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How Being Trapped in a Toxic Environment Impacts My Mental Health

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These past few months have been anything but easy, not only for myself, but also for everyone. People may be wondering why us college students are pleading to be able to go back to school, to be put back in dorms, to be around our friends. The brutal reality of it is that a lot of us struggle at home. We are lacking social support, shoved back into our lives as high school students working from home, struggling to study and get work done in a noisy home environment and for students like me, we are drowning in a toxic home environment.

I am willing to take extra precautions. I am willing to get tested on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I am willing to avoid parties and large gatherings, to only surround myself with two or three close friends. I am willing to throw away my college experience to keep myself and others safe, and I am in no way disregarding the severity of this pandemic. But by staying in this toxic environment, I have found myself feeling things I thought I was over feeling.

Since being trapped in my toxic environment, my anxiety has become so severe that I have debilitating chest pains. The depression I have struggled with for the past seven years has gone from high-functioning to non-functioning. I have had to email countless professors pleading for some sort of relief or support when all throughout college and high school I remained relatively independent, never going to office hours or meeting with professors due to my debilitating social anxiety.

I have relapsed and self-harmed twice after two years of being clean. I have taken out my savings to pay for a psychiatrist on my own and don’t even think I will be able to get through it financially for more than two to three months without my parents’ support and approval. And I have forgotten what it feels like to be happy. I am trapped in a “home” of loud noises, criticism, yelling and silent treatments. This doesn’t feel like home. This feels like failure, like I have failed to remove myself from the situation I’ve worked so hard to escape from.

For college students or anyone else currently trapped in a toxic environment during this pandemic, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not weak or a failure for being unable to remove yourself from this situation at the moment. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes longer than we want. But you are strong, you are resilient and I know, I promise you, that it will get better and someday soon, you will remember how it feels to be happy.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Navigating Coronavirus Together group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Want to connect with others who are managing their health during the pandemic? Join Navigating Coronavirus Together now. Click to join.

Getty image by fizkes

Originally published: December 4, 2020
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