When I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. As soon as I was diagnosed, it finally made sense as to why I would randomly feel like I was drowning if a situation got stressful. At the time, I knew something was different because I was the only one to cry and freak out over an upcoming test. Many people told me that I was just “dramatic” or I needed to “chill out.” I took their advice for the most part… but the episodes wouldn’t stop.
Over time, I began to let my mental illness define me. Whenever something in my life went wrong, I would blame it on my anxiety. If I just wanted to lay in bed that day, it was because I was depressed and didn’t want to see anyone. I lost my outgoing demeanor, a significant part of who I am. I remember sitting in class and not participating, but instead watching my classmates be a part of the conversation with my professor. They laughed along with him if he made a joke. When he noticed that I wasn’t participating like I normally would, he called me out after class. I can still hear him saying: “Molly, you don’t seem like yourself anymore, you okay?”
That day, I decided I would no longer let my mental illness define me.
I was still my same, wild self, except the anxiety and depression were a mere bump in the road. To this day, whenever I get anxious or depressed, I remind myself that I am in control not the anxiety and depression.
The hardest part for me was thinking that I had my anxiety under control but as soon as I entered college I realized that there were so many different triggers that I wasn’t aware of. In high school, it was much easier to get control of my anxiety, but in college, life became much more stressful. If any of you are in a similar situation try to remember:
You are not alone. My biggest regret is assuming that I had to handle this on my own. In reality, I had and continue to receive so much support from my family and friends. Even now, when one of my close friends asks me if I’m alright or if I need a hug, I immediately tell them I’m okay – even if I’m not. I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t have to handle this alone, and my friends will always be there to help. Coming to college or just moving out of your house can be scary, and you might feel alone, however, you are NOT. I truly can’t stress that enough. Here at Nazareth there are wonderful professionals at the Wellness Center who will do whatever they can to help. Also, Nazareth has a great club called Mind Over Matter which focuses on promoting awareness, increasing education, and removing the stigma around mental health.
Go to your happy place. Whenever I would feel my worst, my mom always told me to picture myself on the beach. I would think about the sound of the waves hitting the shore and the feeling of the sand under my feet. Imagining myself on the beach not only helped me relax, but it also helped me realized that I was the one that had the ability to calm myself down. I was the one who was in control. One of my favorite parts about Nazareth is the many places on campus where you can go to clear your mind. One of my favorites is definitely the meditation garden, because everything about it is so peaceful. If the weather isn’t ideal, the next best place is the rare book room in the library. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and very calming, which is perfect if you need some time to relax.
Occasionally, I’ll have my off days, and sometimes I let it get the best of me, but then I remember one of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Not even anxiety can make me feel inferior without my consent, and the same goes for you.