Wow. This is actually terrifying. Starting a blog is something I’ve wanted to do for years…literally, since I was a freshman in high school. Now I’m a sophomore in college, and I have finally gathered the courage to put myself out there.
I’ll start this post by introducing myself. Hi!! My name is Maggie McIlroy, and I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I just turned 20 on December 18th, which was honestly really weird. 20 is such an awkward age because it’s kind of like being in limbo between being a kid and being an adult. But, I’m excited to see what 20 has in store for me!
18 and 19 had some crazy shit in store for me. Right after I turned 18, I broke up with my boyfriend at the time, desperate to escape from home and leave for school. I spent the rest of my senior year spending as much time as possible with my friends before we had to go our separate ways. I graduated high school…also a really weird experience. And then, I packed my bags and set off on the biggest journey of my life.
On August 16th, 2016, my parents and I, each dragging 3 suitcases jammed with my stuff, boarded a plane to Dallas, Texas. I was headed off to college. I spent my freshman year at Southern Methodist University. I had no idea what to expect, and I was nervous and excited and a whole slew of other emotions all at once. I am the oldest child in my family (Katie is 17 and Emma is 13), and so I didn’t get to learn from another siblings experiences. I was totally on my own on this journey.
It started off amazing. It was like a dream that I never wanted to wake up from. SMU has a social scene unlike any other school, and those firsts weeks were spent bouncing around from pool party, to frat house, to concert, to club in the city, each night crazier than the last. I was having fun, but I wasn’t happy. Actually, I was starting to fall into a really deep depression.
By the time my 19th birthday came around over winter break, I was a shell of the girl I was when I left for school. My eyes were hollow and red from all of the sleepless nights spent softly weeping into my pillow. I felt like I had no friends. I had gained the freshman 25 and was so insecure. I was honestly unrecognizable and hated who I saw when I looked in a mirror. When the break was over, my mom literally had to drag me to the airport to go back. It was the last place on the face of the earth that I wanted to be.
Second semester began with sorority recruitment. Recruitment at SMU is worthy of its own post because I have so much to say about it. If I could sum it up in one word, it would be demoralizing. It was truly one of the most degrading and humiliating experiences I’ve ever had. I ended up dropping out on the last day, deciding I’d rather be totally alone than surrounded by people I had nothing in common with. (Note, this is my opinion on sorority life at SMU specifically, not on greek life as a whole.)
I spent the entirety of second semester alone in my bed in my shitty dorm. I was either binge-watching Netflix or binge-eating tacos. Cue…the freshman 35. My grades plummeted, my health spiraled downward so fast it made me dizzy. It took everything within me to leave my bed, which was ironic because I didn’t even feel safe in my dorm room.
I hit rock bottom in mid-march. I suffer from chronic, debilitating back pain, and the root of the issue is still unknown. (Also, something worthy of its own post). At the time, I was prescribed super strong pain killers. The medicine was so strong that it made me throw up every time I took it. Like this shit was potent. One night, I was so desperate to escape from the life I was living, I poured all of my pills out on my desk, and I just stared at them while sobbing uncontrollably. I filled a Solo cup with water, my hands trembling, and water splashing over the sides. I picked up a few pills in my hand, put them in my mouth, and swallowed. I sobbed even harder. I was trying to take my own life.
Then I pictured my mom. My mom is my absolute best friend. I thought to myself, “How fucking selfish could you be? Mom has spent 19 years building a life for me, supporting me, nurturing me. And you’re going to let a shitty year at school undermine all of the love that you grew up surrounded with?”
I picked up the rest of the pills, flushed them down the toilet, and crawled into my bed.
It would be at least a month until I confessed this to my sister, Katie. We were at Coachella (drunk), and one of my cousins kept making suicide jokes. I started to cry, and begged Katie to make him stop talking about suicide like it was funny. She asked me why I cared so much, it’s not like he means them, he’s just trying to be funny. And then I told her my secret. If I hadn’t been drinking that night, I don’t know if I would have told her. But, she took my hand, and we walked out of the festival, got an Uber back to my grandparent’s house, and fell asleep together in the bed we were sharing. Katie, thank you for being my most loyal supporter.
I made a promise to Katie that I would make an appointment with the therapist on campus as soon as I got back to school. A few weeks later, I came home for a wedding. When it was over, I had to be dragged back to the airport once again. That’s when my mom noticed something about me was really off. Call it a mother’s intuition, but something in her gut knew that I was unstable. She got Katie to tell her my secret, and within a few days my parents were down in Dallas to help me pack my things and get me through my finals so I could get the fuck out of there.
I’ve been very cautious of sharing this with anyone. I can count on one hand the people who know about that night. But, I think I have arrived at a point in my healing where I am ready to share. I think it is important to talk about mental health. I felt so alone during that time, and I know that there are people out there, even people close to me, who feel that way too. If no one ever talks about it, no one will ever know how loved and supported they are. I am not ashamed of that night. I was, but not anymore. It was an incredible wake-up call for me. I needed a change, desperately, and I had all of the power to make that change.
This summer was extremely transformational for me. I usually spend my summers traveling, but I spent my entire summer working at a restaurant called Zoup. I attended weekly sessions with a psychiatrist, was diagnosed with depression and PTSD, and was put on antidepressants to help get my emotions under control. I got a breast reduction surgery at the end of June, which was massive. I have always had a huge chest. It wasn’t disproportionate to my body, but it was heavy and cumbersome and I hated it. I had half of my chest removed in an operation that took weeks to recover from. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself. I did a lot of soul-searching over the summer, trying to come to terms with the year I had just endured. In late August, I embarked on another massive adventure.
I transferred to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for my sophomore year. It feels like I’m a freshman again, but this time around, I’m happy. It’s been tough at points, but it was the change I needed so desperately…but more on that later.
Now it’s 2018, and I feel like I am opening a whole new chapter of my life. I have learned so much over this past year and a half, and I intend to use this blog to talk about what I have learned. I thought I would share 9 lessons that have manifested from my experiences this past year, and 9 intentions for my year going forward. (9+9 =18…2018…get it??)
- Do no harm, but take no shit. This has become my mantra. I have it on a sticker on my laptop. I read that when I read Rachel Brathen’s, one of my idols, book called Yoga Girl. It is how I’ve decided to carry myself. It’s sort of similar to the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” I intend to be kind to everyone I cross paths with, but if someone has negative energy that doesn’t serve me, I won’t stand for that shit.
- Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. Anxiety runs deep in my family. Pretty much everyone is diagnosed with it in one form or another, which is extremely common nowadays. I have found that when I worry about the outcome of a situation, usually it manifests. “What if he doesn’t text me back?” turns into unanswered messages. “What if I fail this exam?” turns into bad grades. I have been learning to focus on the positive.
- It is okay to take time to explore the depths of your emotions. Don’t hide from them. There is a pretty common misconception that people have to be happy all the time. If you let anyone see that you’re struggling, you’re perceived as weak. But, taking the time to really feel your emotions helps to build strength. Being sad or depressed is scary. Being unsure is terrifying. But sitting with the discomfort, saying hello to it and getting to know it helps you learn from it. So take the time to feel sad. If something is upsetting you, cry. If somethings bothering you, vent. Feel your feelings. It’s amazing that we have them. It’s part of the human experience.
- I am the master of my destiny. I have all of the power to manifest my dreams, to change my situation. I was deeply unhappy at SMU, so I took action. I changed schools. Having the strength to recognize when you’re unhappy, and the dedication to yourself to do something about it is an amazing thing. You don’t have to be unhappy.
- Energy flows where attention goes. When all the things you think about are sad, you are going to give off sad vibes. Focus on the positive, and you will attract positive people. Be a light in other people’s lives by illuminating your soul.
- You can’t love anyone until you love yourself first. I am a hardcore romantic. I seldom fall for people, but when I do, I fall HARD. But I’ve found I usually use relationships to escape from myself. If I invest all of my energy into someone else, I don’t need to deal with myself. I’ve been single since I broke up with my boyfriend senior year (which is honestly amazing if you know me), and I have been trying to date myself, sort of. I look for new reasons to love myself every day, to build myself up, to make myself feel warm and happy on the inside. Any leftover love I create, I can give to someone else when the time is right.
- Rejection isn’t a bad thing..it’s the universe redirecting you. I learned this one big time after rush last year. All of the sororities I wanted to be in dropped me. I thought it was because there was something wrong with me. But truthfully, the universe was just trying to show me that that wasn’t where I was meant to be.
- Your vibe attracts your tribe. This has become mine and my sister Emma’s favorite quote. We have matching shirts that say it. It sort of ties back to number 5. The vibe you exude attracts similar people to you, so make it a positive one.
- It is necessary to do something that scares you in order to grow. Therapy was scary. Surgery was scary. Transferring was scary. Starting this blog is SCARY. But, I’m happy, evolving, changing, growing. I’m scared, but I’m excited.
- Put myself first, always. My happiness is essential to the way I live my life, to the way I treat others, to the way I view the world. I must always put it first.
- Be of service to others, in any way possible. I have learned so much this year. I want to take that knowledge and help people in similar situations. I started a yoga practice during the depths of my depression, and now I’m training to be an instructor to show others the healing powers of the practice.
- Say yes to new experiences. In order to thrive at my new school, I need to put myself out there. Say yes to dinners, to nights out, to girls nights in. I said yes to this blog finally, after I’ve said no for years, and it feels great.
- Create space for healing and growth. I plan to do this in the form of starting a meditation practice. Meditating is something that scares me. It’s a new experience, and I’m going to say yes to it this year. (Do you see a trend here?)
- Put myself out there, even if it’s scary. Along the lines of number 3…it’s time to stop being scared.
- Be present in each moment. It’s actually gross how good I am at multitasking. I’m done checking Instagram while I’m on the toilet (sorry, we all do it), snap-chatting while I’m eating, texting while I’m in class. It’s time to engage.
- Release anything that doesn’t serve me. Shitty friends, bad habits. I want to lift this metaphorical weight from my shoulders and leave it in my rearview mirror.
- Challenge myself in new ways. Sticking with this blog. Training to be a yoga instructor. Maintaining a healthy diet in a college setting. Excelling at my classes. I’m ready to step up to the plate.
- Live in grace and gratitude, in love and light. Always.
If you stuck around this long in reading this, thank you. Know that I’m scared shitless doing this. Like, shaking as I type. But something in my gut tells me I have to do this, to speak up, and share the things I’ve learned. So if you’re still here, thank you. I appreciate you so much. And stay tuned for more!