I faced the same struggles that everyone faces in their first few weeks of college. I missed my friends and family back home, I was overwhelmed by classes and activities, and I had a bit of trouble making friends at first. Of course I realized this was all normal, but there was one slight difference in my situation.
The thing about being diagnosed with Major Chronic Depression, is even years after you’ve been treated and given medication, whenever you feel sad or upset sometimes you wonder if it means you’re “bad” again. Sometimes, it’s impossible to tell the difference and it’s confusing as all hell.
In my first few weeks of college, I had a series of mild panic attacks which led me to get help from the counseling center. I made a few appointments, stuck with it for about two months before deciding I didn’t really need the extra help anymore. I was facing the same struggles as everyone else, and once I started to get the hang of college, I felt like my therapist and I had nothing to talk about.
And it was true. I was, and still am, incredibly happy. I loved my classes, I loved the campus, and I was getting involved in activities that really made me feel like I was a part of a community. But the panic attacks didn’t stop. They didn’t happen often, but once a month, or every two months, I would get one and I would be completely incapable of productivity for the rest of the day.
Panic attacks are a result of your brain triggering the “fight or flight” instinct from way back when we had to fight off predators. It produces a ton of adrenaline (an amount, some say, that’s equivalent to what you use when you run a half marathon) and you have no idea what to do with that energy because you’re just sitting at your desk minding your own damn business and your hands start shaking and your heart starts pounding a hundred miles a minute. You cry. You wait an hour or so for it to pass. You move on with your life and accept the fact your going to feel kind of off for a day or so.
I thought one panic attack every few months was manageable, and it wasn’t until earlier this year, after a particularly bad one, I accepted I might not have everything as figured out as I thought I did.
I was diagnosed with depression almost four years ago, and I’ve been on medication that had seemed to work since then. It seemed strange to me that after all this time, it’s something I have to deal with again. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I hadn’t figured it out, and that I had dragged my friends and family into my problems for the second time. But I went back to the counseling center (the secretary now knows me by name), and I made some more appointments and put a lot of effort in getting my meds adjusted, and accepted that any consistent amount of panic attacks isn’t something that should be happening. I am a happy person, but I can be better, and I have that power to at least try to help myself.
Sometimes things are a mess your first year of college, and you don’t figure everything out right away. But, sometimes you’re a mess your sophomore year too, or your junior year or even your senior year. You don’t have to be ashamed of struggling and not understanding things any year you’re here. It’s okay if you’re a mess, and you don’t have to figure it out right away. I definitely don’t have anything entirely figured out, and probably never will, but I’m getting help, and that’s really all I can ask for.