College isn’t easy, but college isn’t meant to be easy. College is a challenge. It challenges everything we’ve ever experienced, all we’ve ever known, and, most importantly, college challenges ourselves.
Some challenges are more daunting than others. And some people are less equipped to handle them.
As some of you may be well aware of by now, my freshman year has been less than stellar. I was homesick beyond belief starting the day I moved in and immediately overwhelmed by everything that lay ahead of me.
Frankly, freshman year sucked from the beginning.
Sure, there were good days, but it felt as if every good day was met with two, three, maybe four bad days. How was anyone supposed to survive this way? I couldn’t comprehend how my classmates, my potential friends, weren’t on the verge of tears as I was. Why was I the only one so overwhelmed and miserable?
As it turns out, I wasn’t. After I opened up about my experience, more and more people were coming up to me and saying, “hey, I feel this way too, what can I do about it?” And I always have to take a moment to collect my thoughts, my experiences, before I try to relate my journey to them. Then, I spill it all. And here it is, with all of its painful truths to shine a light on the darkest parts of moving to college.
For the first four weeks or so, I would go to my classes, keep quiet and pray that some poor soul would invite me to lunch so I wouldn’t be so alone, and then i’d head back to my room, often left empty, and cry. I cried, and cried, and cried. My parents saw me cry more in the first month of college than in the entire year prior to that.
My depression that I hid from my friends and family through high school came back with a vengeance. I sunk lower than ever before. I had a problem. I knew I needed help, but God is it hard to ask for help when getting hit by a bus seems so much easier.
Yeah, it was bad. But I still scraped up whatever scrap of courage I had left, and I called Counseling and Psychological Services. For the first time in my life, I voiced the darkest thoughts and most painful feelings ricocheting around my mind. I felt like I was burdening my therapist with these things, these seemingly unspeakable things, until she told me something no one quite hears enough: you don’t have to apologize for your feelings.
Perhaps this wasn’t so revolutionary to you, but to me, it suddenly validated the pain I had been trying (and ultimately failing) to hide. How many times had I apologized for being stressed, or mad, or sad in my life? How many times did I take my suffering and somehow make it into a problem I needed to apologize for? Far, far too many.
Anyways, I realized after my first therapy appointment that it felt kind of good to talk about the things that were weighing on me. Sure, none of my friends or family knew yet, but my therapist? Well, that was a start.
Eventually I did start opening up to the people I care about and who I think care about me. Telling my parents what was going on with me was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No one wants to disappoint or worry their parents. That fear had kept me silent for four years, but no more. After a lot of hugging and crying, my family came up with a plan, of sorts. Basically, I would keep seeing the CAPS therapist, think about medication, and possibly move back home.
I didn’t like any of the options. I wanted to do it all on my own. But I was still far too overwhelmed by my depression to function alone at college. So, I started with therapy. And slowly, I could feel the weights lifting. I was less anxious, more social, and doing a little better in my classes. I was still sad most days though. I had 2 crises. And that’s when I knew I needed to try medication.
I don’t take the idea of medication lightly. To me, it’s always been a last resort kind of thing. But I was faced with three options, and clearly only one appealed in any way to me.
Drop out of college, move home, and (maybe) try again in a year or two.
Keep living this way for as long as I’m able to, until my misery ends things with either failure or… something worse.
Try medication and see where it leads.
So, I went through Door Number 3 and sought out a psychiatrist. Long story short, I got placed on an antidepressant. It has been 2 full weeks on my medication now, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t had a suicidal thought in a week, I’m able to focus more, and in general I’m happier. I don’t know what my future holds right now. I may still move home. The funny thing is, suddenly I’m not so worried about it. I’m just happy I still have a future.
I was lucky to build a good support system at college. I joined different clubs that kept me invested in staying at school. I’m constantly trying to find things that motivate me and give me something to look forward to. One thing that has helped is being more open about this experience; maybe I can help erase the stigma around discussing mental health one melodramatic blog post at a time.
College is challenging. For some of us, college is extra challenging. I want to share my story so others like me won’t feel so alone, and so perhaps some change can be made in how incoming freshman are supported in the collegiate world. I have survived, if by the skin of my teeth, and so can you.