University Counseling
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By Addie Downs

Everyone experiences anxiety. We have to, or we would all get hit by a bus or eaten by a lion or something. But I do know that I am not the only one who thinks “OK, YOU MADE YOUR POINT GET OUT.” Anxiety affects everything. It made me not able to focus on homework or eat or sleep, or even call my mom. And it sucked.

For me, it starts with restlessness. Whether it’s beginning a new assignment that stresses me out, or going to a new place alone, or even calling or ordering takeout. I always hated calling people or doing anything alone. At school during the “periods” I always felt like I was going to cry, and my heart would start beating too quickly and my hands would shake and I couldn’t shake the thoughts away. Breathing wouldn’t work, and then the panic attack would come. It felt like my heart was on fire and a hippopotamus was sitting on my rib cage and crushing me. It was in these moments that everything I had ever learned left me. I would call my dad weeping, so scared that it would never go away and that my friends would stop hanging out with me because I was a burden.

My parents said the same things every time.

“You are so loved, Addie, and you are never alone.”

“We are here for you no matter what, and you are going to get through this.”

“You got through this before and you can do it again, I promise you.”

Part of me knew these were true. I had spectacular friends at school and at home, and my parents are quite possibly two of my favorite people on the planet, even though they can definitely get annoying. They’ve been through their own periods, but I think at school they finally understood how bad mine actually was, and I hated that I made them and my little sister hurt. But when you’re in the throes of it, everything feels like a lie and it feels like you’re breaking. Even when I knew my friends were having a hard time adjusting too, it felt like they were just bending but I was falling to pieces and I had run out of glue.

I remember when my mom came back up after parent’s weekend, and we were sitting on the beautiful porch at the B&B where she stayed. She said, “Adjusting is part of being an adult, Addie, and you’re doing great!” I looked at her and said, “Being an adult sucks, and I’m not even paying taxes yet.” And it’s true. There’s a list about the most stressful things humans go through. Number one is death, and two is moving. Tell me about it. But I nested. I made my room comfortable and I took things from home that I loved. I had pictures of all of the important people in my life hanging on my wall, and a picture of all of my dogs together on the dock in New Hampshire….

What I’m trying to say is that it gets better. And you always have at least one person in your corner, fighting for you, even if it’s a gesture as small as sending you a picture of your cat or wishing you luck on a test. During the periods, it feels like you’re ending, and you don’t remember that it goes away or that you are never alone. But it does … And when the period is over, you have proof you can do it, and that you did in fact do it again.

Noli timere, friends. Breathe deep.

Strauss, V. (2016). Facing Down Debilitating Anxiety - a College Freshman's Story. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/02/02/facing-down-debilitating-anxiety-a-college-freshmans-story/?utm_term=.85653918e589