“It’s a funny thing, coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The night before I left my home to start school at Kutztown University, I cried. I slept next to my mom in her room, surrounded by stuffed animals from my youth, tears streaming down my face. I was scared, nervous, and uncertain about my future. The idea of going to this new place, with new faces, and new beginnings excited me, but choked me at the time. I didn’t know what to think. My anxiety was at an all time high. The first night at Kutztown, I laid in my bed staring at the concrete, white walls, next to a girl I hadn’t known more than a couple months, wondering if this was it. I had spent most of the day unpacking what seemed to be a hundred boxes, transforming a bare dorm into my home for then next year. Cassie and I quickly grew into friends.
The idea of making friends in college is something scary. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do it. I was voted “Most Outgoing” for my class in high school, but I had felt it was nothing more than just a plaque. Slowly, but surely, I felt the transition of college ease on me. Somehow, whether it be a sign from God or a screw up in the Housing office, I was next to two boys from back home. The thing about high school is they can teach you endless math problems and proper grammar, but they don’t teach you the basic necessities like how to make new relationships or how to take care of yourself in case you have the flu. I had to learn the importance of eating healthy, getting proper rest, and making decisions for myself.
What they don’t tell you about anxiety is that it can occur whenever, even when you don’t want it to happen. What might seem like a small issue can feel like a wave crashing down, dragging you with the tide. I cannot thank Cassie enough for the endless late night talks, the constant reassurance, and lastly, some of the best laughs I’ve had. There were times I would feel alone, even in a room filled with sweaty bodies and red cups splattered on the floors. Sleep became my safe haven. I realized I had to start new. I knew I had to allow myself to grow, and discover the “Cara” I wanted to be. I reached out to new people, found new activities/ clubs to join, and surrounded myself with positive individuals. I let go of what dragged me down and focused on what’s in front of me. I became aware that if I wanted others to understand what I was going through, I would have to be vocal about it.
I first told my family, my immediate friends, and my boyfriend I had been diagnosed with SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder usually happens around the same time every year. It is more common for it to occur in the fall until the spring months. For me, I had experienced feeling low, oversleeping, and high anxiety. I researched about light box therapy, which is used to mimic natural outdoor light, causing a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. I felt that it was better to express and explain the reasoning as to why I hadn’t been acting like my normal self. I was able to communicate better, while also having the upmost support during the tough months. This year, I feel going back to college was easier for me. I had connected and found others who went through the same feelings/emotions as I did. I began to eat healthier and become more organized. Somehow, through the good and bad here, I found the love for this school. I felt that this place has helped me transition into who I am today. I try not to worry as much as I did. I learned how to cope better with my mental health, and most importantly, learned I cannot be in control of everything. I thank the countless friends and family members I have, who have supported me through my progress. While it had taken me a while to understand, I learn that no one is perfect.