I haven’t had a panic attack in months. I can’t remember the last time I had one. Maybe it’s not something I like to keep track of, so how would I remember?
All I know is I feel like I’m having a small one now. And it’s scary and it’s frightening. It consumes me.
I have tried everything: my breathing techniques, closing my eyes, counting to ten, looking at my peripheries in the mirror, talking to a friend, changing the subject, you name it.
I’m shaking and my heartbeat echoes in my head. My first tear just broke and I’m stumbling to catch my breath again. I’m writing this in hopes that it helps: that it forces me to focus on typing rather than break down into a million pieces.
School is the trigger this time around. It’s that time of year where I have a midterm, an essay, and two assignments due this week. I need to do well on this upcoming midterm because I did poorly on the last one. I need to do well on my essay because I am doing so well otherwise in the course. I need my marks to be good so I can go to grad school in the future. I don’t know what my future holds and the uncertainty is consuming me from the inside out.
All I want to do is cry. A good cry would help me right now. Instead, I feel numb. I feel emotionless. My vision is spotty and I want to just fall asleep. Just for a few minutes. But I can’t. When I rest my head, the panic sets in again. I have too much to do. I need to get some work done before my meeting tonight. I feel like I have chosen to allocate my time in the wrong ways. Last night I went out to the bar. I justified it by saying I wouldn’t realistically get much work done after 11pm anyways, so I might as well go out with friends. When I say it out loud, the reasoning seems sound. When I sit here right now, my body shakes at the thought of wasting my time.
I feel so weak. I have come such a long way since my battle with PD started. Am I just losing all over again? Maybe the battle was not even won in the first place.
Today’s blog title is inspired by “Going Away to College” – Blink-182
When I was in my second year, I took a class called Abnormal Psychology. At first, I loved it. I was so excited because finally I was going to take a course that interests me more than any other course I have taken.
The prof had a disclaimer at the beginning of the term: “Don’t try and diagnose yourself based on the symptoms you see here. Odds are, you will think you have something when you don’t.”
It wasn’t until the section on anxiety disorders when I started feeling uncomfortable being in class. I would feel as though the words he was saying were about me. I stopped going. At least until that section was over, anyways. The funny thing (and I use that loosely) was that I had not been diagnosed yet. So I made the brave decision to go to the doctor and well, the rest is history.
This year, in my fourth year, I am taking a class called Mental Health. On the first day of lecture, I started having the same feelings I did in my other class. I felt as though when my professor would say things like, “No one really knows what it is like to be someone with a mental disorder” and “there is a negative stigma surrounding having a mental disorder” that again, the words related so much to my life. So much, in fact, that I began to feel uncomfortable. My negative, intrusive thoughts floated in my head.
Had I been the same person I was two years ago, I would have either dropped the class or stopped going to class. Seeing how much I have changed and gotten stronger really opened my eyes that day. It has been a long time since I have had a panic attack. I couldn’t even tell you when the last time I had one was, that is how long it has been.
I have been so worried that with the feelings of loss finally sinking in deeper that I would start to feel my anxiety more than ever. Luckily, I have not. With the start of a new and stressful semester, I worry that being overwhelmed will evoke negative reactions but I feel confident that I will not break.
So here’s to smooth sailing in 2015!
Today’s blog post title is inspired by “Brain Damage” – Pink Floyd
1. You are going to change your mind. Many, many times.
It’s hard enough deciding what cereal I am going to have for breakfast let alone what you want to do for the rest of your life at the age of 17. I went into university with full intentions of being a doctor. I am now entering my senior year of university and will graduate with a psychology degree I never intended to get. Do I regret changing my mind? Not at all. I am lucky to have found something I am passionate about and enjoy studying. Whether it is about programs, career choices, dating, or food, you will find yourself changing your mind. A lot. And that is okay.
2. Whatever you want to do in the future is your choice and should make YOU happy, not everyone else.
I spent a lot of time being upset that I was letting people down by not choosing to be a doctor. People expected it to happen: family, friends, and random acquaintances. Don’t spend your life trying to please others with your career. Spend your life pleasing yourself and your personal goals. This is your story to write, not anyone else’s. If you’re happy, they should be happy.
3. It is perfectly normal to not know what you are going to do with your degree.
Probably the LAST question anyone in post-secondary wants to hear is “…so what do you plan on doing with that?” Uhmm… hang it on my wall? In this day and age, it doesn’t matter what faculty or program you come from, the “real job” world is a dog eat dog world. Jobs are hard to come by regardless of what you want to do. And sometimes, YOU don’t even know what you want to do. A degree on its own is now equivalent to what a high school diploma once was. This is a different time and it adds so much extra stress to your daily life.
4. High school does not prepare you for university.
Whoever said that it does lied. I had probably two teachers in my high school career who legitimately prepared me. From their lecturing style to their tests, they helped immensely. However, as a whole, high school is like a spoon-fed meal while university is like trying to eat a rare steak after getting your wisdom teeth removed. It is a completely different dynamic. You will see grades you didn’t know existed. You will learn to ACTUALLY read. You will also learn to skim and will quickly learn the difference between the two. You will learn that your writing in high school was crap and is embarrassing to read if you look back at it. No one holds your hand. No one cares. It is all on you.
5. You don’t have to spend 100% of your time studying or doing homework.
Now I know I just finished saying that university is harder than high school, but that doesn’t mean that you should forget about the other parts of the university experience. I don’t mean getting drunk all the time or being rambunctious, but I mean things like joining clubs, explore your university city/town, or play board games with your friends. A little R & R is necessary – you can’t spend your life behind books all day.
6. People get depressed, anxious, or develop other mental disorders during university. You are not alone.
I always had anxiety. I can tell you that right off the bat. However, I was diagnosed in university and that scared me. My grades suffered, my social life suffered, and I changed as a whole. But as I got to know more people, I found out that I wasn’t alone. Other people had it too. And it seems like society is trying to eliminate the negative stigma associated with mental illness. Also, if you’re prescribed pills, that’s okay too. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It simply means you need a little help in getting through the day. People with diabetes take insulin and people with depression take antidepressants. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.
7. Joining a fraternity or sorority doesn’t mean you are a party animal.
This past year, I joined a sorority (Delta Pi). Not because my boyfriend was in a fraternity (Pi Kappa Alpha, represent!). Not because I needed to “pay for my friends.” I wanted to experience sisterhood in a new light. The media blows up the idea of Greek life to astronomical proportions compared to how it is in the Hamilton community. We do not drink all the time. We do not take pride in sleeping around, nor do we engage in that activity. We put on fundraisers. We eat meals together. We network! Joining a fraternity/sorority is one of the best ways to meet people. Whichever one you belong to, you are all connected by the underlying group that is the Greek community. Use that as an advantage rather than subject yourself to being a stereotype.
8. If you thought you knew what time management was, you didn’t.
University doesn’t teach you how to manage your time. It forces you into figuring it out. And if you don’t, I guess we won’t see you after Thanksgiving break. I thought I had time management figured out in high school. Then the next time you blink, you have a part time job, 1000 volunteer hours to complete, minimum 5 courses per term to attend, study for, and do homework, have a social life, have your alone time, and any other extracurriculars I may have missed. Doing all these things isn’t impossible – not at all. However, it is the best way to learn how to manage your time accordingly – a vital life skill.
9. Not everyone goes to graduate school immediately after undergrad.
Whether it is medical school, masters programs, college programs or whatever, everyone makes it seem like there is a rush to take the next big step in your life. What people don’t talk about is that…that doesn’t always happen. I want to take a year off in between undergrad and grad school. I want that time to work, to develop as a person independently (moreso than ever), and to see what exactly I want to do. For the past few nights, I felt like what I was thinking was ridiculous and I should just jump into grad school. What I didn’t know is that I am not alone… not everyone has their life figured out. Not everyone pretends like their life is figured out. You don’t have to jump if you’re not ready.
10. You will grow so much as a person.
The people you were friends with in high school won’t necessarily be your friends after your undergrad and you know what? That’s okay. Sometimes you grow apart. Sometimes you grow together. You won’t see each other as often, but you’ll find that the ones who want to stick around will be there. You will find that things that bothered you in the past don’t anymore. Or vice versa. You may find new things to be annoyed by. Your opinions will change. You will argue with facts and statistics. You will compare prices between items and between time periods. You will learn to manage your money. You will learn that the person you thought you were going to marry in high school doesn’t compare to the person you’re with now. Or you will learn that dating doesn’t always mean you’re going to be with that person forever. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean you’re going to be with them for more than one date. And at the end of the day, you shouldn’t need to always be with someone because the most important person in your life is you. Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. Sometimes you will need days to be alone in your room with a bottle of wine, a box of pizza, and Netflix. You are changing but you are still you. And that person is wonderful and has so much more to learn.
If I had a gif to describe my life, it would be the one above. While the world is engaged in stressful, or exciting, or happy, or sad, or emotional occurrences… I am Squidward… looking dissatisfied at the environment around me, not flinching at the busy surroundings.
It’s getting to that point where it is the end of the semester.
The end of a year.
Another year closer to being pushed off the edge of the mountain of life where I have to actually decide what I am going to do with my life.
I know I’m not alone when I say that whoever said that high school prepares you for university is a liar. I’m sorry… but that is NOT the case. Not always anyways.
In high school, I’m not gonna lie… I was the kid with like, a 94 average at graduation (damn you, English… I could’ve had a 96). Now… I rejoice if I get a 70.
Not all my marks are bad. Now that I have gotten into the groove of how to study in university and found a program I am in love with, I can breathe a little.
Key word: a little.
It’s not even that the courses you take are necessarily difficult… the work load is honestly enough to make you go mad. Some days, it feels like profs assign you so much work simultaneously that you can’t help but wonder if they all get together and drink high class tea and plan to make everything due at the same time to see who will make it or break it and will result in multiple students dropping out of university but who cares because the university already has their money and the profs will be getting paid and *exhale* .
See what happens? In the stress of the situation, I forget to breathe sometimes. But as I now struggle with anxiety, I need to remember to breathe – slowly and deeply.
So to quickly recap: The work load in school can make you go mad and high school lied.