The Best Decision of My College Career

3 min

Laura Porter
Laura Porter

I took a year-and-a-half off from college. It was — and is — the best decision I’ve made during my time in school.

It wasn’t an easy decision, don’t get me wrong, but it is the decision that saved my life and allows me to tell my story to hopefully save others.

I came to college with the idea that everything would be “perfect.”

Perfect (adj.): Go to parties Thursday through Saturday, have a stellar GPA, join the best sorority, have hundreds of friends, fantastic internships, graduate in four years and never miss a beat.

Phew, just writing that was exhausting.

There is no such thing as “perfect,” but I was living as if my definition was the “norm.” It was what I needed to do, and if I didn’t, I failed. So when my grades began to slip, when my disordered eating worsened into a full-blown eating disorder and when my drinking was killing me, I began to contemplate ending my life.

Spoiler alert: It gets better.

On a Tuesday in September 2011, I sat, curled up on the couch in my therapist’s office, bawling and committed to going to treatment to work on recovery from my illnesses. It was a terrifying thought. I held on so tightly to ideas of what my life “should” be like (note: don’t “should” all over yourself), and what I was “supposed” to be doing.

I went in-and-out of treatment centers from September 2011 to December 2012, taking a leave of absence from school during that time.

I am so grateful for the time I took off from school.  I met incredible and inspiring people who were fighting courageously, just as I was, against mental illnesses.  I learned that it’s ok to feel and it doesn’t have to be something I push away.  I found out that what I was struggling with wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t broken, but that I was sick–and that I would get better.

Most importantly, I got to know myself.  I began to break down the walls I put up to protect myself, I learned to let go of fear and I started to love myself for who I am, not who I “should be.”  Had I not taken the time I needed to heal, to take care of myself, I am not sure if I would have gotten the chance to know the person I love today, unconditionally.

But I did take the time, and I am so grateful that I did. I’m not “perfect,” and I hate to break it to you, but you’re not either. There is no “perfect.” There’s no one way to do college, and there’s no one way to live life.

I have a friend who told me, “anything you put before your recovery, you’re going to lose.”  I try to live that way, putting my needs and my personal well-being (which includes mental health!) before anything.  It’s not selfish to take care of yourself.  It’s a strength.  It’s something I do so that I can live, really live, and in doing so, flood the world with awesomeness.

So here’s a definition I’ll leave you with. It’s a definition that grows and evolves, changing everyday as I continue on my journey of recovery, wherever that adventure takes me.

Me (pronoun): a human being who deserves love and kindness, compassion and care, and who is amazing just as she is.