was in my head and that I needed to find a way to push through it.
I took my first few psychology courses at PCC and fell in love with it. I also had an incredible professor for 3 out of my 4 classes, so that certainly helped. That’s another thing I have loved about PCC – the professors. There are a handful of professors who had such a positive influence on me. They helped me write my college essays, and with the whole application process. They have been available to talk when I needed it. They have encouraged me and reminded me that I am my own worst critic. They have told me that more than anything I just needed to believe in myself. They have told me what a pleasure to have in class I was. I intend to keep in touch with some of them even though I am no longer a student of theirs because they have impacted my education, future, and self-esteem so much.
PCC is where I realized that I was so much more stable and strong than I was in high school. Even though I still missed days for my mental health I never let that influence my grades. I worked ridiculously hard because I wanted to go to a four-year college sooner rather than later. I am proud to say I have accomplished that goal! I announced this on social media a few weeks ago, but since I haven’t been blogging as much I have yet to say it on here. I am pleased to announce that I will be transferring to North Carolina State University this fall! I move in just under two months and I’m so excited to start this new adventure 🙂
My very last term at PCC I never once ate in my car. I didn’t use my accommodations at all. Meaning that I took all tests and quizzes in class with everyone else. I didn’t ask for flexibility with attendance because I wanted to challenge myself and see how I would do without it. I had ZERO absences for the term – ZERO! I don’t think that ever happened in high school, and this was the first time it happened in college. I haven’t even really gotten sick the last couple terms, and I know that is a direct result of finally taking better care of myself. This last term I had to go head to head with my perfectionism because I struggled quite a bit in my psychology course.
Yesterday one of my closest friends reminded me of when I told him that I didn’t think I was going to do well in college. He said I told him that before I even started at PCC. He has told me several times throughout these past two years that he always knew I could do it, and that I would. He said I’ve always needed to believe in myself. He couldn’t have been more right. I had the strength to do well all along, and maybe on some level, I knew that. However, I didn’t believe it until more recently. So thank you to everyone who has believed in me and helped me throughout this difficult process. It has truly meant so much to me.
Thank you for everything Portland Community College. I have learned so much academically, mentally, and emotionally in my near two years with you. I am incredibly grateful for this start in my college experience. Now I’m moving forward and going after my goals. NC State is going to be my new home, and I couldn’t be happier about that. PCC will always have a very special place in my heart though. It was my beginning, and now I’m getting ready to write the next chapter in my life.