“No” Is My Biggest Motivator

Some people may describe me as stubborn.

I disagree with them. Calling me stubborn is calling a blizzard light flurries – a gross understatement. I’m stubborn, strong-willed, and swaying my decisions is not an easy feat.

Over the past three years, with the various health issues I’ve faced, from my IBS to conversion disorder to depression, my inability to give into the advice of others, and my determination to stick to my guns got me to where I am today. How?

I’ll start with my senior year of high school, when I missed two months of school, was on the verge of not graduating, and was so behind that attending class was not only a struggle, but seemed entirely futile. At that point, my family and friends, who of course wanted nothing but the best for me, began to look at other options – local university, community college, high school upgrading, summer school, work programs, a year off, and other wonderful options I refused to consider. It sounded ridiculous to say I was going to attend a rigorous university program in a different city, in a different province, where I would be completely on my own in less than 3 months, when I could barely get out of bed every morning. Still, I forged on and planned to attend university as I had planned since I was in junior high. Would it be fair to call me crazy? Absolutely. It would be crazy NOT to call me crazy.

I truly believe that we are never given more than we can handle. I learned that from a friend once, and I am by no means very religious, but I have a strong belief in the idea that God, or whatever higher power there may be, will always put enough on your plate to push you to your limits (it’s the only way you can grow), but it will never be more than you are capable of handling if you have confidence in your abilities. Continuing on with the annoying clichés, I also operate on the assumption that everything happens for a reason. And I can say with complete confidence that I would not have been able to handle my battle with depression without first having to face the smaller issues I combated in high school.

Fast forward to entering university, when I had got my IBS under control and was ready to begin a semester full of hard work, new experiences and lifelong friendships. I got all three – just not in any of the ways I had anticipated. When I began to get seizures, I had an immense amount of support, from parents, friends and even university services (student health, student counselling and disability services). BUT…the main thing that came along with all that support was variations of the word “no”. It was in a number of forms, telling me I should become a part time student, drop out entirely, take time off, request a medical leave, move back home, take community college courses, you get the idea. Sound familiar? If not, see above, because it was the same stuff I had heard in high school. Granted, unexplainable seizures, 6 ambulance rides, a couple concussions and dissociative states were clearly more serious than my earlier stomach aches, but I figured, I had done it once, I could do it again. Plus, the idea of proving everyone wrong, and showing that I was capable of being like anyone else despite my extenuating circumstances was once again my main motivator. So I maintained a full course load, went to as many classes as I could, and passed every single class. There was a catch though; I did not achieve the minimum average required to stay in business school. Needless to say, I was devastated, and was provided with plenty of alternatives; switch faculties, attend SFU, return to Calgary for business school, take a year off and reapply. What did I say to those suggestions? Thanks, but no thanks. I filed an appeal and prepared to take summer school – my medical problems had taken away enough from me, I wasn’t about to let it take away my dream school either. You can probably guess how the appeal went based on the fact that I found myself back at Sauder the next year.

Speaking of the next year, it was this year and it was when I returned to school to an extremely intense course load – while battling severe depression. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “this girl is definitely insane for STILL pushing after yet another medical obstacle”. Before returning to school, those who knew about my depression were skeptical about my return to school, an incredibly stressful and difficult school nonetheless. It was the same few options, with a stress on me NOT returning to school at all, because I needed to be around family and a strong support system. As usual, I refused and began school. Needless to say, I wound up in the hospital for a significant amount of time in the life of a university student, and found myself under a lot of pressure to give into others’ suggestions. Return home. Drop courses. Take time off. All I heard was “Quit, quit, quit”. Let me be very clear here; I do not think that people who have to alter their lives and make changes to make life easier due to extenuating medical circumstances are quitters, I just knew I would always think of myself as a quitter, or someone who gave up if I did it.

Was it difficult to attempt to maintain a full courseload after missing so much content while in the hospital? It was close to impossible. Was it a struggle and disheartening when I missed even more class because I was too depressed to get out of bed? Of course it was. Did that make me change my stubborn mind? Not even for a second.

You see, all those other options, of altering my life course, made me more committed to sticking to the decisions I made. Depression takes such a strong hold on a person’s life, that I couldn’t let it take away my future too, when it was already dominating my present. Many people don’t understand that depression isn’t a temporary thing like a broken foot, where if you’re on crutches and you rest you’ll be fine later. Yes, depression needs to be managed and can be treated to the point that it is no longer a main issue in people’s lives, but for the most part, depression is a life-long thing. Just as conversion disorder and IBS are. I could never learn to properly live my life if I kept taking time off to focus on trying to deal with my depression, because I wouldn’t actually be dealing with the real world. I wanted to face it head on, and continue a normal life to the best of my ability, even if it was virtually impossible some days, if not most days.

So to those of you who think it’s ridiculous, or dangerous, or unwise, or were frustrated with the fact,  that I didn’t slow down my life, thank you. Because not only does it mean you’re concerned but you’re also part of the reason I can be here today, facing my life and the difficulties associated with it head on. The more I hear “no”, the more I want to work to prove it can be a “yes”. Like I said, whatever life throws at me, it’s never more than I can handle, and just when it seems like I really can’t handle it, it just means I’m getting ready for a growth spurt, and Lord knows I could use a couple more of those, standing at just under 5 feet.

Keep Surviving by Living.

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