I'm a college junior and I have anxiety.
It can be debilitating some days and it subsides on others. It came quickly and in waves, or slowly creep up on me like a change in temperature. That variation is scary and it's difficult to pair with my chaotic college lifestyle.
I want explain to people who don't have anxiety in college what it is like--and let those who do struggle with it know that they are not alone.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues on college campuses today, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Battling with anxiety of any sort can cause tasks that should be simple into nightmares. Things like introducing yourself to the class on the first day, or simply going out to dinner with friends can cause discomfort to a person with anxiety.
It's hard to explain to my friends why I want to stay in some nights and avoid dinner. It's hard show something intangible, how my heart beats fast at the thought of making conversation with someone I don't know. How I feel dizzy and sweaty at the thought of speaking up or being in a crowded room.
Or how I feel nervous sometimes, for no reason at all. That's probably the worst part.
"You don't seem nervous or awkward" is something I get a lot when I tell people that I have anxiety. That's because people with anxiety learn how to manage it over the course of their lives. I believe that people don't suffer from anxiety; they push through anxiety.
No matter how it occurs, or when it hits you, what's important to remember is that you are not alone, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. People will understand.
There is also a stigma around not only recognizing anxiety, but being medicated for it. If you have anxiety and take medicine on a daily basis to cope with it, you are not the only college student who is doing so. According to the 2014 National College Health Assessment survey, almost one in every six college students have been diagnosed with, or treated for anxiety.
The meds don't make you a zombie or change you--they can help you. They help me.
These four intense years are challenging for anyone, and having to take anxiety meds to cope with the day-to-day college routine does not mean you're weak. It means you're smart enough to realize what you need to make you healthier and happier.
Whether it is pushing through social discomfort at parties and talking to people I don't know, speaking up in class, or going to a crowded setting with my friends, I push through.Not always, but I do it now more than ever, because I have help.
I know that not everyone will understand and that's OK. But never push someone to do things they aren't comfortable with, because they could have anxiety and are pushing themselves everyday to do things that you consider simple. Be compassionate, be a calming force, and don't judge.
If you do have anxiety, remember that you are more than a stigma, you are more than a statistic. You are a warrior. Keep pushing on.