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Oct 09 2017
by Delaney Sears

How My Anxiety Changed in College

By Delaney Sears - Oct 09 2017

I don't remember a point in my life when I wasn't anxious. I've learned to live with it. In elementary school, I would burst into tears when my classmates were super loud. The threat of a teacher being mad at me sent me down a rabbit hole of shaking, crying and worrying. In high school, I would have the occasional anxiety attack in the most stressful moments: when something went super wrong during a theater performance, when I thought I might get in trouble or when everything felt like it was out of control. 

That's where most of my anxiety stems from: control. I like to feel in control, like I'm in charge of everything happening around me. When people around me start being extremely loud, or when crowds start jostling me around beyond my own volition, I feel out of control, and that's when panic starts to set in. When I moved to college, I realized that something else made me anxious: I get anxious during change. 

Moving and adjusting to college is the most drastic change that I've encountered in my life thus far. I was packing my entire life into suitcases and boxes and putting it all into a room half the size of my childhood bedroom. College was also 700 miles away from everyone and everything I knew. Suddenly, I had to make new friends, tackle college classes, learn how to do laundry and so many new things that I'd never done before.

The unknown of college scared me. I like to have a concrete plan and know exactly is going to happen. With college, everything was a mystery. I didn't know what to expect and that made me feel like I had no control over anything anymore. Panic started to set in. 

Every day started and ended with anxiety. All throughout orientation and even once classes started, new worries started to bloom after every turn. Was I making enough friends? Was I joining enough clubs? Would I be able to handle the coursework? Is everyone doing college better than me? People herded in large, loud groups at 2 a.m., making it feel like my world was closing in on me; the things that caused me anxiety in high school were now emphasized by the pressure of change. 

Every minute of free time I had gave me more time to overthink everything. I started to hide myself away in my room. I would sit, shake and cry. At college, I was without all of my comforts from back home. I didn't have my parents, my best friends, my warm bath or my familiar bed. The things that used to calm me down weren't here anymore so I assumed that staying inside was the only way to keep myself sane. My anxiety had swallowed my emotions so much that I couldn't think about anything specific; everything just felt wrong. 

However, one day, I started to look around and listen to the people around me. The friends I made started to mention that they felt the same way; they didn't feel like they were doing college right either. They would confide in me that they, too, cried on Skype with their parents. Suddenly, I felt a little better. My anxieties weren't cured, but I realized that I had people who understood them. They understood if I wanted to stay in instead of going out partying. They understood my worries about school, and the few upperclassmen I'd met told me that they had gone through the same thing.

That's the thing that they always tell you about college: that everyone is feeling the same way. At this point it seems cliche, but it's so true. Seeing other people have the same anxieties as me, as well as meeting other people who have consistent anxiety made me realize I wasn't alone. The counseling offices always had their door open, and they expect countless worried freshmen to walk in every day. 

My anxiety escalated in a way I didn't think it would once I moved to college. At the same time, I feel less alone in my feelings. I have countless people to talk to: I have my classmates, my advisor, my school's counselor and my mom is just a text away. At one point, the only thing I could think about was that I was doing college wrong. Now, I know that there's no such thing. That's my anxiety talking, and I'm not gonna listen to it.

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay 

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Delaney Sears - Vassar College

Delaney is a freshman at Vassar College studying media and computer science in order to pursue animation. She will win any Disney trivia game you put her in. In high school, she was heavily involved in theatre and volunteered at the local animal shelter. Follow her on Instagram @delaneysears or on Twitter @delaneyysears!

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