I’m Deferring My Dream…Because I Need to Get Well
For many, it will be a positive episode which helps them to grow, gain friendships, and position them perfectly for a career world in a few years’ time.
But is it right for everyone? And in particular, is it right ‘now’?
Jessie*, 20, has already completed one year of her dream degree, but has decided in the last fortnight that her eating disorder behaviours are back with such ferocity, that she needs to pause her academic journey and focus on getting well.
Here’s her insight:
“I’ve always wanted to be a vet, even from my primary school days, so it was absolutely my goal to get to university and study veterinary science.
I’m someone who strives so hard and wants to achieve at the highest standard I can, so perhaps it’s quite a familiar story to some, to know that my eating disorder started when I was juggling my A levels, stressing about my ability, and also becoming more aware of the future pressures of the world.
I struggled really badly with my illness through my last few years at school, but thanks to my parents’ support, and some private therapy, I managed to prevent myself from deteriorating so badly that I might have needed hospital.
Instead, I achieved the grades I needed and secured my first choice of university – then threw myself into university life absolutely convinced that things could only ever be ‘on the up’ for me.
What I’d underestimated, however, was just how difficult things would feel when I was living away from home, trying to fit in with new friendship groups, becoming more conscious of a house full of girls talking about weight and diet, and also wanting to be top of my tutor group for my coursework.
It was pretty clear I was sliding on a dangerous path by last Christmas, as I found myself cutting out treats when I was back home with my family, and lying about what I’d eaten, or saying that I’d not been out for a walk or a run – when I absolutely had.
My brain started to really feel the impact very quickly. I was teary all the time, couldn’t focus, didn’t want to socialise, and knew that I was already finding my studies much harder to cope with.
By the time lockdown was declared and I moved back home, I’d horrified my family that I had lost significantly more weight, and it was obvious I was going to need every ounce of their love and help again, if I was going to be able to go back to carry on with my degree.
The last few months have been so incredibly hard. I’d got into a scary pattern of behaviours again, at the very time when treatment access was more compromised because of the pandemic.
It really has been a case of having to largely self-manage, although I was able to get a few online appointments with my old therapist.
Finding Wednesday’s Child has been a big help because I’m getting some befriending support and some specialist one-2-one via zoom now, which is at least helping me to see more clearly and try to rationalise where I am and what my steps need to be.
For my last few sessions I’ve been talking a lot about my ‘excitement’ at the thought of getting back to university, but the reality is, I’ve known in my heart that it’s just not the right time for me.
It isn’t that I don’t feel I’m making progress – I really am, and my weight and mental capacity has improved enormously in the last few weeks in particular – but I know that to go back, and to throw myself into that more demanding environment, would certainly be too soon, and would derail my bid to be well and free of the illness.
So yes, I’ve decided to put my dream on hold for a little longer, but I’m now 150% happy with that decision as I realise I have to give every ounce of mental and physical focus to repairing myself.
When I’ve achieved that, I know I’ll get even more out of my university experience.”
*We have changed our contributor’s name to preserve her privacy.
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- Sep 2020