Let’s Talk — My Struggles with Anxiety.

There has been a lot of talk lately at Guelph about mental health and seeing that it is the annual “#BellLetsTalk” day, I figured it was time for me to share the struggles I have been dealing with over the past couple years because it has always felt like something I needed to hide and that I’ve been afraid to share with people.

During my second year at university, and I found myself becoming increasingly stressed out over school, at first I tried to brush it off and I told myself things like “it’s university, everyone is stressed”, or I would convince myself that I was just making it up and that there’s people who actually are struggling and I’m just exaggerating. But, things got worse and it eventually got to the point where I stopped going to class because I thought everyone could tell that I was struggling as if there was some sort of neon sign pointing me out to everyone, as a result I started struggling with work and trying to complete assignments would result in me experiencing panic attacks, and then because I was so scared of having panic attacks I would just avoid assignments.

This all built up until one point at the middle of the semester I went to class, only to find the professor spent most of the class talking about an assignment that I hadn’t completed and I could feel the panic building up inside me. I ended up leaving the class and found myself at the walk-in sessions for counselling on campus. That moment was crucial for me, I am so grateful for the counselling services on campus. The resources and support I received are what helped me make it to the end of the semester.

I ended up taking the following semester off to step back from school and the stress and really think about where I wanted and needed to be. The entire time I was back home all I could think about was how I wanted to be back in Guelph, and how despite the struggles I had dealt with I still wanted to be in university and learning. So I came back in the fall and decided that I was going to switch programs.

That first semester back wasn’t without its own challenges. I continued to go to counselling on campus, but I also made the choice to see a doctor about medication to help manage my anxiety. I ended up on a daily medication, and while I was hopeful that it would help, I found myself feeling exhausted and emotionless. I felt like a zombie going through my everyday motions but not feeling anything. After returning to the campus doctor and not feeling like my concerns with the side effects were being heard I went home to talk to my family doctor and made the decision to stop taking medication.

This was an upsetting time for me because I came to realize that I would have to find a way to cope with my anxiety and that there would be no easy fix. I knew that I could no longer ignore the anxiety I was feeling because I had seen the effect it had the year before. During this semester I had also attended a few meetings for a social anxiety support group on campus, which sounds like the complete opposite of the type of situation someone with social anxiety would want to be in. But, it ultimately helped me think about my anxiety in a different way and helped me to challenge my boundaries.

I began to set goals for myself, I started trying to go out more and spend more time with friends. I worked up the courage to see a movie by myself and eventually even attended a music festival by myself. I was doing well in school and found different ways to help manage my anxiety around assignments and exams. And even though I have been getting better at coping, I still have bad days, and there are still times when I my anxiety creeps up on me and makes it feel like the simplest tasks are impossible.

I still find myself avoiding interaction with people, or feeling anxious when I do interact with others or getting anxious about school and stress when it feels like things are piling up. I still have nights where I’m exhausted and all I want to do is fall asleep but I can’t stop replaying a conversation I had where I maybe thought I came off weird or annoying or rude, even though at the same time I know these thoughts are irrational. Even the thought of posting this makes me feel anxious.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a point where my anxiety isn’t a daily battle for me, but I know I have supportive friends and family that I can turn to when it gets a little too overwhelming and I can’t manage on my own. Because after all, as cheesy as it may sound, life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. And sometimes to dance in the rain you need a little bit of help.