Today was one of those mornings. I woke up for my 9:15am... at 6:45am. Not because I take that much time to get ready (I actually only take about 15 minutes) but because I need that much time to wake up, go back to sleep, wake up, calm down, breathe, convince myself to go. It was particularly hard today, I had anxiety about going to class and anxiety about staying in bed, either way it was a no-win situation. I’ve missed this class too many times and I worry that my professor will start to think that I’m just slacking off or don’t care. I don’t want to miss so much that I’ll not learn anything, but at the same time I know that I’ll go to class and sit there staring at a blank page trying to tell my heart to stop doing whatever the hell it was doing. 

If it’s a day I somehow get the guts or energy to actually raise my hand, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. My face will turn some sort of version of crimson, my heart will beat so loud that I can barely hear my own thoughts, and if I get called on, the words will pretty much tumble out. So often, just the thought of actually speaking makes me so nervous that I am already deterred before I even raise my hand. Logically, I know nothing bad will happen if I show up to class and nothing bad will happen if I speak in class, but for some reason my body does not believe that.

There is a surprising amount of college students dealing with some form of anxiety. Whether it is panic attacks, an anxiety disorder, or situational anxiety, it can completely alter their lives. It is hard to balance a full course load, a social life, possibly a job, and several extracurricular activities when you have something else looming over your head. Anxiety in students is perceived in different ways from the actual student or their peers or even their professors.

As a student with diagnosed Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I have heard all too many times that I am one of many. I think this is meant to comfort me, but in a way it feels somewhat belittling. It is important to recognize that even if you are “one of many,” it does not diminish how you are being affected. There may be some mornings (or even afternoons) where you feel so heavy that you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed, let alone clothe yourself and leave your room. And this is an awful feeling because you feel like you’re letting yourself down, letting your professor down, wasting money... and you might get frustrated with yourself. So frustrated that you are mad at yourself and become more anxious. And your grades might become at risk, along with your relationships. Your relationships with your friends, professors, peers, food, yourself... It’s really tough.

Luckily, I have been blessed enough to have some incredibly understanding professors. I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a professor and not know how to communicate with a student going through a hard time, or not realizing that the student is having a hard time. As a professor, you have so many students; it is hard to think that they have the time to think about each student and their potential issues, especially if they are not registered with Disabilities Resources. I have, however, found that coming to your professors can only lead to good.

The few times I have communicated with my professors about what is going on, they have only responded well. One, who is truly an inspiration to me, offered me advice about various ways to combat my anxiety. She did not belittle me. Instead, she became more understanding to my lack of in-class discussion. On the day in which I missed due to a severe panic attack, she did not mark me absent; instead she asked if I needed any help, advice, or possible services. This was so relieving to me. It took away so much panic and anxiety, and I don’t think she even realized it.

Another one of my professors offered to spend some office hours helping to figure out a way to best suit my needs. This is a small school, and we should take advantage of the relationships we can have with our professors. They know our names, and honestly the more you connect with them the more likely they are to make an impact on your life and for them to be understanding of any difficulties you might have. We often idolize professors as our superiors, as people who are on a completely different playing field, when in fact all they want to do is help.

So, to all the professors out there, don’t automatically assume someone who isn’t participating or not showing up to class just doesn't care. Sure, there are some of those out there, but giving people the benefit of the doubt is so important. Jumping to conclusions like that can ultimately lead to a negative environment, more anxiety, and less success. You never know what someone is going through, and ignoring some signs of seclusion and silence can be detrimental.