Hey friends, brace yourself because this is going to be a long one. I have hesitated and written this post countless times because every time I find the courage to post it, I end up backing out. I worry to myself “what if people don’t see me the same way” or “what if people treat me differently” once they know. But I have to remind myself that one of my goals on Endless May is to be completely transparent and true to myself and so today, I want to do that.
Who am I? I’m Shannon and I
suffer from have an anxiety disorder. I used to call myself a professional worrier. In fact, by the summer before my sophomore year of college, I became so good at worrying that I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t go back to school in the fall. But, now I no longer let my worrying or anxiety define who I am.
People often think that anxiety isn’t a real condition. I have had people tell me that it is normal to worry and be anxious and that I should just take a deep breath and move on. I believed that for a while. I pushed my anxiety so deep down that I started to feel like it was MY fault for feeling the way I did and that if I just tried a little harder, smiled a little more and made more of an effort that I would suddenly be happy and worry free.
But then, during my first year of college, my anxiety got much worse. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I broke up with my boyfriend because I worried that our relationship was not what I needed at the time. I started to hate school. I dreaded going to social events. I wasn’t myself. My roommate started to worry as she was the only one who really saw this side of me. I tried to plaster on that smile and “suck it up” but I felt like I couldn’t keep up the front. I wanted nothing more than to leave school.
I pushed through the rest of that year and silently counted down the days until I got to go home. I was miserable and the light at the end of the tunnel was summer vacation. I kept thinking “once I go home, I will feel better”.
That didn’t happen. In fact, my anxiety got worse when I got home. I knew I needed to tell someone about how I was feeling. I knew I needed help.
I set up an appointment with my doctor with the help of my mom and I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. We talked about next steps, starting me on medication and counseling in the fall.
Within weeks on the medication, I felt better. The worrying and anxiety wasn’t completely gone (and still isn’t), but I started to feel like I had more control over the entire thing. I was finally starting to become excited about things again, including returning to school in the fall. Finally, I felt like I had control of my anxiety.
I returned to college in the fall and found myself surrounded by support. I didn’t tell many of my friends about my anxiety- I think I only told three people that semester. However, those that I did tell showed me unconditional love which I am really grateful for.
It has been one year since I was diagnosed with my anxiety disorder and now, more than ever, I feel comfortable sharing my story-something I have kept hidden for so long.
The truth of the matter is so many college students have mental health challenges and without more people talking openly about mental health, these problems will just get worse. It is important to be an advocate and to be aware of mental health problems.
Thanks for letting me be open and honest. If you ever need to talk to someone about anxiety or have any questions, please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Remember, you are not alone. Do not let anyone else tell you to get over it. You are in charge of your own self and you have the right to be happy.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, there are a lot of resources available. If you are feeling suicidal or extremely hopeless, please call the suicide hotline which is open 24/7: 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list of a few other resources that I have found helpful:
- Finding help: http://www.adaa.org/finding-help
- Overcoming anxiety: http://www.anxietycoach.com/overcoming-anxiety.html
- Dealing with anxiety in college: http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/college-students
- Mental health in college: http://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/top-5-mental-health-problems-facing-college-students/