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The Contradictions of Being a College Student With Anxiety and Depression

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Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us have experienced moments of great sadness and/or felt anxious. Anxiety affects 40 million people 18 years and older in the U.S. alone, and over 16 million people live with depression. It is also common for many to experience both because these disorders often go hand in hand.

Whether it’s waking up too depressed for class, having no motivation to be social, getting anxiety over a test, a date or just everyday depression or anxiety, it would be hard to meet someone who’s never dealt with it. It’s extremely common among human beings, especially at our age in college, between 18-24.

Anxiety and depression come in all different shapes and forms and are unique to each individual. There are definitely overlaps and similarities in symptoms, though. Mental illness has a lasting effect on one’s educational journey, just like it did mine.

I can never be late for class, but I never want to wake up for class.

I will miss the entire class before I walk in five or 10 minutes late. The feeling of angst over the thought that everyone would stare at me and I would feel like there was something wrong with me is far too overwhelming to overcome.

Clearly, it makes no sense to miss a two-hour lecture over five minutes, but when anxiety takes over, logic is one of the last things on your mind. As for depression, there are days when I wake up and just don’t see how going to class is even a possibility. So on those days where my depression tells me not to get up, and I would end up being a few minutes late, I have all odds stacked against me making it to that class. I get too mentally exhausted. My anxiety wants me to go to class, but my depression tells me not to and it’s a never-ending battle. Either way, I lose.

I can never just “go out” and let loose, but I never even want to go out.

I never really want to leave the warm comfort of my bed and the thought of having to leave it makes me cringe and pull the blankets closer. I’m not big on partying, but I have been to a few since I’ve been in college. Partying is a hard thing to love when you live with anxiety, there are too many uncontrollable factors. I need an advance notice that I am going, I need to know where it is, who will be there, how I am getting there and back, and who I am going with. If I go with other people, (which most of the time I do), I am worried about them and their safety the whole time as well, spending my time making sure everyone is OK instead of enjoying myself. While I’m out all I can think about when I am leaving and hoping nothing overwhelming will happen while I’m there. My mind rationalizes staying with thoughts like, “Only a couple of hours and then you can go back to bed.” All I care about is counting down the minutes until I get to go to sleep again. I can never do enough, but I never want to do anything.

My anxiety tells me I need to study and get straight A’s or I am a complete failure. My depression kills any motivation I have to study.

My anxiety keeps me busy and worrying over things I can not control, but my depression keeps me in bed for hours sleeping. My anxiety makes me worry and causes a ridiculous amount of stress about my grades, but my depression doesn’t even care. One of the many symptoms of depression includes lack of motivation and lack of focus. I will read one single page 20 times and not have retained any of the information. My depression and my anxiety are constantly battling each other, but there is no endgame in sight. Anxiety or depression will always win, and I will always lose.

There are so many other ways my disorders try to dictate my life. The choice is up to me to try not to give in. I try and wake up each day and get as much done as I both physically and mentally can. College is hard enough already without these disorders. Give yourself more credit, you deserve it. Each and every day you are getting a little bit stronger. Although this article is a little daunting, despite these obstacles, I graduated college with honors with three separate degrees, as well as three minors. I now attend graduate school. I survived. I more than survived. I won.

And hey, help is always out there. Utilize your campus mental health resources. Utilize online resources as well. If you have the ability to seek paid treatment, do that as well. There is no shame in asking for help. It turns out, if you’re actually honest with your professors about why you are falling behind or missed a few classes, sometimes they are understanding. You have options to take an incomplete, you can receive disability accommodations or they simply could just help you and allow you some much-needed leeway. College is meant to be a wonderful time of experience and knowledge. I did my best and truest learning in college. I had the most fun four years of my entire life, even with the struggling. You are never alone. You will survive this.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Originally published: May 28, 2020
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