Anxiety and depression go hand in hand with college.
Hatred of all mankind, your life, and everything that exists in the known universe goes hand in hand with school in general, am I right, am I right?
But seriously, whether you have an anxiety “disorder” or not, college somehow manages to evoke the worst out of you. Smart kids, dumb kids, average kids: we all experience it. You could do like the guy passed out in the public library in front of me who obviously shot heroin and decided to come sleep in the library because fuck it, no one cares in this town, or you can find some strategies to remedy the situation. Here are some things, as an avid anxiety sufferer for the entirety of my short life, I think can be helpful.
- For the love of whatever God you do (or don’t) believe in, DO NOT overwhelm yourself.What I mean by that is don’t take 18 units because you want to get your degree and get the hell out if you can’t handle it. If all you can handle is two classes per semester, take two classes per semester. It’s not a race. Even when it feels people are flying past you at lightening speed and getting perfect grades and starting their life as a theoretical physicist with a Ph.D at the age of twenty two, resist the urge to trip balls. Resist it. After all, you’re in college. You’re there to do things at your pace, how you want; how you perform relative to your neighbor has absolutely no reflection on your intelligence (Newtons 632nd law). The more you focus on others the worse your anxiety will get.
- Go easy on yourself. If your anxiety keeps you from a lecture one day, do all you can to remind yourself you’re taking this brief hiatus for yourself, so you can come back to the next class stronger and a little more mentally aware. That does not mean do what my (not) smart ass does, and take an anxiety day every other day. It means your health is important. It means keep in communication with your professors. If your anxiety isn’t entirely “social anxiety”, keep in communication with people you’ve befriended in class. You don’t need to tell them about your struggles, but they can be good resources if you need notes or homework for a day you’ve missed. I personally have no friends to depend on, so consider yourself at an advantage if you do.
- Get your fucking ass to the student health/accommodations/”disability” center. Now. If you haven’t done that and instead you’re reading this post, I give you permission to mentally mark this number, save it for later, and run to your campus. The only thing about this is you will need some form of “proof” from a doctor, a psychologist, whoever, who has known you for a while. Most people provide documentation from a physician or psychiatrist. I convinced the one at my school to just go off a brief letter from my psychologist. They give you a separate study area, they give you a silent place where your tests are proctored, they give you longer times on your tests, and it literally forces you to communicate with your professors. If that idea makes you nervous, I know how you feel. I couldn’t even go into the financial aid office this week because they fucking moved the building and I’ve been going to same place for the past three years; I can’t just suddenly change my fucking routine damnit! So if new things like that scare you, don’t worry. The deadline, the thought of failure that may make you even more anxious, will eventually force you to do it.
- Make yourself comfortable. If you don’t like small classrooms or crowded classrooms, sit at the end of the aisle near the door. I should learn to take my own advice. For example, yesterday at an Alpha Gamma Sigma meeting (oh yeah, join your honor society, looks good if you’re applying to other universities or grad school) my boyfriend and I had to sit in the middle of a row because there weren’t many seats left that fit us next to each other, and I’m anal like that; I need my support force with me at all times. My heart thumped like I was running a marathon. The tingling in my fingers came and my brain was screaming “get out, get out, get out.” I couldn’t leave though, not at the first meeting of the semester. So I sat there in pain shaking my leg and trying to keep from crying in front of fifty or so people. I took deep breaths silently and made myself focus on tiny details of each speaker: lines under their eyes, strands of hair sticking up, belly button rings, jean colors, ethnicity, names, and repeated each word they said over again in my head. It took my focus off my body and into the present. So, don’t do what I did. Do the opposite of what I did. Do the opposite of everything I do.
- They woke up the heroin addict. I’m waiting for him to pass out again. His eye lids are fluttering. . . . . now they shut. Waiting for his body to topple over again. There’s a difference between being really tired and being on a downer, trust. Try not to do heroin, if you fall asleep during your math test you will definitely not pass. No students, the integral of e^-4x times sin(2x) is NOT your face print.
- Take classes you enjoy or always, always save time for something you enjoy. Music, art, creative writing, whatever. It will allow you an outlet during the day.
- Don’t keep it a secret. If your anxiety gets so out of control that it’s affecting your school work and your daily life, tell someone. Get a free counselor on campus. Find a good friend. Join an “anxiety” club. Tell someone online. Just get it out of you before it cracks you in half. Because it has no reservations in making you miserable, it feeds off the fact that it knows you won’t do shit.
- Sleep! If you’re like me and you can’t sleep . . . well . . . try! Try sleepy-time tea. Try exercising or moving around a lot during the day, even if it’s just doing things around your house or dorm or room or whatever.
- He toppled over again.
- Last but not least. . . if you feel like you’re shutting down, don’t panic. You’ve been here before and you’ve made it out alive. You’re not alone in this struggle. It’s something I often fail to convince myself. So I end up listening to songs like this:
. . . and end up convincing myself I’m the demon spawn destined to murder everyone and bleed their bodies in a field.
Don’t be like me, remember?