Okay, so it's after midnight on Friday, April 1st, which means it's technically Saturday, April 2nd for those of us here in the EST zone. Which means........yes, only a mere 50 days till graduation!!
I've been reflecting for a while on the various parts of my Centre experience, the good, the not so good, and the downright bad. Overall, though, I will say that my career as a Centre College student has been a success. While there are some things I have done that you couldn't pay me to do again (namely, taking Econ 110, Calculus, and Psychology ALL in my first semester here), I will say that as far as my recovery has been over the past almost 4 years, I wouldn't change one thing. Now, some of you reading this might think, "Are you serious, Becca?! I KNOW you have struggled with your eating disorder, sometimes severely, during your time at Centre. Are you saying you would do all that over again if you had the option to change it?!"
In answer to that question, I would say, "Yes, that's what I'm saying. I wouldn't change a single thing....not even the steps backward. I realize that not everyone can resonate with that statement, so I will explicate it further. The reason I wouldn't change even the worst struggles I've had here is because I am a firm believer that EVERY SINGLE STEP on your recovery journey counts, EVEN STEPS BACKWARD, as long as you LEARN from them. That's not to say I would ENJOY reliving the moments where I have really struggled, but I DO look at them as learning experiences, and as long as I view them as such, as learning experiences, and as long as I don't view them as "regrets," they have helped shape me into the capable, able-minded, persevering, and STRONG young woman I am becoming more and more every day. (Wow, I really didn't mean to praise myself there, but those are qualities I feel I have been developing for countless years, particularly the past 4 years, and I am going to be PROUD of them, daggone it!!)
In any case, I feel an urgent need to write this post before I forget what has been on my mind tonight. Without further ado, here are the Recovery lessons I've learned while at Centre. And if I'm being honest, some of them don't necessarily ONLY apply to Ed recovery....it's just that that's the vein they have taken on for me.
(Not in any particular order....not chronological, not from lesser to more important significance....just writing them as they come to me).
Lesson 1: Recovery, much like grades at Centre, cannot be perfect.
Before I came to Centre, I had never received anything less than an "A" on a report card. Also, before I came to Centre, I put tremendous pressure on myself to have the "perfect" recovery, even though I logically KNEW there was no such thing and I was only setting myself up for failure. I will never forget that Monday we got our Econ 110 midterms back after Fall Break freshman year (it was a 9:10 class, in case you're wondering, and the midterm was 35% of our final grade, in case you're doubting my ability to remember). I got a 19. No, that's not a 19/20....I got a 19%. You can imagine how big of a shock it was to me (this had been my first Centre test) when I saw that midterm!! I had been so sure I had known what I was doing....there was no way, I, Rebecca Jackson, was going to fail that test. I don't get failing grades. Riiiight. That midterm was what I like to call my "wake-up call." That was the first time I realized, "Okay, Bec, you're not in high school anymore....you obviously can't get straight A's in college." Did that mean I was okay with the grade?? Of course not. Who would be?? But did it mean that I quit trying, gave up on the class, and dropped out of school?? Heck no. I worked my butt off in that class (and in Calculus and Psychology, both classes in which I also received not great test grades, but at least passed the tests) and ended up passing. Sure, maybe it was a marginal passing grade, but it was still a passing grade. I picked myself up, got my Gen. Ed. credit, and moved on. I wish I could say I learned this lesson about not being able to have a "perfect" recovery as early as I learned it was okay to have non-perfect grades, but to be honest, I'm not sure I realized this fully until this past Fall semester (senior year) or maybe even this Spring semester. And really, I'm not sure if I completely believe it with every part of my being, but I logically KNOW it's true. There have been too many instances where I have (for lack of a better phrase) screwed up....yet I'm still alive, still fighting, and am starting to accept that there is no such thing as a "perfect" recovery, and I need to be okay with that. I AM starting to be okay with that. It has taken several years, and I still have a ways to go, but I am becoming increasingly more okay with that every day. Well, almost every day. If it were really every day, that would be perfection, right??
Lesson 2: Second chances DO exist.
Second chances....as well as third....and fourth....and more chances....are realities in almost any recovery situation, to some degree. If I kept track of the multiple number of chances I have been given by various members of the Centre community to "do the next right thing" (not necessarily in those terms, but that is a phrase that resonates with me, so I'm using it), and if I wrote in this post about the graciousness of several faculty and staff members (some of whom may not come as readily to your mind as others, including the wonderful cafeteria greeter who let me bring my own meals to Cowan sophomore year without argument when I knew she wasn't supposed to let me do it........thank you, Sue!!), you would be reading for hours. Thankfully, many of them know who they are (if for no other reason than I send spontaneous "thank you" notes throughout the school year for everything they have done for me), and I hope they know I am eternally grateful for the second (and third....and fourth....you get the picture) chances I have been afforded to get myself together recovery-wise (my words, not theirs) while still remaining at Centre, working toward my degree, and graduating on time!!
Lesson 3: There will always be at least one person who believes in you and your ability to recover....and there is usually more than one. And even when you can't feel that there is a PERSON there for you, you can ALWAYS know that GOD NEVER LEAVES YOU.
Dear heavens, I know if it weren't for the people who have been put in my path to help nudge me along the way, encourage me, and say, "Yes, you CAN do this, I KNOW you can, Becca!!", goodness knows I wouldn't be half as well-off as I am today, in any facet of life. Whether it's any of the Centre faculty/staff that I mentioned above, or my fiance, or my family, or one of my select true friends, or our Baptist Campus Ministries advisor, or even the puppies I got to play with as part of a psych study freshman year, I can honestly say that there has always been someone I could count on when I needed someone to offer advice, to lend a shoulder to cry on, to just listen to me talk, or just to have a downright FUN NIGHT to distract me from overwhelming feelings I'm experiencing. I honestly don't know where I'd be without each and every one of them. Having people who believe in you is invaluable. And while I wouldn't trade my relationships with these people for the world, I also realize and recognize that I wouldn't be anywhere without my faith in GOD, and His perfect support and guidance on my journey.
Lesson 4: Going to the cafeteria can be fun.
Now, that is a sentence I honestly thought I would never be able to say. Or at least, I never thought I would say it and MEAN it. Don't get me wrong, I still hate going to the cafeteria, for the most part. But just this semester alone I have been able to, on a few occasions, ENJOY my time there with my friends. Sure, the food sucks (Oh, Sodexo....how I will not miss you), but if you can get past the horrible food, and for me, if I can get past my fear of eating in front of other people, and if you can focus on the conversations you have with your friends while you're there, going to Cowan doesn't suck quite as bad. On the contrary, when you can get really wrapped up in the conversation and are able to be PRESENT at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table, mealtimes can be quite fun, indeed!! While I know I still have a long ways to go before I can enjoy the actual eating part of the meals, I have made tremendous strides in just being able to not have an anxiety attack when I walk through the cafeteria doors.
Lesson 5: One of the most important words you will ever learn is: BALANCE. Learn it. Live it.
College is perhaps the era of life where this lesson is the most important to learn, especially for someone with an eating disorder. You absolutely HAVE to find a balance between everything you need to do, everything you want to do....and sleep. :) I have learned that I can't focus all of my time and energy solely on schoolwork. Every time I have focused on schoolwork and schoolwork alone, my recovery has really suffered a blow. Conversely, I can't focus 100% of my time, energy, and effort on solely recovery-related things. If I did that, my schoolwork would surely suffer. If I focused every waking moment on what I want to focus it on, God, and neglected everything else, then I certainly wouldn't still be at this wonderful institution of higher learning. Learning to balance God, recovery, classes, homework, clubs/extracurriculars, meals with friends, and sleep is a hard thing to do. Especially if you want to leave any time left for FUN and RELAXATION (Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter come to mind for me). But it is what it is....time management is a necessary part of college life, and with time management comes balance. It's something on which I am still finding I have to constantly work, but it is doable, and my skills of balancing things well are improving.
Lesson 6: Never give up on yourself.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If I gave up on myself every time I felt as if I wanted to, I have no idea if I would even be alive today. But by the grace of God, and with the help of others, I have been able to claim my identity in Christ and know that that is where TRUTH is found, and that only be seeking God can I fully learn to trust that I am NOT destined to be a failure. Recovery IS possible. While I'm not 100% there yet, I know it's possible, and I have faith I will be there some day.
Thank you for reading this far, if you did.