When I first posted about my struggle with anxiety, I was pleasantly surprised by the support. People reached out to me and shared their stories. I learned that some of my closest friends had been living with anxiety and depression. For years, I never knew. It broke my heart. I felt like a bad friend, but they didn’t know I was struggling either. It stunned me that we had been dealing with similar situations, but were too afraid to speak out. As a society, talking about mental illness has been frowned upon because of the stigma associate. The whole situation made me realize that it is extremely important to talk about mental health. By starting the conversation, you can create a community of others suffering and educate those without mental illness, how to care for their loved ones. I felt relieved to know I wasn’t the only one.
For years I had been afraid to speak out. I didn’t think people would understand. I thought I would labeled as dramatic or told, everyone has anxiety; it’s normal. While I do believe everyone has a bit of anxiety, mine was too uncomfortable to be considered “normal.” I felt helpless, out of control, and paranoid. I couldn’t explain it. That’s just it, anxiety isn’t really something you can explain, especially to those who do not struggle with mental illness. I had some family members who didn’t quite understand, and still don’t. They’d tell me things such as Don’t worry. Let it go. Everything will be fine.
While I understand my family members had good intentions, I don’t think they fully understood how damaging those comments could be. I could not just let things go. I could not stop the anxious thoughts. Anxiety is a deeper presence and usually something that is out of my control. It’s different for everyone.
My battle with anxiety started in the 5th grade. After switching schools, I began to have chest pains and a shortness of breath. At the time I didn’t know what a panic attack was. I was young and all I knew was that I was uncomfortable and wanted this feeling to go away. So I started counseling.
Eventually the discomfort slowed and my anxiety became manageable. I stopped going to counseling. Throughout junior high and high school my anxiety was present, but never too much to handle.
After starting college, I hit an all-time low. Anxiety started to take a toll on my body. With stomach pains, breathing problems, chest pains, and an abundance of sleepless nights, I lost control. I went into a state of denial.
I’m fine. Everyone has anxiety. I’m an adult. I don’t need help; I can handle it myself.
Not being able to admit I needed help and burying the struggle, made things worse. I started having break downs more frequently. After countless doctor visits, I started on a low dose of medication and revisited counseling.
Today, even with medication and counseling, my anxiety is still present. I don’t think it will ever go away. But I am learning; learning how to cope. Some days are really hard. Focusing on mental health in college is REALLY difficult. The reality is somedays I just can’t go to class because I feel like my chest is going to collapse. Some days I can’t focus on my homework because my thoughts get the best of me. Some days I break down and cry. But I am taking the steps to work through my anxiety, self-care is key.
Everyone practices self-care in a different way. I believe you have to find the right balance of self-care in your lifestyle. These are a few ways I practice self-care as the over scheduled college student.
Counseling. Sure there are days I dread going, but it is so important for me to have that time to think through my thoughts and focus on myself.
Writing. Write down and accept your feelings. Laugh & cry about your day. I always feel relived after closing my notebook.
Do something you love. For me, my blog is my passion. I LOVE learning about socially responsible companies and sharing their stories. When I am in the zone and working on my blog, my anxious thoughts are not able to get the best of me.
Talking about mental health is one of the ways I practice self-care. If you speak out about your struggle, chances are someone around you is going through a similar situation. You’d be surprised. Open yourself up, vulnerability is beautiful.
Meditation is something I have just recently started. I found a great meditation podcast, Meditation Minis, on Spotify that has really helped me. Don’t get discouraged when you first start meditating and you feel like your thoughts get the best of you. It’s a process.
Consider yourself. I can be very introverted. I need time to myself. Just because all your friends are going out to dinner, doesn’t mean you have to go. Consider what you want and what is best for your mental state.
Go for a walk. Time away from work, school, and social media can really clear your mind.
If you are struggling with mental illness, please know you are not alone. YOU’VE GOT THIS. I’ve been blessed to have a strong support group and the resources I need to deal with my mental illness. However, not everyone has this. If you are aware of someone struggling with mental illness, try reaching out.
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