I was a happy child (other than a brief spurt in middle school). I generally enjoyed high school. In college, I got stuck.
(There were really wonderful things I loved about college, too. I finally learned to take naps. I made some wonderful friends. I started real research. I took some exciting math classes. I learned lots of new, exciting things. I learned useful things about myself, too. But it definitely had times that were much worse than ever really before.)
I'd almost always lived on a large-ish amount of land (nowhere near farm-sized, but decently). I'd always had somewhere in the yard I could go where I could be completely alone. I'd always had dogs and chickens to cuddle with and play with. There was always somewhere that could be raked (raking is the most perfect, wonderful stress reliever. It is not particularly difficult, but it is slightly physical and you leave behind patterns).
Then I got to college. I'd shared a room all my life--a roommate couldn't be that bad (and really, she was a very lovely person). But it is almost impossible to be alone on a college campus. And it got worse when winter struck and outside was no longer an option. A couple times, I ended up pacing in the snow because I needed out.
I cried a lot. I got inexplicably "bad" grades when I knew everything that would be on the test. And things got worse. I lost my ability to focus even on subjects I loved and should have been able to spend hours and hours talking about.
It took me a while to realize that all the things I would do when I was stressed that would calm me down, things I did without thinking about it at home, things that helped prevent me from completely breaking down. Almost all these things were non-transferable to a college setting. There is no yardwork in college. I could read, but there were only so many of my favorite books I could bring.* I didn't sing anymore because there were always people studying who I didn't want to disturb.
Add that onto the extra stress and lack of organization. Normal college stress like meeting new people and then extra stress like the fact that the only way to eat is in a large crowded room full of noises and faces.
Eventually I found some ways to be more happy and some coping techniques. I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding place once a week (yardwork and animals!) I found the hidden places on campus that I could be alone. I eventually made some delightful friends.
So now, as I am getting ready to move to a city, to live in an apartment with just one roommate, something I have never done before, I am worried. I am worried any coping mechanisms I have developed will be non-transferrable.
*There certainly wasn't a shortage of books at college, but there was of MY books with MY stories that I would read over and over and over again.
Labels: coping mechanism, me, my brain