This interview was done with a current college student who recently began her journey towards improved mental health. The article anonymously covers her journey from seeking treatment, combating symptoms, and discussing concerns about the perception of anxiety by the greater public.
Can you tell me a little bit about your diagnosis?
“I was officially diagnosed this past summer…it’s a combination of depression and anxiety, so I’m treated for both. As far as my condition goes, it’s not circumstantial; it is more of an everyday kind of thing, it’s always constantly being worried you aren’t being productive enough but at the same time being constantly worried that you’re not resting enough, you never feel like you’re in a balance.”
How did you discover it?
“I had been feeling very not-myself for awhile, especially since coming [to college] because it’s different, so having to change everything definitely made it more difficult for me and it got really bad towards the end of last spring, and when I went home I was still having some issues so I was like alright I’m going to get checked out, make sure everything is fine and that when that happened.”
What would you describe as your biggest struggle?
“My biggest struggle is to remember that everything is going to be fine. I think the hardest thing for me is remembering that everything is going to be fine. How anxious you feel and how everything possible that could go wrong might go wrong, and you have to just learn that everything will eventually be ok; that’s the hardest part for me.”
What do you do to combat/calm your nerves and anxiety?
“Sometimes I just have to remove myself from a situation. Sometimes if I’ve been sitting there for hours working on something and I get really worked up about it because things aren’t going the way I want them to go, I have to get up and walk away; out of sight out of mind. I might talk to a friend, or go eat or try to remember to do the bare necessities and then come back to it when it is a little easier to deal with.”
Have you faced any misunderstandings with either your diagnosis or why you do the things you do?
“The hardest thing for me in terms of social awareness is that there are a lot of people out there who, really advertise anxiety for what it’s not. They create a stigma where people don’t take it as seriously, I think, as they should because they might not necessarily understand [the disorder] or they might think that ‘oh, everyone has some form of anxiety’ but it depends on the level. Is it just freaking out every once in awhile or is it this constant think that’s always on your mind. I think the stigma that’s been created is that it’s not as significant as other mental disorders. I just think when anxiety is falsely advertised or over advertised it is taken less seriously.”
Do you think that is the case with anxiety more so than other disorders/Have you come across anything personally?
“Specifically for me, it took so long for me to acknowledge that I had something I needed to deal with because of that stigma. [People will downplay] the severity of the disorder, but I thought because I didn’t have any of those things [bipolar, depression, everything] that it wasn’t as important so I didn’t feel as much inclination to address it [my disorder] and I feel like that’s the case with a lot of people. They might feel that other people have it worse, so I shouldn’t be complaining, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get help if you think you need it.”
What was your process of getting help when you decided you needed it?
“When I realized it wasn’t just school that was causing it, I went home and for at least 2 months it continued on that way. I realized if I’m not at school, then there must be something else going on and to be honest, my family didn’t really believe me.They thought “oh you’re being dramatic” and that also made it really hard for me to go get help because I didn’t feel supported. But I ended up going anyways and when i came home with a prescription and everything else they finally took it seriously.”
Did you go to therapy on your own or did you have someone with you?
“I went on my own…it was scary but I have other friends that had gone before and they told me what to expect and I really thought that I needed the help so I’m glad that I went. To be honest, I would have rather gone alone than with someone in my family who didn’t really understand what was going on or support what I was doing.”
Has therapy helped, or have you seen a difference in yourself since starting therapy?
“Yes, It helped me because it finally felt like someone was on my side, someone was willing to listen to all my problems and I was just unloading anything on anyone. It’s hard to talk to your friends sometimes because you know they’re going through a lot and you don’t want to complain about your life when you know they’re going through stuff too. It’s someone on the outside who can understand and also give you new perspective, they help you look at it in different ways and go “Oh I have reason to feel this way” or “Oh, maybe I don’t have reason to feel this way, and I’m just thinking about it all wrong.” So it definitely helped me gain perspective and help me learn how to cope in more productive ways. It helped me a lot, I still go. I see a family therapist, just because that’s what’s available near where I live, but I go to a psychiatrist and a family therapist that are within the same practice. They’ll make sure my medication is the right dose, doing what it should be doing and monitoring everything.”
Seeking out treatment and combating stigma is a concern regardless of the perceived intensity of a disorder. Though occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, anxiety disorders involve more than a temporary feeling. Anxiety disorders disrupt the flow of your daily activities and can impact your professional and academic life, as well as relationships. It is important to recognize anxiety disorders as serious mental diagnoses that require proper treatment.