by Quinn Nystrom

I struggled since the age of 12 with an eating disorder and a year later was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I didn’t seek treatment for the first time until the age of 24. I had spent so many years telling myself cruel, negative, judgmental things about myself. I believed that other people believed them too so I might as well work to keep myself in check.

It wasn’t until being in residential treatment that I realized how disordered my mindset was. I of course never thought I had an issue or was struggling with something mentally. I tell people the example of when I was in high school, our senior class of 500+ students voted me “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Most Likely to Become President”. Instead of being flattered, all I could fixate on were these ten students who had formed an “I Hate Quinn Club” and would attend our Class Cabinet meetings and bully me. That was less than 2% of our class, but unfortunately that’s all I could think of. Then my mind would go to the next biggest failure in my life which was not getting into Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication. I had always struggled with academics and couldn’t make the cut for their rigorous program.

You know what the greatest thing about our lives is? Every day we get a second chance to make the next best decision for our life. I learned that when I checked myself into treatment. Sure, I could focus on what I had not done to improve my life, but there was not a thing I could change about that now. I went through treatment and learned successful coping skills to care of myself. That included having positive affirmations placed around me so that the minute my mind started to go down that slippery slope of excessive self-criticism, I could turn it around quicker. I learned to grow in my faith so that I could stand firmly on a foundation for myself. I feel that when we say and believe positive things, they will happen in our lives – maybe not in our own timing, but eventually.

After I didn’t get into Syracuse as an undergraduate student, I still dreamed of attending there one day and didn’t lose sight of that goal while in treatment. I actually put a sticker of their school mascot on my mirror when I returned home from my high school visit to New York. After I finished residential treatment, I was encouraged by a mentor to submit my application for their graduate school program.

I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter in the mail saying they had accepted me! I worked hard in my classes and completed all my coursework on time in just two years, while also holding down a job. I wish I could tell you it had been easy for me and I sashayed down to the football field to accept my diploma and rush off to the perfect career, but that wasn’t my story. Over the past two years I have gone through a tough breakup, and I also ran for public office and didn’t win. I could let either one of those things derail me from continuing on my path to success, or shake it off and keep going.

Like the saying goes, “She believed she could so she did”. I’m proud to say that I’ll be presenting my graduate school research capstone on May 17 at Syracuse University in New York. It might have taken me longer than expected, but I know I will be so grateful for that moment because I know where I’ve come from, and how hard I’ve worked to get there.

When we focus each day on making the next best decision, we can turn our failures into opportunities for change and growth.