It’s an amazing lesson when you learn that you can’t depend on other people to care about your health. You have to learn to say no to certain things and care for yourself, because really, who has to live in your body? And as an independent college student living away from home, besides Student Health Services (and we won't go into details there), who’s going to take care of you? I spent most of this semester, like most of my Scripps career, wanting people to help me, wanting people to care. It's a hard feeling knowing that you have to admit to yourself when you need to stop, when you need to rest. I often think of my fellow Scripps students who say, "Great!" "Fine!" every time someone asks, "How are you doing?" Well, I'm starting a new trend. If you asked me, "Antoinette, how are you doing?" and you got an answer like, "I'm getting better," "I'm not great, but I'm okay," or "I'm not quite 100%, but I'm working on it," that's my best attempt to be open about my health on campus. It takes a lot of bravery to admit to not being in full health on these campuses when there's often an unknown pressure to be always on top of things or when you personally feel like everyone else is perfect. Sometimes we have family issues, mental health issues, physical and emotional health issues, and we often need someone to say, "Hey, I'm going through it, too. Don't be afraid and don't feel alone." So, I am not afraid to say that I need to go to therapy. And I'm not afraid to say to the rest of my fellow Scrippsies that I'm going through it, too. I am, by no means, perfectly healthy and perfectly happy, and I want those of you who are going through your own personal struggles to realize that you are most likely not alone.
Often times we hear that we're supposed to put ourselves first, but we sometimes get the most negative responses when we do. You may drop the ball sometimes, but you can't always plan for when your body is overworked and stressed. You can't plan for when your health fails you or when a family member gets sick. You can't plan for a sexual assault, an eating disorder, an injury or depression. Do you remember President Lori's blog post called the Art of Conversation? Well, what you can also learn is the art of refutation. You can learn how to say "I can't do this" and you can learn how to stand up for yourself. The hardest thing to do sometimes is to not care about other people's impressions of you when you are in the midst of dealing with personal issues. And while I'm talking about a greater sense of transparency, you definitely do not owe anyone an explanation of what is really happening with you. You do not have to go into details if you do not feel comfortable and you surely do not have to be upfront all the time. I am, however, encouraging us to realize that we are often not alone in our experiences on campus. When we are suffering silently, there is usually another person with similar experiences close to us, and we may not have any idea because we're so used to being "Fine!" and "Great!" whenever we interact with one another on campus. It also takes a lot of courage to reach out to another Scrippsie and say, "I see that something is happening with you. You don't have to tell me everything but if you need someone to listen to you, someone to give you a hug every once in awhile, or someone to eat meals with, I'm here." I've come to learn that the smallest actions leave the biggest impressions.
Another difficult thing to learn is the ability to say no; to refuse things that may not be in your own best interest. That, in itself, is an art. I needed to be okay with saying, "I can't think about my reputation or your impressions of me currently, because I am truly not doing well. While I may have dropped the ball, I had a valid reason: I’m sick, I didn’t plan on being sick, and I refuse to continue working until I get better.” How else can one recover? If we all continue to work our bodies into exhaustion, ultimately our emotional, physical, and mental health begins to suffer.
Here are some of the things that I'm refusing to do: I refuse to exacerbate my illnesses for the sake of not disappointing others.
I refuse to drink sugary drinks, eat unhealthy foods, and to consume products that aren't good for me.
I refuse to forgo receiving 6-8 hours of sleep every night.
I refuse to over work and over commit myself.
I refuse to have all of my actions dictated only by the thoughts and opinions of others.
And so I say to you Scripps: learn to care for yourself. If you can take of yourself, you can be of greater service to others. In our conversations about community, we can slowly care for each other by reaching out and by understanding that we are not suffering alone on these campuses. As the semester comes to an end, I ask that you keep your health in mind and that in this last push through finals, you remember to rest, to drink lots of water, and to do things that will keep you sane (maybe you need to paint, read a fictional novel, watch a funny television show). Enjoy your summer vacations and I'll see most of you next semester!
Antoinette Myers SAS President Elect 2011-2012 Scripps College Gates Millennium Scholar Latin American Studies Major