Confessions of an Activist

Well, I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but every time I chickened out. I guess I’ll just give it a shot.

Many people don’t know me personally, but I feel that when I read about people’s somewhat “hidden” life of their past, it flips the perspective on how you read the rest of their posts, or how you view the author all together.

I’m going to try and be as “real” as possible–don’t say I didn’t warn you.

———-

To be blunt, it pisses me off how many people only give a damn about themselves and their social persona, and if I don’t follow through I’m seen as some type of alien, this strange creature roaming around Rutgers.

Of course this does NOT apply to all Rutgers students. I am slowly but surely finding others who have a similar passion. Finding people who don’t care what everyone else seems to be doing, or expected of the “cool fun college life.”

Now don’t get me wrong. anyone who has known me for the past 6 years will agree that I was easily put in that “I just want to have fun” group not too long ago. I loved going out, for god’s sake my aim for the past 5 years of my weekends were to blackout. If I didn’t have plans to get drunk I’d have an anxiety attack. Even with that, I was still relatively involved, both at University of Tampa and here at Rutgers. Yet I tried to keep that “I’m that typical-I-get-drunk-I-don’t give an F, I’m a badass college girl” mask on while keeping my passion clear as well.

Little did I know I was building up a wall between what I could be, and what I was settling to be.

For some reason, I held on so tightly to that part of myself. I was afraid of being isolated. Everyone around me always went out. It was the norm. And when I didn’t want to, my lack of self-respect and self-esteem made it easy for me to give into the “come on” or “What’s wrong with you?” or “Seriously?”

I wasn’t even a person, I was a doll. A mindless body of nothing who had no idea how to think for herself.

How did I get to point A to point B?
I went from point A to point Z, K, L, Q, X, 7, Canada, H, J, 1, and I’m still on my way to reaching B.

Not many know this, but I was sent to counseling my first month here at Rutgers. I was labeled a red-flag and a danger to the Rutgers University community.

Why? One of the first nights at Rutgers when I was too many shots in, I told my RA I was going to commit suicide. I revealed my hate for myself, bulimia, cutting, and everything that tore me apart inside for a vast majority of my life. The days I went to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. The times I had to convince myself how selfish it would be. When the first of many counselors I had to see asked me, “Why haven’t you taken your life?” I couldn’t answer. My throat tightened as all I could think of all my parents have done to make sure I succeed. Eyes watered as I envisioned my dad after the day I came home from the hospital after an incident with alcohol. Crying, he said, “I thought I was never going to talk to you again.”

This was the second time in my entire life I ever saw my dad cry. The last time was when I was 8 years old.

Bringing myself out of my thoughts, all I could say was, “I don’t know. Sometimes I ask myself that too. And I realize all I’m really living for is so I don’t hurt anyone.”

My drunken threat to commit suicide wasn’t the first time. A handful of my friends have texts that read, “Jumping off a building, sorry.” or “Please read at my funeral tomorrow.”

No, this night at Rutgers wasn’t the first time I wanted it all to end.
This was just the first time someone took me seriously.

It was unreal to me when I got a phone call about the night and that I was going to be sent to counseling. I kept thinking, “I WAS DRUNK, I WAS KIDDING.” I just kept thinking–they don’t know me! I couldn’t grasp that I was being sent to counseling, that I was looked as a bad person, when I knew I wasn’t. Not even a full month at school I’m being looked at as an alcoholic! Me? An alcoholic?!

I mean, I did start drinking in 8th grade.
I did get sent to the hospital when I was 16 when I was found unconscious, puking black liquid.
I did have blacking-out as my aim whenever I drank.

Altering my state of mind has grown up with me like a childhood best friend.
Having an excuse for my reckless behavior, to be the confident person I could never be sober.
It made me everything I wish I could be.
It made me numb to the reality of the level of my self-hatred.

I assumed that was okay, I mean, everyone at college does it.
I assumed it was a part of growing up.

I was told if I didn’t go to counseling, I would not be able to attend Rutgers anymore.

Meeting my counselor, I hated her. When she talked to me all I pictured in my head was tackling her and ripping her hair out and yell, “YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ME.” She kept telling me I had a problem with alcohol. I told her, “No, I don’t. I know how to say no. If I have work to do, I’m not going to go out. I’m involved with my community. I get good grades.” I tried to pull the “everyone does it” card. “You should see my friends, my friend was found passed out under a car last night! My one friend blacks out every day, that’s not me!”

It’s funny thinking where I was at that point, and where I am now. Literally despising her and doing everything I could to get a new counselor. Now today realizing I probably wouldn’t be alive, or most definitely where I am now without her.

I wouldn’t believe it take it 6 months ago. I still can’t believe it sometimes.

It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t need alcohol.
It wasn’t the fact that I could balance it out, or say no when I needed to.
It was the fact that the way I used it was abusive. Why I used it. What it did to me when I used it that I convinced myself was just what “all the college students do.”

It was the fact that when I did use it, I had destructive intentions.
I was swallowed by my own blinding justifications.

My miraculous epiphany moment happened recently. One of my friends asked if I wanted to go out and I thought,”Why not? I haven’t gone out in a while, I’ve been working hard, I deserve it.” I took a big jump though, I went out sober (cue the dun-dun-dun). Terrified knowing how many times in the past I’ve said, “I can’t go out unless I’m drunk. No way in hell I’d ever go out sober.”

It was a brick to the face. For the past 5 years I was okay with my dependency for alcohol to “make me feel better.” But being sober out, I couldn’t help but realize these parties do nothing for me. I’m surrounded by a bunch of basically cloth-less skinny, beautiful girls that I could never be, and majority of guys who want nothing but a girl to sleep with. I get my self-esteem ripped apart because I have serious self-esteem issues that I’m dealing with right now, where I constantly compare myself to others. To justify these pitfalls in the numerous times in the past, I’d leave drunkenly with a guy I just met who could care less whether I made it out alive the next morning or not.

And one of the most common questions I get, the one question that makes me want to smash windows is, “Why do you think that?”

WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHY?

Do you THINK I want to be this way?  Maybe it’s because at 7 years old I was being told to “hold in your stomach” and run laps in the house by my dad. Or maybe it was because when I was 8 years old the first thing my grandma asked whenever I talked to her on the phone was, “How much do you weigh now?” and if I didn’t know the answer she’d make me get on the scale. Or! Maybe because at 9 years old my aunt told me “the prettiest girls are the skinniest girls.” Or, maybe, being told “I don’t like fat girls” in 6th grade might of done it.

I tried to fix myself by starving myself, making myself throw up, going to the gym for 3 hours after field hockey and track practice. In my eyes, during that time, I saw that as too fat. 100 pictures a day I would take pictures of all angles of my body trying to find beauty in my body. It was never enough. I let it take over my life, I stopped hanging out with people so I could avoid being forced to eat. I yelled at my mom when we were at a funeral because all I could think about was that it was taking away my time at gym. I even lost my best friend because all I saw her was someone to compare myself to.  I couldn’t stand the fact that I could never be as skinny as her. I tried, I really tried to not be fat so I could have self-esteem and not be so self-conscious and be a “normal” girl, I just couldn’t do it. Instead I just became a mindless monster.

I think it’s important to note that this never goes away, you just get stronger. Anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder, or even just accepting one’s self-image, knows changing one’s perspective is a life-long process. It was only last September when I first met my roommate and she had to constantly ask, “Are you eating today, or should I just eat with someone else?” It was only last December I spent $60 dollars on diet pills that dozens of research articles say have killed people.

It was only two weeks ago I relapsed.

Venting this out to my counselor, she said something that completely moved me, “Being in this environment pulls out the demons you’ve been trying so hard to destroy.” I realized, putting myself in this situation where self-comparison is unavoidable, then mix that with alcohol, and anyone with even the smallest amount of common sense can agree that nothing good can result from that.

It makes sense now. This was a huge reason why I left parties drunk to stumble streets of New Brunswick drunk at 2 in the morning. Rode cabs alone and found it perfectly ok he was driving us endlessly to all sides of Tampa. Walking through alleys alone leaving a stranger’s house at 3am. It made sense why I wanted to “Drink so I couldn’t think.” It made scary sense that for 5 to 6 years, I was running in life-threatening circles.

Now by no means is this post an ask for pity. If there’s one thing I hate more than that one question I stated above, f!@#ing pity would be it. Don’t feel sorry for me. Nor is this saying “You go out? Wow you are scum the earth.” Absolutely not. Don’t change who you are. For heaven’s sake, I’m in college. I still go out, just not to the point where I’m basically holding a gun to my head every time I do.

My main point of this post is not directed to those who dislike my activism or think I’m wasting my time. Actually, I had a lot of various intentions for this post. A lot was to get out there that lives of people on the surface aren’t as polished as they try to make it seem. A lot was to get out my frustration to all the crap I’ve been getting since January.

Most of all though, was to make that cliche point of the need for mistakes, but the more need from growing on them. With that you open an entire door to life changing connections. I mean everyone’s story is different, but understanding people only on the surface takes away the potential strength of a relationship. I know my favorite and most impacting teachers were those with true life stories, that made them seem real. Anyone can achieve, reach their goals, create a name for themselves–it happens everyday. But to give students and others transparency to who you are, the life you’ve lived, that you aren’t just some random person who grew up with a perfect life, you’d be surprised the effect it has, the doors it opens.

I am not saying tell them to make mistakes, I am saying show them the lessons you’ve learned. Show them that struggles they couldn’t\can’t avoid will be a test to their character and just a way to build who they are. Use your life as proof that things do pass, things will eventually get better, but remind them that it won’t be easy. Prove to them that just because you made bad decisions in the past, that it does not mean you are forced to live a “bad” life.

Prove to them with your life that they are in control of their own.

And my second point is more addressed to those of my age. I don’t think many read it, but in the event that they do, I hope this gives them a different perspective. To the one’s who ask me, “Why are you so involved?” “Why do you even care?” “What happened to the ‘fun’ Steph?” I hope this gives you an answer. I know people say, “You need to live a little” or “You only go to college once” and although I admit to always letting those statements run through my mind, the “typical” college experience is not what I want out of my life. I had 7 years to “live a little.” I’ve finally gained a sense of self-respect and confidence. I’ve realized it’s exhausting and terribly unfulfilling letting your life be shaped by the thoughts and expectations of others. I’ve realized I’m not a doll, I’m not this mindless and thoughtless being of nothing. I have opportunities everywhere to make the difference I want to, all I have to do is take it.

*Note (3\19): I have received a pleasantly overwhelming response, and I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read my story. Publicizing this post was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. For so long I have believed my story was nothing special to be shared. You all have proved me wrong beyond measure. One of the greatest texts I received after I posted this was, “I feel a little less alone after reading your post.”  I never expected that sharing the demons I tried to hide away for so long could ever impact people in such a way. With that being said, I hope you, whoever you are, share your story one day, because I strongly believe we all have a significant life story to share in which we can learn from one another’s toughest and most trivial moments. I hope, with all my heart, that if you are struggling with something, no matter how “big” or how “small” I hope you realize it is important nonetheless because it is you. Take care <3.

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8 thoughts on “Confessions of an Activist

  1. This is incredible. And really inspiring. I know it’s easy to think one can just ‘write it out of your system’, it won’t undo the years of damage, but this is the most perfect manifesto for starting out afresh. You definitely have the strength to see it through.

    I’m wishing you luck with it- you’re beautiful and so, so brave, and you deserve things to be better!

    • Thank you so much for reading my story, and your wonderful comment! Yes, I agree, and so does my counselor. She told me I’ve taken a huge step, but to not believe that it’s something I can believe it’s gone forever and that it is still rarely fresh. Thank you for your encouragement and your faith in my strength, it feels good to know I have support from not only myself, but from hundreds others who read my story. Take care! :)

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  6. It’s probably been said to you countless times now, but your story is incredible and one I wish I could share with every struggling teenager and young adult, who are harassed by images in the popular media and even by their peers, for their perfectly normal and variant bodytypes. I commend your bravery for sharing and only hope I can one day be comfortable enough to share such a vulnerable side of myself, waiting to find some support from someone who feels the same way.

    • <3

      I never know how to respond to these types of comments because of how much they mean to me, so hopefully a heart and a thank you will suffice. Happy we've met…and somehow landed in the same class together :)

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