Today, for the first time ever, I did not hand in an assignment. I also skipped the class for which that assignment was due. Mind you, it was only one of eleven journals, each worth about only 3%, but I still didn’t hand it in. Which is a little jarring.
Last night, around 11:30, I decided to go to sleep instead of stay up and study for my midterm for a few hours. As I was lying in bed, drifting away, I had the guilty thought, “I’m being lazy. I haven’t done any homework today. I shouldn’t be sleeping.” Then I remembered I had just been in class for 10 hours, spanned over 15 hour day. And then I thought, “Marryl, you’re so dumb.”
These two instances are two of many times in my university career where I have felt my normally strong sense of responsibility falter. I normally feel like I have to do everything all the time and with all of the energy. But you know what? Sometimes I do not have the time to do everything, and sometimes (or all the time, it often feels like) I don’t have all of the energy. Or any of the energy. But I’ve been programmed to think I need to be working my butt off all day every day or else I am wasting my time and am not successful. Every spare moment I should be studying or reading or writing, and even the thought of watching a movie or hanging out with friends or taking a nap should leave me with so much guilt that I never take a break ever. Because we aren’t allowed to take breaks ever, right?
The discussion of mental health has been very prevalent since I came to university, and this year I think I am finally understanding the importance of self-care. My program, along with university in general, carries the fine-print disclaimer that YOU WILL BE BUSY ALL THE TIME AND BARELY HAVE ROOM TO BREATHE SO PREPARE YOURSELF AND GET USED TO. So when you feel overworked and overwhelmed, you think, hey this is normal, I should get be used to it. But that’s where the danger comes in. When you think you aren’t allowed to take a break, you don’t. You work and work and work until you can’t work anymore, and then you work some more. But that should NOT be the norm. Sometimes you need the occasional late night cram session, but when life feels like a 24-hour cram session, you’re putting your mental health in danger. I’ve seen this year how such high levels of stress and exhaustion and endless lists of things to do has caused me to feel anxiety that I’ve never felt before, and that I don’t like feeling. I feel so panicked and overwhelmed that I cannot even consider writing an assignment or going to class. Like I did yesterday. I made the choice to not write my journal because I knew that trying to finish it in the little time I had would put me over the edge when I was already feeling in an unstable state.
Which is why I am saying it is okay to not do stuff. If you get to a place where the thought of wiring a paper or going to class makes you overly anxious, just don’t do it. Don’t get into a habit of not doing assignments; work hard and try. Just don’t overwork yourself. Breaks are allowed. Take time to yourself. Do things you like doing, just because. Take a whole two days off to watch movies with your family and eat turkey for goodness sake.
(Or maybe don’t eat turkey. It might be a little hypocritical for me to recommend you eat turkey.)
Take care of yourself, okay? Don’t let school trick you into thinking you’re supposed to be a ball of stress and sadness all the time. Because you shouldn’t. That isn’t good. I’m trying to wrap this up nicely and inspiringly, but it’s been a long couple days and I’m low on steam. But seriously, please take care of yourself and your mental state. Take time to breathe and chill and be a real person. Your assignment seems important in the short run. Your mental well-being is more important in the long run.