When this all started for me, I was in school, and had been academically geared since the fifth grade (~10 years old). Thus, I had this… drive to get better and compete with myself and get grades and test scores that’d land me easily into university. While it gradually took me more and more energy just to hang onto the words the teacher was saying, it likewise took me more and more energy to do my homework—much less understand what was even going on in the class.
I always started early on my assignments—in between classes, during lunch, waiting for the bus, before school when I got there early—partly from that drive, my anxiety and just how long it continued to take me to do anything.
My peers would be spending their afternoon doing whatever they liked while I sat and tried to grease the gears in my head to get through one assignment.
They’d begin their studying while I was giving up for the night and getting ready for bed.
They’d have fun on their Friday/Saturday nights while I vainly tried to get everything done so I could enjoy my Sunday and mentally prepare myself for Monday.
[Now, to be clear, I’m not insulting those who do that, just spelling out my experience and creating a comparison.]
I always felt weak or like a failure when I took time for myself and pushed doing an assignment to later on.
I wasn’t. I knew that. I knew and still know taking time to myself to decompress and recover is good, is healthy. But it still felt (and feels) like I’m being selfish and not participating in correct time management which I’ve been doing for years.
I still did well in high school and graduated in the top ten percent even with a set back at the last minute.
Some would argue I’m even doing well in university right now.
But even though I tried all I could and grinned through the pain, I still see many, many places where I could’ve done better.
There’s still “A”s and “B”s on my university transcript, but with a significant splattering of “C”s and “D”s (my high school transcript has neither of these).
In my university STEM classes, it’s a common occurrence to get “C”s or even fail out of the low level classes, and very difficult to get even low “B”s.
I’ve shed blood, sweat and tears for the grades I’ve been able to get as is, but I know I could’ve done better— and I’ve lost my scholarships because of it.
I know that I’d at least be getting “B”s if it wasn’t for these issues I have.
Being socially anxious on a sprawling campus with hundreds of students, I can handle.
Having back pain and needing to shift in my seat, I can handle.
Taking all the will power and energy I have to take notes on things I’m not even understanding, I cannot handle.
Even while on medical leave from university and trying to get through the pandemic, I see things I could still do academically: I could copy my notes for better understanding; I could sign up for those free or cheaper classes online to catch up to my peers; I could catch myself up on recent happenings in the scientific world and their papers.
But I can’t.
And even as I know I can’t, I reprimand myself for not doing it.
Sure I could still do it, but what would I gain from that?
Nothing with a dash of more self depreciation.
So instead I try to manage my pain and get through each day.
(I break the text up a lot in order to be more manageable in respect to reading it; I get discouraged from reading when there’s big blocks of text and I’m sure I’m not the only one.)