Delayed graduation shame

I tend to push away anything that’s uncomfortable and makes me think about the hard things. I’ll completely “forget” about it, only for whatever emotions to bubble up due to some trigger. Today, that happened in regards to schooling. I wanted to share my processing of this and what I’ve come to.

I graduated in 2014. In the perfect world, you spend exactly four years in undergrad and come out with your degree and all is well. With how competitive my high school can be, this plan usually includes amazing opportunities, scholarships, honors societies, and varsity athletics. Just like high school, it isn’t enough to simply graduate. If you would have asked me sophomore or even my 6th grade year, my plan would be exactly like everyone else’s. The expectation in our school was to go above and beyond if you wanted to prove yourself as one of the “smart ones.” By junior year I had a new, more prestigious and impressive plan. I was part of early college which meant taking half college and half high school classes junior/senior year, then doing one more year at community college to get my associates degree a whole year early. I clung to that idea and goal, right up until it wasn’t possible anymore.

Switching to nursing was absolutely the best decision I have EVER made in regards to academics, but this meant having to accept that I was no longer above and beyond. It meant having to do lots of prerequisites and instead getting my degree on time. I learned to be okay with this, considering I was on track still.

I am no longer on track to graduate with my class. I haven’t been for over 2 years now. I’ve been shoving those feelings of disappointment, shame, frustration, and inadequacy down ever since then. I’m able to forget about it most days. Today was not one of those. I logged into Facebook (which is an absolutely terrible place if you want to feel proud of your own accomplishments and not play the comparison game). A friend from high school posted a status update about his events today, including the last meeting with his advisor and trying on cap and gown. It brought up everything all over again.

I immediately went to all of the reasons I’m not enough. How could I be smart if I did really poorly in classes, couldn’t even handle my first college semester away, and am not in the honors program? The only conclusions coming from this line of thought put all of my worth in school, and since I “failed” there, I must be a complete failure of a person. I sat here for a while. I wallowed. I cried. I felt super shitty about it all. Then, I really started thinking.

Besides my eating disorder in itself as a barrier to my education, quitting halfway through my first fall semester is the reason why I had to take an extra year. I could do a few things with this information, but today I chose to explore why things are how they are from a lens of understanding and compassion.

I can’t deny the facts that I dropped a semester or had a terribly low GPA last spring. I can pretend all I want that I was this perfect student who never missed class, gave 110% in all work, turned in everything, and didn’t even need to study. I could sit there and lie to everyone about how amazing school has gone, but I don’t want to now.

I hate the idea of ever using my eating disorder as some crutch or excuse for my behaviors, but it truly did/does impact my schooling. Not a single moment of the past 3 years have been easy from an academic standpoint. Instead of the normal college experience, I got constant ED thoughts and behaviors that took over my life. I look back at this time and wonder how I even got through it.

The fact that I’ve gotten this far isn’t a miracle, but a culmination of a lot of hard work. I overcame every battle to get to where I am today. This isn’t the route I would have chosen, not even close. No one wants to actively seek out the most difficult path, but it’s what I was given.

I choose to stop the comparison game and look towards my future. In 5 or 10 or 20 years, no one is going to care what my college GPA was or how many years it took me to finish.  What truly will matter is what kind of nurse I have become, who I am as a person, how I treat others. School is important and will allow me to pursue my dreams, but it’s only a stepping stone. In 5 or 10 or 20 years, I don’t want to be able to brag about what I did in college. Instead, I will speak about the roller coaster of a journey it took to get there.

My grieving process

This has been in the back of my mind for a while now. I always wish I could talk about it, but whenever I do nothing comes up. This leads to guilt and shame which then causes me to not want to mention it again. I am choosing to write about this because it is time to not fear what I am feeling or not feeling.

My grandpa passed away this past June. I was one week into residential.

I knew, leaving for treatment, that this would be a possibility. My grandpa was sick for a long while. He nearly died from pneumonia 3 years ago, went to a rehab unit in a nursing home, then lived in senior apartments for just about 2 years. We were lucky to have that extra time with him. He started getting sicker in 2017 and ended up moving into the nursing home then. In some ways, I think he gave up hope once his independence was gone. I visited him at least once a week, even when I was in school. I remember hating it sometimes. I just wanted to relax, not spend 2 hours at his apartment or the nursing home watching him sleep. Now, I’m glad I had that time.

I was in session with my therapist when the house manager knocked on the door. She went outside to talk to her. I didn’t even have to hear the words “That was your dad. Your grandpa passed away this morning” to know what happened. I broke down and cried for a while. The girls and staff all were wonderful and took care of me that week. Every single staff member was made aware so that I was met with constant support. I needed that. God knew exactly where I should be when it happened. I was unable to fly home for the funeral, and I’m not (completely) ashamed to say that was the best decision too. Instead, my dad skyped me so I could watch it. He started the video when he was in a room with all of my family, which was harder to watch than the actual funeral. I was allowed a little bit of time after it ended. I cried for a bit, but then went back to the group, where I received more support.

I still have some guilt and shame from wanting to be away from my family, but now even my parents agree it was for the best. When I heard my mom say that, I was so thankful. It was like she released this cloud hanging over me.

Ever since then, the guilt and shame have multiplied. Unlike my mom, I don’t think about him all of the time. We have his cat living with us now and I don’t even correlate him with my grandpa. It doesn’t feel like he died, just that he’s completely gone. My mom has reacted much differently than me. She cries all of the time. The holidays were extremely different without him there. Almost every day he is brought up. It is her dad, so that makes more sense. She’s also been one to show her emotions relatively strongly. Sometimes I get so annoyed. I just want her to stop. I want a break from hearing about it. Does this make me a terrible person?

I have not cried at all since the funeral. I am void of feelings. There is just nothing when someone brings him up. I feel numb. It’s like he didn’t exist. Nothing phases me. It’s actually made it hard to even support my mom. 

I don’t get it. Why don’t I feel something, anything? Am I just abnormal? Cold? Wrong? I know that grieving is different for everyone with multiple stages, I just have a hard time accepting where I’m at. 

I’m not sure where to go from here. Should I work through my non-feelings? That seems almost ridiculous and definitely unnecessary. I do need to come out of this shame train (residential term). I know it only feeds into the eating disorder and depression. 

It feels good to put this out there. Talking about it means that I can (hopefully) make some change soon. It’s a step to being ready for that.