One Month Into 2019 and I’ve Learned Already the Biggest Lesson: Just Being Lonely vs. Actually Being Alone

“New year, new me.” It’s a saying everyone says as we count down the final days of the old year and get hyped for a “fresh start” with a new year. For some, it may be New Year’s resolutions or impulsive decisions that can have an everlasting effect. I am no exception. 

Towards the end of 2018, I promised myself to take better care of myself. The fall semester of my sophomore year is just filled with bad memories where my anxiety was at its worst. I remember feeling alone and as if the world was against me for no reason. Over fall break, my doctor expressed her concern and referred me to a psychologist who suggested that I might need medication to further help my mental health.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t put myself first for most of last year because I wanted to make others happy and try to distract myself from what I was feeling. I hadn’t found a therapist outside of Temple’s offered mental health services that I felt comfortable with nor someone who would accept my insurance. However, it all became too much, and I was calling my mom late at night, just crying and having rounds of anxiety attacks. I felt like I had no control over my life anymore. I’ve always struggled with my mental health, and for a while, I could manage it but this was different. 2018 is just a period of my life that is best remembered for the darkness I felt.

I cannot even tell you why I started becoming severely anxious last semester. I had looked forward to moving back to Philadelphia ever since my freshman year of college ended. I even cried when my mom helped me move all my stuff out of my dorm because I just didn’t want to leave. I became so adjusted to an independent lifestyle and living more than five hours away from home, but I had to come home for knee surgery. I felt restricted and confined, so I worked hard in physical therapy so I could move back ASAP.

In October, though, is the earliest I can remember my anxiety coming back. I began overthinking every little thing, but just thought it was the stress of midterms approaching. I just brushed it off. I just worked hard in my classes and my internship, hung out with friends, and just kept quiet about my feelings.

I do know that the shooting that happened at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh pushed my anxiety to a far more dangerous level. My dad texted me early that Saturday morning telling me a shooting happened, but I had no idea where they were. Earlier that month, my parents had gotten into a car accident and it was hard even then trying to contact them. I know they went to the city that day and weren’t at the Pitt football game, so I was thrown into a whirlwind of panic if my parents were okay or not.

Pittsburgh was the last place I ever thought something this tragic happening. I felt like my home had been attacked. I had problems sleeping and began to feel unmotivated to get my school work done. Often, I just thought about my parents and something happening in Philadelphia and my parents unable to get to me, which triggered panic attacks.

To calm myself, I turned towards friends to vent my frustrations and fears. They reassured me nothing would happen and that they would always “be there for me.” I was beginning to feel okay again, or at least that’s what I thought.

In November, I was accused by those who I thought had my back that I was spreading rumors about other people and I had supposedly been treating people poorly. I couldn’t even remember talking to anyone except maybe a handful of people because of my internship and busy class schedule. Nothing made sense anymore. When confronted about the situation, it had turned into explaining that my anxiety causes me to get worked up, so I can understand how me raising my voice can be seen as yelling at someone. From then, it became “maybe you should get a better grip on your anxiety.”

I felt alone. I felt like I was crazy, and what hurt the most was hearing all of this from people who promised they’d always look out for me. Like mentioned, my mental health has always been an uphill battle, but I fooled myself into believing I was doing better. If someone noticed I was acting differently, I do not understand how not once did someone reach out to check in on me when they noticed something was wrong or just see if I was okay. Sure, I had gained the reputation as someone who always was positive, but you can only keep that act up for so long. I really did try to fake it until I made it. I was blindsided because I had open up to people how I was feeling yet somehow it got reversed into I was in the wrong for potentially raising my voice when I was expressing all my thoughts and emotions. I was in the wrong because of my anxiety.

Life has a funny way of working out sometimes, however. During Thanksgiving dinner, I had received an email from the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Admissions that I had been accepted as a transfer student. I had applied earlier in the month impulsively following an anxiety attack, but never imagined I would actually get in. I was waitlisted my senior year of high school. You can only imagine what an interesting Thanksgiving that made for my family and I. We talked for days about the pros and cons of transferring mid-year to a new university, but my heart was just screaming for me to be a Panther. The day before I had to leave to go back to school in Philadelphia, I made the decision I was going to pack up everything in my on campus apartment and move back home.

Transferring meant I was starting over. 2019, at that point, was literally a new chapter for me, which was exciting and intimidating. I’ve been used to the possibility of just having to make last minute changes being the daughter of a former U.S. Army soldier. There was always the possibility we’d have to move or that my dad would get deployed. However, this time was different. I was the one making the decision to move, which is a big deal. When I sent the $200 enrollment fee, it was the beginning of feeling I was taking my life back.

However, this also meant there would be a lot of hardships ahead. For starters, I was transferring half way through the academic year, which might mean it would be harder to adjust. I also had to come to terms that since a few of my credits did not transfer over from Temple, I was now graduating a semester later than planned. Even though I know Oakland and Pittsburgh like the back of my hand, I didn’t really know anyone except for maybe one or two people from my high school. I had to say goodbye to my sorority, my friends and the life I had gotten to know for the past year and a half.

I know a few people who had transferred universities and there was a mixture of positive and negative experiences. However, the most common theme was the self-growth you experience. Being new, you won’t have your “people” yet, so often, you spend time by yourself, which helps this phenomena ever transfer students seems to experience.

For me, I have realized that even though I started off alone back in Pittsburgh, I truly wasn’t alone. On my first day of classes, my friends back in Philadelphia all sent me “good luck” messages and would check in on me to see how I was adjusting. They asked to see pictures of the apartment I was subleasing and asked how I was enjoying Pitt. And if you’re wondering, yes, I love it here.

The loneliness I have experienced here and there has motivated me to join clubs and participate as much as I can in whatever peaks my interest. I have begun making friends and really feeling this is where I belong. I also have found an amazing therapist who is helping me fix my temporarily broken pieces. For the first time in a while, I feel empowered. Sometimes I might not have someone to eat with or someone to say hi to when I’m walking around on campus, but that’s okay. I am doing what’s best for me at the moment and I have never been happier.

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