When I was in my junior year and it was time to start thinking about colleges, I had no clue where I wanted to go. It was only by virtue of someone suggesting UMass Amherst that I even looked into it. A few days later found me, my brother, and my dad stowed away in the car, GPS in hand and my future college as the destination. I didn’t know it then, but once I saw the outline of the DuBois library out the passenger’s side window, I knew I was home.
Just a few months later and I was officially living on my own in a college dorm for the first time in my life. I was nervous to have left my family behind, but also excited to start a new journey and see what UMass had in store for me.
Fast forward to December 2015. Freshman year under my belt, I was nearing the end of my first semester of sophomore year. This was when my medical condition became problematic enough that I found myself on the phone with the university’s health services department, telling the woman who answered that I was worried I was suffering from anorexia nervosa. Just a few days earlier I had spent the better part of a day googling symptoms and trying to work up the nerve to tell someone what was going on.
In what felt like a blur of a few seconds, I was bundled up and in the car on the way home, about half of my college belongings stowed in the trunk of the car and tears in my eyes. I started sobbing as soon as we started to put the library in the distance behind us. I was leaving behind my friends, my education, my dreams, my life. I was entering a future that was uncertain, and frankly, seemed dark and hopeless.
My eating disorder, my depression, and my anxiety have caused me to miss out on so many experiences. They’re a combination that when put together often caused me to spend my time sitting alone in my room, watching people walk by outside with the TV playing in the background or the radio on for white noise. I’ve skipped classes, lunches, study sessions, parties, everything, out of this irrepressible feeling of sadness that I just couldn’t fight.
I don’t want to do that anymore.
When I go back to college in the spring 2017 semester, I want to have all the experiences I was meant to have. I don’t want to let my mental illnesses define me anymore. I want to put myself out there and meet new people. I want to take classes I’m genuinely interested in and learn about new things. I want to explore areas of campus I’ve never been. I want to stay up all night with friends laughing, talking, and watching movies. I want to get involved in extracurriculars. I want to study abroad and see the world. I want to have the true college experience.
UMass is the most amazing place I’ve ever been. I want to make it the most amazing time of my life so far.