Lifestyle

My Experience With Anxiety & Depression In College

College.

It’s a time of excitement and new adventures, but also a time of uncertainty and fear.

My freshman year of college was fantastic. A bit of an emotional roller coaster, but definitely an exciting one. My classes were interesting, I kept my grades up, my friends were supportive, and we had lots of fun exploring life together!

However, things began to go downhill after that.

Sophomore year was a bit less overly exciting. I had some new friends and old friends, we still hung out and went on adventures, but classes got harder. Homework piled up. Grades began slipping. During freshman year, my friends and I valued our education and made sure to keep a good balance between our school lives and social lives. But in sophomore year, some friends began choosing a social life over school.

Because of my #FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I felt like I needed to put my school work on hold to go hang out with friends. And don’t get me wrong, we made some great memories! I have plenty of pictures to prove it! But I could literally feel myself spiraling out of control. My classes were more intense, I found myself staying up until 3:00 or 4:00 am trying to finish sub-par art projects, and I was producing C-quality work. I was very disappointed in myself, as I was always a good student in elementary, junior high, and high school. I began feeling depressed.

Even when I started dating my now-husband, although we were very happy together and enjoyed going out, I still felt…off. Even when I had free time, I felt like I was forgetting something. The stress, anxiety, and depression began to overwhelm me. By junior year, I began slowly cutting myself off from friends, hiding away in my room to do hours of agonizing homework, and basically dreading life. By senior year, I was barely passing my classes, had what felt like no friends (besides my boyfriend), and cried stress-tears almost every night of the week!

It’s been about a year and a half since I graduated college, and after looking back I’ve realized some things. First of all, my entire time in college I never realized I had any sort of anxiety or depression. What I thought I was feeling was a normal level of stress. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Anxiety and depression come in many forms to many people. I don’t think any two people experience them in the same way, and it can sometimes be hard to tell you’re even suffering from it until a professional tells you otherwise. For some of my friends, it meant panic attacks (which also come in different forms). For others, it meant letting things pile up and never getting organized. For me, it meant feeling like there was a looming thick fog in my chest that weighed me down.

I think my anxiety showed in the form of constantly complaining about everything, overusing the word “sorry”, feeling like a burden to others, and eventually shutting down to avoid all sources of stress. Another more obvious symptom of my anxiety was that my resting heart rate would sometimes reach 110 bpm! 😲 My depression showed in the form of feeling like I was stuck in life, dreading college like it would never ever end, having “nothing to look forward to”, and literally crying that I just wanted college to be over almost every night. Looking back on it, these things were definitely not just symptoms of stress, but a much greater problem.

Thankfully I never let my anxiety and depression overwhelm me to the point of thoughts of harming myself or permanently running away from my problems. Typically I would just complain and cry and shut down, sometimes sabotaging assignments or classes or relationships, but that’s as far as I ever let it go. The only things that kept me going were my faith that God had a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11, people!!), the support I had from my boyfriend and my parents, and the barely-achievable option of graduating on time. I feel like if I didn’t have those sources of support, I would’ve either dropped out of college or I’d still be stuck there now! 😨

Let me tell you something: graduating college was one of the BIGGEST reliefs of my life!!! Not only was I finally out of that perpetual feeling of stress, anxiety, and depression, but I had also accomplished something that not everyone has the opportunity to do. Now I have my degree framed on the wall of my living room, and every time I have a school-related nightmare I can wake up and remind myself that I don’t need to worry because I’m done with school forever!!

Unfortunately, graduating college wasn’t really the full “cure” to my anxiety and depression. Like I said, everyone experiences anxiety and depression different ways, and they deal with it differently as well. Due to other unrelated circumstances, I ended up going to visit a counselor every few weeks. Over time, we came to the conclusion that I really genuinely was suffering from anxiety and depression, and that my feelings were not normal. My counselor reminded me that NOT everyone suffers like this, and it’s perfectly acceptable to want to fix it!

I don’t know your opinion on antidepressants or other medications to help with mental illness, but after trying natural remedies such as essential oils and dietary changes (along with lots and lots of prayer lol), I decided to give medications a try. My doctor reassured me that the meds I would take were not “happy pills” like the common misconception, but they were designed to adjust my chemical balance back to a steady, stable level. And let me just say: they worked WONDERS!!! Obviously I’m not happy all the time, but I experience a normal amount of emotions without being overwhelmed one way or the other.

Shortly after beginning these medications, I could literally feel the fog in my chest lift away. Daily routines and tasks were not so overwhelming anymore. Waking up in the morning wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I felt like I could get work done and actually feel accomplished. It was amazing. I was so thankful!! If only I had gone to a counselor while I was still in college, perhaps we could’ve tackled the problem a lot sooner.

Just because you suffer from anxiety and/or depression does not mean you’re not normal. However, I also think it’s not normal to have anxiety and depression. I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you suffer from those things, but you also shouldn’t have to suffer. Studies often show that many people develop or discover mental illnesses in college, which really stinks! I used to be in denial because I felt like every single one of my classmates was self-diagnosing mental illnesses just to get attention. But it really is an unfortunate issue.

If you’re in college and you feel an overwhelming amount of stress, depression, or anxiety, don’t feel like you have to force yourself to just push through. If at all possible, take advantage of any nearby counselors to help you come up with a solution. I wish I had, and maybe my memories of the end of my college career would’ve actually been fond instead of bitter. But I’m still glad I eventually found help anyway and am now happy and thriving with a healthy amount of stress in my life instead of an overwhelming one!

My reason for sharing this is so that others who may feel as overwhelmed as I did know there may be a reason. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you feel like life is spiraling out of control. Even if it’s not a diagnosed mental illness, you can still find ways to cope with those severe levels of stress! Anyway, I hope this was somewhat helpful and a bit of an insight into my brain. Thank you so much for reading!

Do you deal with any mental illnesses? How have they hindered you in your everyday life? Have you found any ways to combat it? Share your thoughts in the comments, they might help someone else out!

~Laura <3

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Laura is the blogger behind Seeking Arrows, a lifestyle blog that focuses on aiming high and seeking joy in your ambitions. She is a Christian, wife, artist, writer, vegan, and more. For more info, visit http://seekingarrowsblog.com!