As a result of several external and internal factors, I have been experiencing severe anxiety throughout this semester. Studies show that as many as 1 in 5 students are battling with some form of anxiety. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 75% of lifetime cases of mental health conditions begin by age 24. But, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, only 37% of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment.
This is something that needs to be talked about. These students need to know that they are not alone and they can seek resources. With that intention, here is my story.
Starting in early September, my average stress level rose from a 5 to an 8. I was constantly feeling behind and questioning myself and my abilities. I was overanalyzing everything. I was having trouble getting sleep. I began to have panic attacks on a weekly basis. Weekly turned to daily. I would hyperventilate to the point of nearly passing out. Sometimes I did pass out. My mind would race to the point that it shut down and I just felt numb. I could no longer function the way I used to.
I knew the systems to reduce stress. I knew how to take care of myself. I was trying everything I could think of but it didn’t work. I couldn’t get out of my own head most of the time. So I took a leap of faith and got help.
I told my mom what was going on. We already had an appointment with the doctor the following week, so we decided to bring it up at the appointment. I described what I was experiencing and my doctor prescribed a low-dose medication for me to take once daily.
I was skeptical for sure. I’m one of those woo-woo people who wants to deal with medical things on my own and in the most natural way possible, rather than going directly to medicine. I believe you should deal with the problem at the source rather than covering it up. But I listened to the doctor with the knowledge that I didn’t have to take the pills if I felt like they didn’t help, and I would use them as a short-term solution to cope. I knew that the last thing I could do is continue on how I was.
So, I started to take the medication as directed. I haven’t had a panic attack since.
My mind is clearer and I’m able to deal with stress in a more manageable way.
I have not regretted my decision to get help.
Moving forward, I have been noticing when I feel anxiety and identify the trigger. I acknowledge how I’m feeling. I take deep breaths, and keep going.
There’s no cure for something like this. I don’t have a 5-step system to eliminate anxiety. I have two tips for you:
Treat yourself with compassion
There’s a quote that I read recently that’s really stuck with me:
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”
I know many of you reading this right now can relate to the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety in some form. Please don’t deal with it on your own, and don’t blame yourself for the way that you’re feeling. Treat yourself with compassion and kindness, and do not run away from your feelings of stress, overwhelm, anxiety, or depression.
P.S. I am not an expert. I haven’t studied medicine or done extensive research on anxiety or depression. This is simply my experience and my purpose is to let those in similar situations to me to know that they are not alone and empower them to change their lives for the better.