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The Worst Part of Battling Depression and Anxiety in College

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It’s 2:20 a.m. Not necessarily that late for a student on a Friday night into an early Saturday morning. But it is rather late once you know I made an excuse to say goodnight to my housemates at 9:30 p.m., saying I wanted an early night, that I was tired. I was tired, I am tired, but I still can’t sleep. A lot happened since I left them, a lot that only happens once my door is shut. Once that door shut behind me, a scene unfurled that’s all too common for people who struggle with depression and anxiety.

I started to spiral — the stress of the assignment due in three days, the exam in five days, the notes I haven’t caught up on from the lectures I’ve missed, the food in the fridge for a meal I haven’t cooked, my hair knotted as I scrape my hands through it because it needs a wash, missing my family … and on and on it goes. The spiral of thought after thought of things that need doing and haven’t been done, whilst becoming completely and utterly overwhelmed with every negative feeling under the sun. I cried. Lord, did I cry.

Then, it passed. Like it always does. Was it 10 minutes? An hour? More? I can never tell. I just know it’s dark, it’s late, I’m numb, I’m exhausted and I feel so very alone. The worst part is I know this isn’t the case, I know I’m not really alone. My worst fear about coming to university was I’d be alone and I am so lucky this isn’t the case. I’ve made wonderful friends; I have lovely housemates who seem like a little family away from home. Back at home, I have a family who loves me. I have a caring boyfriend and amazing best friend, who is more family than friend. I really am very lucky all things considered. But none of this seems to make a difference when depression and anxiety hit with full force in the middle of the night.

I think that’s the worst bit of having anxiety and depression as a student. Everyone likes to remind you these are the best days of your life, and most of the time they’re right. You get the chance to really come into your own and figure out what you want to make of your life, it just becomes difficult to see through the fog on nights like these.

I’ve tried to think of a thought-provoking, positive or uplifting way to end this. Whether that be for other students who need to know someone else is struggling a bit, too, or just those who are curious. But that’s not really how life works, is it? With an elevating comment to make everything OK? Sure, it can help, kind words can make the world of difference. But anxiety and depression are ongoing — they don’t always need a reason and don’t disappear with a hug or a smile.

Balancing them as a student has definitely been a new challenge I’m sure many others can relate to, but it’s possible to overcome this. As much as it hurts sometimes, I’ve learnt more about myself in the past two years than I ever thought I would, and I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I was. Mental illness and success aren’t always incompatible, it can be possible to live with both.

Unsplash image by Kinga Cichewicz

Originally published: February 26, 2020
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