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I’m A College Student With Anxiety, & This Podcast Changed My Outlook On Mental Health

I have a hard time getting by sometimes, and that’s okay. There are days when it feels like everyone else has it all figured out and I’m watching from the sidelines. Others, I feel absolutely endless — like I’m authoring my own story. But when it comes down to it, most of the time, I’m honestly somewhere in that in-between space of being “fine” enough to go about my day, and resilient enough that no one even notices I’m struggling in the first place. And when persisting feels unmanageable, I try to kindly remind myself that being a human, let alone an adult, is by no means an easy feat. I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have. 

One of my favorite people once told me, “If you’re running on empty and you only have 20% to give, then give 100% to that 20%,” and it shifted my point of view instantaneously. 100% looks different for everyone depending on the day. I don’t know anyone who runs on a full tank 24/7 and that’s completely normal. We are miraculous sentient beings affected by the environments around us, not emotionless robots. Minor inconveniences like spilled coffee steer me off my path, making simple decisions like where to eat are debilitating sometimes, and after working on a course paper I usually need a minimum of two days to fully recover. I am a human — not a robot — with room for improvement, and that’s what led me to the DBT and Me podcast.

woman listening on headphones

Life is tough and so are you. Life is complex and you can practice coping tools to better deal with its challenges. That’s how I’d sum up my experience as an adult so far, and serendipitously, it’s how dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) sees it too. Typically practiced in a group therapy setting, DBT is a talk therapy that helps you cope with stress, regulate your emotions, and change your behavioral patterns. While it’s usually somewhat inaccessible unless you have a specialized therapist who is leading, or can set you up with a group, the DBT & Me podcast makes its teachings useful resources for just about everyone, and at any stage of the therapy journey. 

Remember how it felt to make your first real friend in kindergarten, and that unbridled joy and sensation of belonging you felt? That’s how practicing DBT feels. It’s like a warm, friendly hug for your all-too-exhausted brain. If you like relating really intimidating adult things, like therapy, to nostalgic childhood movies like I sometimes do, you can think of DBT as the Olaf (from Frozen) of therapy. Each time you learn a new coping skill, it’s like a warm, welcoming hug for your beautiful brain. And the key is that it actually does what it sets out to do — it teaches you how to take care of yourself.

My favorite part about DBT is that you don’t go through it alone. There are so many wonderful resources developed for it, one of them happening to be the podcast DBT and Me. It is my safe space where I can retreat when my reality becomes suffocating, frightening, or overwhelming. Every time I open Spotify and go to the podcast, I’m greeted by two genuine and compassionate therapists (Michelle Henderson and Kate Sherman) that actually understand what I’m going through at any given time. Although the chats may be pre-recorded, they flow naturally — sometimes it feels like I’m right there during the conversation, sitting in the seat across from them, and they are responding to my specific questions about mental health. Needless to say, when I put my headphones on and press play, I feel seen. And it’s the best feeling in my book. 

And when persisting feels unmanageable, I try to kindly remind myself that being a human, let alone an adult, is by no means an easy feat.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I’m someone who needs to know what’s going on and why in order to feel okay. There was this clip from Selena Gomez’s documentary, My Mind & Me a while back that summed it up pretty well. She said something along the lines of having information helped her overcome her fear of thunderstorms as a child, and she shared that it’s how she deals with life’s obstacles to this day. When I read her response, I immediately realized that I’m the same way. I’m empowered by knowledge and it reduces my fear of the unknown. There have been times in my life when I’m in a crisis and I reach a skills breakdown — like Selena with her childhood fear of thunderstorms –– where it seems like none of my resources are accessible to me, and it’s unsettling. Recently, when those moments happen, I’ve been hopping under the covers, pulling the blankets over my head, and listening as DBT and Me talks to, what feels like, directly to me. 

Last year was rough, but if you asked me what the single best thing of my 2022 was, I would say DBT, hands down and without hesitation. Whether it’s drinking a cup of lavender tea and listening to the chats on the podcast, or simply practicing the skills in my daily life as a stressed and frazzled college student, I’m comforted knowing that I have the skills and know-how to approach my life in the most awake way possible. In the words of one of my role models, my soul-sister, Taylor Swift, I may be “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.” But with DBT on my side, there’s a part of me deep down, that’s holding up a sparkly purple neon sign with one of those Ryan Gosling memes on it that reads, “Hey girl, you are capable,” and that’s more than enough, it’s everything.  

Alicia Casey was a National Writer for Her Campus from December 2022 to April 2023 covering all things health and wellness. She's graduating from Cal State Long Beach in May 2023 with her B.A. in public relations and a minor in communications studies.