First, they said I shouldn’t do it. Then, they said I couldn’t do it. I said there’s no way I wouldn’t do it.
Here’s to four years of saying yes when the world said no.
Today, I get to say the words I’ve been waiting to say for as long as I can remember. I’m going to graduate from university.
Flashback to 2012 when I was in first year. I had been told by my university’s administration to take time off of school. To focus on wellness instead of working towards my dream of obtaining a degree. I was vulnerable and didn’t know what else to do, so I dropped a class. In hindsight, it was the best decision I made, because managing my new conversion disorder diagnosis and a full course load was a disaster waiting to happen.
But that moment, and those struggles, led to what I believe was one of the most important and profound moments of my entire life. I was sitting on my bed in my dorm room, crying. Crying because I felt like I couldn’t do it, crying because I wanted to give up, crying because I was overwhelmed and tired of being told I couldn’t do it. And in that moment, I wiped my tears and made myself a promise: Come hell or high water, I would graduate in four years. I didn’t care what came my way next, this was the promise I made to myself. I would pick up extra courses, work out ways to keep up with classes, and use all the energy I had to make this happen for me. Not just to prove everyone who consistently told me otherwise wrong, but to prove to myself that I was capable of setting my mind to something and being stronger than my illness.
Needless to say, it was absolutely heartbreaking to find out I wouldn’t be able to graduate just four months shy of my expected graduation date. I sat across from my doctor, as she stared at me with remorse in her eyes and told me there was no way I could manage school and intense medical treatment. I sat across from my academic advisers who said there was nothing they could do to accommodate me. I sat across from my closest friends who said that there was nothing wrong with taking five years instead of four. And then I sat on my bed and cried again. To be this close, only to be told yet again it simply wasn’t possible. Because at that point, it wasn’t about getting a degree anymore, or making my dream come true, it was about proving that I could be stronger than my mental illness. That my will to achieve something was better than it’s wrath to destroy me. So again, I wiped my tears and promised to use all my energy, and do everything in my power, to see myself cross that stage in June.
I don’t make promises often, but when I do, I intend to keep them with every fiber of my being. And yeah, maybe this one was a little stupid, but I couldn’t be more proud of how hard I have fought to be here. I wish I could go and sit next to my younger self on my dorm room bed, and say to her that it was possible. That I did it. And that your mind has the power to do anything you want it to. I want that scared, frustrated, vulnerable girl facing her internal demons to know that no matter how bad it got, we never lost everything. My illness took away almost everything from me, including my will to live for a while, but it didn’t take away my desire to fight. So that’s what I did. And that’s what I will always do. I will fight for what I deserve, and I will fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, because everyone deserves a chance to live without the dark shadow of mental illness.
I didn’t do this alone, and I can’t imagine having to. My friends and my family deserve to be up there, walking across that stage in a cap and gown just as much as I do, and I will never take the love I have received for granted. WE DID IT.
Keep Surviving by Living.