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Oct 31 2017
by Florence O'Connor

How My Anxiety Interfered With Knowing If I Was Happy at My College

By Florence O'Connor - Oct 31 2017
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I have suffered from bad anxiety and panic attacks for over a year. I have tried every tool in the book from intensive therapy, to visiting a nutritionist, to my current remedy: medication (prescribed by a psychiatrist). My anxiety worsened the summer after graduating high school and seemed to hit an all time high upon arriving at my chosen four year university. 

Moving across the country and starting college is a natural recipe for nerves, even for those who don't already suffer from anxiety. Starting college is scary stuff, so it was inevitable that I was going to feel slightly down. However, the confusion came in when I could no longer separate my natural homesickness from my pre-existing anxiety issues. Things got even worse when I could longer tell if I wasn't enjoying my college because of my anxiety, or if I wasn't enjoying my college because of the college itself.

This is one of the worst positions to be stuck in. I felt like I couldn't trust myself. I didn't want to make any decisions regarding my university because I wasn't sure if I was making them from the perspective of someone who just simply wasn't interested, or from the perspective of someone who had too much anxiety to involve themselves.  

At the beginning, I didn't feel particularly connected to anyone here and had little desire to go out. None of the offered activities interested me and I preferred to stay in my room and watch Netflix than mingle. However, I was terrified of letting my anxiety rule me, so I forced myself to meet new people, join clubs and even rush a sorority. I was proud of myself  for not letting my anxiety control my actions. However, two months later I am still having the same feelings of anxiety and isolation. 

Although I miss my family and friends, I am no longer encompassed by homesickness. I am content with the life I have built here, yet still suffer from pangs of awful anxiety. I still have little desire to go out and attend social gatherings; however, that is usually because the type of social gathering offered here doesn't interest me. When I think of certain situations I may be put in at this school, I am filled with feelings of panic. When I think about potential situations I may be put in at other universities, I feel more at ease.

I am terrified of letting my anxiety control me, so I am still hesitant to make any major decisions. This leaves me stuck in a weird position of wanting to believe that I am only unhappy due to my anxiety, but also not being able to shake the feeling that it is more than just that. I am comforted when I think of other universities that offer me a slightly alternative schooling option, but I am not sure if that is me finding a cure for my anxiety or simply running away from fighting it.

There is one certain school that offers me the most amount of comfort when I imagine myself there. I am going to be completely honest and say that this is because I know that particular university very well and it is located in my hometown. Transferring there would be an easy option; it would offer me the least amount of anxiety.

I am terrified by the prospective of having to transfer there as I am terrified of feeling like my anxiety has won, but I think sometimes you have to listen to your mental health. If certain situations and/or colleges do not match what you want, and are thus worsening your already fragile mental state, then there is no shame in returning to a situation that puts your mental health at more ease – as long as it still challenges you to grow as a person.

I don't want to feel like a failure or take the easy way out by letting my mental health dictate my college experience; however, staying at a school that worsens it gives my anxiety even more power. There is no way to prove that my anxiety will remain at this heightened state by staying at this college, nor is there anyway to prove that it will get better. However, I know certain comforts that will calm my anxiety, such as attending a school with typical college and home securities.  It has gotten to the point where I need to put those things first in order to put myself in the position where I can flourish. 

Listening to your anxiety is not the same as giving into your anxiety. You take control when you recognize what you need and take action to help yourself. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that anxiety is something I am probably always going to suffer with, so instead of putting myself in a situation where I am constantly battling to enjoy myself I am going to take the power away from my anxiety and try to place myself in a more comfortable environment so I can truly thrive.  

Lead Image Credit: Pexels


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Florence O'Connor - New York University

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