Yes, that's me and, yes, that was the reaction I had to everything I endured past week. (Side note: so no one wigs out, that is my claddagh ring. I'm a Hibernophile and am also part Irish so I can get away with it. ;D) To say that this was the hardest week I've ever had in my academic career would not be an exaggeration. I had to make some of the hardest decisions I've had to make and all I will do is pray to God that I've made the right ones.
Believe it or not, I spent every day of my first week back to school (and first week at a new school) crying. Despite trying to remain optimistic and having the support of both my family and friends, I came very close to dropping out of this school and applying for enrollment at another. If you're following me on Twitter or are a friend on Facebook, you probably read my tweets and status updates in which I expressed my indecision and unhappiness. If you read my last blog post you got just a small glimpse into what was going on in my mind as well. Actually, right after I posted that blog (which I wrote on campus, in the library) I attempted to take a much needed nap but it didn't end up happening. At the end of the day, the combination of my anxiety of being the odd girl out as well as the lack of sleep ended in the worst panic attack I've had since the day my father died.
I had to leave the classroom (I was in math class) and I nearly fainted in the hallway. I had to sit down and I cried my eyes out (and a special "thank you" to the 3 people who stopped and offered me water or tissues while I endure the panic attack) while I tried to control my breathing. I felt too weak to stand up, my hands and feet began tingling and I was extremely lightheaded. I've never had a panic attack that bad at school and never in public. Once I controlled my breathing, I walked into math class but was so lightheaded that I nearly fainted again. I had to catch myself on the piano stool in the classroom (math class is offered in a music room) before making it to my seat. I had to endure the whispers and stares from my classmates and that nearly set off another round of panic but I was able to focus on drinking water and writing down whatever was on the board. Have I ever mentioned how easily embarrassed I get and how uncomfortable I get when the spotlight is on me? This is why I hate getting anxiety in public and why I avoid public speaking at all costs. Anyway, after that experience, I was ready to call it quits.
So what exactly triggered the panic attack? As I said, I believe it was a combination of the lack of sleep, the general anxiety I had (and have) about my classes, the uncomfortable feeling I've felt since day one, and a slew of other things. I just don't feel like I fit in... and I probably don't. As I mentioned in the previous post, if there are "traditional" Catholics on campus they're all hiding. It's almost a crime to be this way... or at least it's the way it feels. While I have no personal problems with any of my professors (they've all been lovely and helpful in terms of my anxiety and working with me because of it), I don't agree with what they teach. One of my professors asked us to erase the thought of Hell out of our minds because it didn't exist... and this was in a Religion class. Of course Hell exists, as does purgatory and Heaven. A lot of things that are being taught, well, I am just not comfortable listening to but I sit there and don't say anything because I've already been warned not to p.o. my professors unless I want to fail. They have a school policy, which I recently learned, which states that we are able to speak our minds regarding religion and that we can't be punished for our beliefs. Regardless, things said about "traditional" Catholics are extremely passive-aggressive. Every time I had a break, I'd go into the chapel and the St. Therese alcove and I'd pray for the strength to make it through my classes because I just didn't feel great in them. Every time I would come out I just dreaded going back to class a little more.
After going through all of these things the first three days of school, plus the elitist snobbery permeating from a great deal of classmates, I was ready to call it a day. Why subject myself to all of that? Why endure two more years of this treatment? Deadline to withdraw without penalties (fees) was Friday so I had hard decisions to make. The anxiety got worse and Wednesday night into Thursday morning was a nightmare. I ended up missing all my classes on Thursday because I was so exhausted from a day of back-to-back panic attacks (they can be both emotionally and physically draining) and I ended up sleeping (recuperating) most of the day. By the time I woke up, I'd missed the entire day. Thursday evening and night I got words of support and encouragement from my mother and friends. The majority supported whatever decision I ended up making while some tried to get me to either leave or stay because it was what they wanted for me. While I appreciated it, I am not a fan of being told (especially when it sounds like I'm being forced) what to do when it comes to my personal life and decisions. It was something both Joe of Verbum Veritatis and Andrew of Per Fidem said that really made look at the situation differently: endure the classes as penance and offer it up. While I usually do this (offering things up for souls in purgatory), I hadn't really thought about doing it for school. I actually spent the rest of my Thursday night going back and forth with Andrew on the whole issue of staying versus going until I had a moment of clarity that really helped me make my decision.
In the end I decided to stay. As someone close to me told me on Thursday night "You are not a quitter." It's true. I don't like giving up and I like proving people wrong when they underestimate me. While I am still really uncomfortable with what will be said about "traditional" Catholics and even though I will want to cry every time they butcher Catholicism and the Church, I will have remind myself that all of this will help me learn what "progressive" Catholics and Christians argue so that my counterargument will be stronger. I am still unsure about whether or not I will sit there and fight all the time or if I'm just going to do it when I am asked (in essays and whatnot when I am directly asked). I have to learn how to pick my battles because I know that no matter what you present, and no matter how sound that argument may be, there are some people who will keep attacking just because they don't agree with you.
By the way, I'll also admit that part of the reason why I decided to stay was because of the tuition. If I stay at this school I'll graduate debt free since I am not asking for any loans. I'm a practical, frugal woman. Taking into consideration that my mother's paycheck is the only one regularly coming in and not knowing what the future holds or how the economy will be in two years, I felt it would be best not to overburden myself with any loans. I still have grad school to go through as well and I have to think about that.
To not make this entry even longer I will say that I dealt with all of this while fighting an upper respiratory infection (and taking antibiotics all 5 days of the week) and then getting cold. I was, and still am, physically drained so much so that I ended up missing Mass today. As I joked Thursday night, I better get some time off in purgatory for all of this. ;)
Alright, well, I have procrastinated long enough. I must get to my math homework which is due tomorrow. While I still feel anxious (which might explain the horrible weakness and fatigue I currently feel; I've been stuck in bed for hours), I've made a personal vow to really give it my all and go down swinging if it comes to that. We'll see how tomorrow and the rest of the week fares.
I hope those of you who returned to school this past week are having a better time than I am. To those who start this coming week: all the best of luck to y'all. :D
As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :D