BY EMILY O’CONNELL, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
I crave the high school days where my routine was so natural and my days were so predictable that I did not need to adapt. My comfort was at an all-time high, and the controlled environment allowed me to thrive, or so I thought.
The transition to college was not difficult because of academics, learning how to fit in or even the cafeteria food. It was difficult because I developed anxiety. I had always thought that my biggest worry in college would be money. People gave me all kinds of advice and tips to help me be successful, but not one mentioned my mental health.
As a student consistently mentioned on the A-honor roll in high school, teachers had no concerns about me entering this new phase of life. So, as I sat in class with my heart pounding until my chest physically hurt, I silently pondered what was wrong with me.
Irrational thoughts then started flooding my mind. While the professor was discussing supply and demand, I was creating an escape plan. I was constantly in fight or flight mode; my breathing was never stable, and my relationships struggled. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong.
Then came the panic attacks. First occasionally, then weekly, then multiple times daily. At the time, I did not know what these were. I simply thought I was going crazy — Why was I suddenly curled up in a ball hyperventilating on the floor? What had happened to me?
I could not handle it anymore. The person I had become was someone I did not even recognize or identify with. Someone who was no longer positive or helpful, but rather on edge and borderline aggressive. It was time to seek help.
Luckily, Augsburg offers free counseling sessions on campus. I immediately signed up, and then cancelled my appointment a few days later due to the anxiety that I did not know I had. When the panic attacks happened in the middle of classes, I was so afraid of my grades dropping that I made another appointment. This time, I went to it.
As I began talking, I realized that I was so far from alone. There are millions of students just like me struggling with anxiety. It is one of the most common illnesses in the world. This was comforting in a sense, but I still had to deal with this burden of never feeling anywhere close to comfortable. I could explain many more stories about my experiences and the ways that anxiety has created both struggles and triumphs for me, but for now I want to make three main points:
—Change can induce anxiety, but if I had never changed, I would have never grown.
—I am not alone in my struggle. My mental health matters to more people than just me.
—Help is out there. I must seek it. Self-care needs to become a priority, especially in college.
This article first appeared in the Friday, September 29, 2017, Edition of The Echo.