The Whole Story | Chapter Three

I did not want to go to college. Going through the application process felt like I was walking uphill dragging a boulder. I don’t mean that it was difficult, I had great grades, plenty of extracurriculars, and SAT scores that were good enough for the schools I tried to be interested in. My parents would take me to visit schools and as we were touring with the enthused student guide all I could think about was the overwhelming process of meeting new people and making new friends. I felt such anxiety when I thought about what my life would be like living in a dorm and eating at the dining hall and choosing a major - I had NO idea what I wanted to be doing. I let my logical brain decide and I began my college experience at the University of Massachusetts Amherst because that is where I had the most options of what to study, it was close to home, and I got a great deal so I didn’t need to take out a student loan.

I went through the motions of the college experience - taking gen-eds, studying for exams, going to dorm parties + frat parties, and making new friends. I always felt like I was being pulled through the experience, instead of like I was leading the way. I still lacked so much clarity around what I wanted to focus my degree on, let alone how that would translate into a post-graduate career. Eventually this confusion contributed to so much anxiety and panic that I decided to seek help with what I was going through from the lovely people at mental health services. This was my first experience with therapy and I was amazed at how much I revealed about what I was feeling to a complete stranger, but this is why it worked. I wasn’t trying to impress the therapist or get her to like me. She listened and asked me the right questions to help me figure out why I was feeling this way. She guided me through the scary process of confronting these insecurities and issues head-on. If you’ve not tried therapy and feel like you could benefit in a similar way, I strongly encourage you to find a counselor :)

After a few sessions I was feeling better but I still didn’t know how to make friends in an authentic way. I was pretty much only hanging out with my drinking buddies which would have been okay except for the fact that, like many young adult women, they were extremely catty and at times very toxic and negative. I was still so impressionable that I didn’t stick up for people that I valued as friends. I didn’t have the courage to walk away from the negative relationships that had formed because I was still dealing with my own insecurities and my need to be liked and accepted.

I am, however, a woman of extremes - largely influenced by the fact that I am a Gemini. During my junior year I explored a lot of my unique interests - sustainability, business, and religion. I tried to find other groups to belong to and spend time with, and in some small ways I was successful, but when I think of the true quality of the relationships I had in college, I realize that most of them were not based on anything more than pretty clothes, good looks, and alcohol binges. I had started to really distance myself from my friends because I was feeling so inauthentic and lonely, and I escaped into a gym habit. I would pack up everything I needed from our apartment to spend the whole day on campus. I would spend an hour or two running outside where I could let my mind wander and zone out to good music. This is where the extreme took over. I became so obsessed with the feeling of my newfound physical health that I ignored the mental health issues that were really fueling what was happening.

I had recently discovered vegetarianism and I was so moved by how much better it was for the environment, the animals, and my own personal health. But I also used this as a way to stay thin, to give myself less options on a menu to facilitate faster decision making, and to feel like I had control of something at a time when I felt like someone else was driving the bus. I now understand this as orthorexia - an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy. Interestingly, we had a roommate that was going through anorexia at the time, and compared to her I didn’t feel like I was doing anything “wrong.” My high school friends were rather alarmed by how much weight I had lost when we all returned home for the summer, and my parents weren’t thrilled either.

This new way of eating was important to me though, and I persisted until I began having emotional meltdowns and a rash appeared on my arms. I had approached what was now veganism from the wrong angle. The core of my desire to eat this way was not a deep love for myself, rather a fear of facing insecurities, a need to control something, and a pressure to stay relevant. I was fueled by compliments on my apparent glow at first, but once that wore off I became pretty much addicted solely to the control piece. I guess I controlled my grades in a way, or at least the energy that I put into my studies, but I had always done this so to me it wasn’t particularly exciting. Controlling the quality of my food and the obsessive running was a new thrill. I loved the way people watched me run outside, and it was even better when I passed someone I knew. I loved hanging out at the gym, looking in all the mirrors and taking the spin classes.

I have only recently realized that what I really really needed in all of this, the true root of these issues, was a way to stand out as an individual. I needed to figure out how to shine on my own, instead of living in someone else’s shadow. I needed to find something to believe in, to establish my own set of values as a human being, and find a way to express my truest self. I now understand that it would have been so helpful to have approached this from a beautifully self-loving perspective. That is why I am so excited about the work I am now doing, and about the programs that I am offering. I wish that I had this type of insight and appreciation for my individuality back then. I have learned an incredible amount about myself and I’m finally comfortable sharing my experiences with people with the hope that they are helpful and inspire others to look at the many aspects of their lives and personalities from new and different ways.

To learn more about my programs and how we can work together click here :)

Lauren D'AgostinoComment