The summer between my sophomore and junior year at UofL, I was diagnosed with anxiety. At that time in my life, I was a part-time student, a part-time employee at a hospital, and I lived fully on my own. With all that stress, I started to notice a clear change in my demeanor and personality. I had never been exposed to signs/symptoms of anxiety, regardless of clear anxiety attacks that I suffered from everyday, and I had never talked about the manifestations of mental health disorders. Looking back now, all the signs/symptoms I experienced clearly pointed to a struggle outside of myself, but I (along with my family) refused to seek medical expertise. For the longest time, I was embarrassed-- no one in my family had a mental health diagnosis and we definitely didn’t talk about it if we did. I didn’t want to be labeled as the degenerate in my family, so I kept to myself until the summer was over.
I can remember my first anxiety attack. I was simply sitting in class listening to a lecture when I felt an overwhelming sense of stress flood my body. I was lightheaded, sweating through my shirt, and my hands were shaking. I was so embarrassed that my professor or classmates would notice what was happening, so I put my head down and rode it out until it was over. This same event happened nearly five times before I said anything to anyone about it. The immediate response I got from family and friends was “stop stressing out so much,” “get more sleep,” or (my personal favorite) “drink more water.” As you can imagine, this only turned me off more from talking about it. I distanced myself from my friends, I was always arguing with my family, and I slept for 12+ hours a night.
Eventually, there came a point where I was tired of feeling the way I was. I immediately scheduled a doctor’s appointment before the fall semester so I could start feeling better. After talking through some things with my doctor, she explained to me that I definitely had anxiety and I should’ve sought out her help sooner. She recommended that I seek out therapy and she prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication. After a ton of trial and error and almost a year later, my anxiety is at bay and I am so thankful for the resources that have helped me along the way.
This journey has undoubtedly changed my perspective on mental health. As college students, and especially with events going on in the world today, it is YOUR responsibility to monitor your own health and well-being regardless of what others say. If you haven’t been feeling like yourself, I strongly encourage you to reach out to a professional and get the help you need! Mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of, but rather something to reflect on, grow from, and conquer.