Complicated Change
Cidney Jacques, Division 3, College freshman #ws18e-s2d3

There's a fine line between good and bad change and the idea of going back in time to fix your mistakes, although incredibly tempting, seems like it could do more harm than good. As a young adult attending college, I've had my fair share of trials and tribulations, especially during my first year. I started the year hopeful and excited, as many college freshmen do, only to be hit hard by reality. My family has a long-standing history of mental illness and I realized quickly that as much as I wanted those problems to skip me entirely, they were more present now than I had ever imagined possible.

About two months into my first year at UCF, my life was quite literally engulfed by depression and anxiety. I barely ate or went outside, and I only left my bedroom once or twice a day. I went from an incredibly high achieving and involved high school student to a broken-down shell of a person, I couldn't bring myself to leave my bed let alone attend classes. My GPA took a nose dive and I found myself fighting my own mind just to perform everyday tasks. I wanted so desperately to feel like a complete person again, but I couldn't comprehend what was going on in my own mind or how to dig myself out of the somber hole I had come to reside in. Luckily my friends and family noticed the changes in my personality and work ethic and upon receiving their concerned pleas, I opened up to them and accepted their help.

I met with our family therapist and while confiding in her, I was finally able to articulate the feelings of hopelessness I had been struggling with. She suggested that I begin taking antidepressants and after our long talk, I felt more equipped to deal with the stress of everyday life in a healthier way. I returned to school with a newfound confidence, I felt like I could resume my life as a hard-working student and finally feel like myself again. Unfortunately, right as I began to regain my footing more unforeseen setbacks arouse, and my physical health started on what would soon become a rapid downward spiral. In the following months, I visited numerous doctors and endured endless medical testing before consequently being diagnosed with a chronic immune disorder that manifested itself as an unbearable skin condition. After being diagnosed, my doctor prescribed me a biologic that would essentially compromise my immune system to stop my body from attacking its own healthy cells. Although the medicine did its job and my skin problems cleared up significantly, my quality of life was a constant slippery slope because of the insufferable side effects I experienced.

I'm still dealing with both my mental and physical ailments to the best of my ability and in all honesty, there isn't a day that goes by in which I don't wish these problems would just disappear. Going back to the past and being able to somehow save myself from suffering through these setbacks could potentially improve my life tremendously. I would've been able to have the freshman year of college I envisioned for myself and quite possibly could've ended the year with a better GPA and less stress about how I'm going to pay for my upcoming years of school. However, without these setbacks, I don't think I would be as persistent as I am now. I wouldn't have the knowledge I have now of how to deal with stress in a healthy and productive manner. I also believe I wouldn't understand myself as well as I do now. I'm not perfect by any means and I still face problems related to my anxiety and depression on a daily basis but with the help of the medicine I was prescribed and the skills I learned, I'm able to cope with stress and adversity better than I could previously.

Because of my first-year experiences, I've come to understand that life truly isn't fair, but I've also learned that it's ok. Instead of being upset and feeling personally victimized by the circumstances I face I must realize that some things are just out of my control, and because of that, it's more productive to channel my energy into things I can change rather than things I can't. I frequently think about how easy my life could be if I was given the ability to change my past, but I always remind myself of the strength I've gained from the battles I've had to fight. Kenji Miyazawa, a Japanese poet, once said, ""We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey."" I often think about this quote and, not only does it inspire me, I feel like it offers me a form of validation that my struggles don't define me. However, by getting past them, I've managed to become a stronger person.
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