My name is Lauren, I am a junior at the University of Cincinnati and I live with depression and generalized anxiety disorder, and have experienced suicide ideations in the past. Growing up, people would probably have described me as a happy, positive, motivated and a social girl. But in my sophomore year of college, things started to spiral out of control.
I let school consume my life to a point that I was forgetting that there are other important things to be prioritizing in life, in addition to school. My grades were what I let define me. In other words, one B on an exam would trigger negative, unrealistic thoughts. My anxiety controlled my life, affecting my relationships, social life, and general well-being. I was unable to enjoy a night out with my friends or my boyfriend, because I would be too worried about school, and failing. I was unable to focus in class, study, or complete assignments because of the anxiety I couldn’t fight away. I found myself thinking, speaking, crying, or worrying about school in every aspect of life.
With anxiety came worsening depression. I isolated myself from previous environments that I once felt comfortable and happy in. Hanging out with friends, attending sorority recruitment, going to dinner with my family… these all became greatly difficult activities to engage in, which should have been enjoyable events to look forward to. I felt that I had lost all my friends since I isolated myself for so long and never hung out with them. The few times I did get my self to go out, eachtime I found myself walking into a room and wanting to run away and hide. I was so anxious and my mind would not stop racing. I kept coming up with excuses to go home right after I had arrived. All I wanted to do was lay in my bed and cry.
Sleeping was my “coping mechanism” because I thought that as long as I was asleep, I wouldn’t feel the pain. It was my safe place. Wherever I went, my depression and anxiety followed. My mental health was so deteriorating that I was filling out the forms to withdraw from school for the semester. I was unable to process my thoughts, making it very difficult to study. Anxiety and depression made me feel very hopeless, empty, and alone.
Deciding to reach out for help, and accepting that I truly did need help, was my first step to recovery. I began seeing a doctor and started new medicines, and I saw a counselor on a weekly basis. My counselor helped me to understand that for those who have never felt the weight of depression and anxiety, it is very hard for them to understand. I think this is one of the reasons why mental health is so stigmatized. People don’t know what to say or how to respond to a person who is battling a mental health issue, so many people don’t share their stories.
My hope for the future is for schools to educate students on ways to support those going through tough times, and recognizing the signs of those in need of help. People just want to be heard, and they want to feel supported. If you can give them that much, you are already making their day so much better! If I could give any of you any advice on how to help someone you care about, it would be to refrain from saying these statements. Saying “stop being sad, just be happy!” Believe it or not, it truly isn’t that simple to change your chemically imbalanced brain to be “happy.” “You don’t need medicine to fix this. You need to just stop being dramatic.” We need to bring each other up, not down. If they are taking medicine, so what? We don’t judge those who take medicines for allergies, high blood pressure etc, so why judge people for taking antidepressants? My counselor always compared depression and anxiety to a broken leg. If you break a leg, more than likely you will go to the doctor, get a cast, and wait for it to heal. If you have mental health issues, it’s the same type of scenario. You’re sick, so you get treatment and take time to heal.
Let’s start being more supportive of one another, and checking in on each other. Take care of your friends and loved ones, and most importantly take care of your self!
My family was a huge support system for me and I can’t thank them enough for sticking with me through these times. If you are reading this, know that in even the darkest times, you have to believe there will be a day in the future where things will start to get better. Today, I am doing well in school, and am able to keep my thoughts in control. It definitely wasn’t easy to rebuild my friendships, because I felt that my mental illness would scare people away, but I did. I still live with anxiety and depression but because of the help I’ve received, I am stronger than ever and happier than ever. Your diagnosis does not define you! I would love to see more people share their stories, and spread the message to stop the stigma on mental health, and start the conversation. You are not alone in your struggles.” #1N5