I love spending time with my friends. Being a student can be so stressful and time-consuming, but going out and relaxing with friends makes the hard work all worth it. They know how to pick me up when I’m down, and sometimes they even know me better than I know myself.
With all that being said, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to leave the safety of my room to go see them. That’s the problem with social anxiety; part of me would do anything to just go out and have a good time, but the other part refuses to be around anyone at all. I wish they would understand that it’s not because I don’t like them, or that I don’t have fun when I’m with them. It is because some days even getting out of bed in the morning is a real struggle, and anything further than that seems like mission impossible.
But the last thing I want to do is blame it on my mental illness because I don’t want them to look at me differently, or stop asking me to hang out in fear of rejection. I just wish people knew the strength of the effects of social anxiety. It has the power to completely destroy any will to go out in public and carry on with what is considered a normal, everyday life.
Maybe one day everyone will understand that people with social anxiety don’t enjoy bailing on plans at the last minute, we just need to give ourselves time to be mentally prepared to go out in public.
Living with anxiety and depression can be extremely difficult at times. There are days where even getting out of bed feels like an impossible task….. But that’s okay. I spend so much time trying to be the strong one, the one who is always there and can give people a shoulder to cry on; that I forget that sometimes I can be the one who needs someone to talk to.
It doesn’t happen too often anymore, but I do have days every now and then in which I have no motivation, or will to go about my normal life. The anxiety becomes overwhelming which leads to a period of depression. Next thing I know, I’ve missed 2 lectures and due date. The days following this, I am constantly beating myself up for being so selfish and missing important commitments; but now I see that taking a day off every now and then to benefit my mental health is okay! As students, we are under a lot of pressure which takes a toll on our minds and bodies. So it is imperative that we listen to ourselves and allow time to relax and give our minds a well-deserved break.
Now I am definitely NOT saying to skip class whenever you just don’t feel like going, please DO NOT do that! But what I am saying is, if you are finding something draining you of your mental stability, please take a break and do something that you enjoy doing to help get back into the right mindset. But just don’t feel guilty about taking a few minutes out of your day to ensure that you are okay, you deserve it!
Here we are, almost 3 weeks with no responsibilities, no classes, and no need to spend all night studying for exams. Sounds like paradise right? Too bad in a few days we will all find ourselves back in school, knees deep in assignments and textbook readings.
I’m fairly certain that I am not alone when I say that I think it will be very difficult to get back into the routine of being a student. So, how do I find the motivation to snap out of my current lethargic lifestyle? I am terrified that I will not be able to, and therefore have an unsuccessful semester. Deep down, I know that I have it in me, but my anxiety refuses to let me see that. It sucks.
I just wish that I could enjoy myself during these last few days; instead, I am constantly fighting with my anxiety and in a constant panic for what the near future holds. This is not out of the usual for me, I know that I have anxiety and that one of my most prominent symptoms is irrational fear of the future. But how do I stop it so I can enjoy the present? I have been told to stop and acknowledge any fear I may have and if it is irrational to let it go. However, this is so much easier said than done.
For the current time, I will continue to do my best to separate rational from irrational worries and hope to see that going back to school will not be as difficult as I think it will be. But I do hope for the day that I just automatically put the irrational worries to rest.
Ever since the time change a few weeks ago, I have been finding it so hard to stay awake and find motivation to do things throughout the day. All of a sudden I look out my window at 5:30 expecting to see a beautiful blue sky, but instead just being faced with darkness. It may not be that big of a deal to some people, but as someone with SAD the darkness outside seems to dictate the way I feel on the inside. I find myself constantly lying in bed under the covers with no hope or motivation to keep going, which is a totally normal thing for me to do during this time of the year.
For those of you that aren’t quite sure what SAD is; it is a mood disorder in which people have normal mental health throughout most of the year, but have an onset of depression around the same time each year. For most people, it is during the winter months. I have never really been one to be excited for Christmas, and I always wondered why, because everyone else seemed to love it. Along with the winter months, everyone would be so excited to get out and build snowmen or go tobogganing and I would just be inside dreading the fact that the next few months would only contain the feeling of sadness and emptiness. Then I heard about SAD and it all made sense to me.
It is extremely difficult to force myself to be excited for the holidays, or for finals to be over, or anything for that matter when I’m feeling like this. Which is especially difficult when everyone around me is in what seems to be like a state of pure joy for the upcoming holidays. I hate feeling like this. So this year, I’ve been doing my best to maintain a normal sleeping pattern and forcing myself to not take naps during the day time in the hope that maybe it will help me get into a positive state of mind. I can’t wait for the day when there is a general understanding of what SAD is and how it affects so many people, just so that my feelings during this time of the year are understood.
Now is about the time in the school year when all those essays and assignments I’ve put off for so long are finally coming up due, midterms feel like a weekly occurrence, and the dreadful period of exams is quickly approaching. I find myself struggling to cope with the amount of work that I need to complete, which causes me to become overwhelmed and frustrated. Like, how am I supposed to write a paper, study for the midterm I have in 2 days, finish my chemistry lab report AND eat 3 balanced meals a day?
I remember all of my high school teacher’s warning myself and my fellow classmates about how difficult university is; but I never would have imagined it being this hard. It’s during these times I find myself questioning why I even started in university and am consumed with negative thoughts like “ugh I might as well just drop out” or “I’m sure I wouldn’t feel this way if I never pursued a post-secondary education.” As tempting as it sounds to just quit when times get tough and the feeling of constant stress consumes my everyday life, it is so important to remember why I started this journey – to pursue something I love learning about and get the skills necessary to obtain a career in it.
Over the years I have come up with many strategies to help myself stay focused and positive during times of overloaded stress.
- Making A Study Guide: I find it so useful to plan out my week ahead of time in regards to what I want to accomplish each day, and when. For example, if I dedicate an hour each day to studying for a midterm, I should be prepared for it by the time it comes. I also make sure to allow myself at least an hour where I am free to do anything that gives my mind a break from school work, so that I am able to refocus when I return with more motivation to finish what I have started.
- Being Aware of Due Dates: I like to think of due dates as those little warning signs on the side mirrors of cars that say “Warning: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Mainly because I have been in so many situations where I think “meh, I have soo much time to finish that assignment, I’ll just start it tomorrow” (meanwhile the due date IS tomorrow). That is why, at the beginning of each term I go through the syllabus and write down every due date for every lab, assignment, midterm etc… This helps me organize my time and prevents me from pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines.
- Scheduling Time for Family and Friends: this kind of goes hand-in-hand with making a study guide. Even if it is just an hour for coffee with a friend, or a 30 minute phone call to my grandma, I find that spending time with people that I care about puts me in the right frame of mind and gives me the motivation needed to complete my studies. It serves as an awesome break where I can go out, have fun and forget about all of the stress I’m under.
I find these small tasks can help me out so much when I’m feeling overwhelmed with school, or even just life in general. Do you have anything that you do to help you cope when things become overwhelming?
At the age of 15 I found myself in my doctor’s office listening to him explain to me that my feelings of nervousness and depression were slightly more prominent in myself compared to the population of children my age. I remember sitting in his office that day answering what felt like a million questions and filling out survey after survey, asking me about my feelings – something that no one had ever done before. Even though I knew it was his job, something about his guidance to my realization of the roots of my emotions made me feel special, and my feelings warranted. I finally felt like a normal person. It was after this that he diagnosed me with social anxiety.
The actual definition of social anxiety is “an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations.” For me, it was the feeling of panic every time I left my house; the constant notion that the cashier at Forever21 was secretly judging my outfit and waiting to go on break and gossip about it with her coworkers; the struggle of always walking with my eyes glued to the sidewalk to avoid eye contact with anyone. It consumed me. No matter where I went or what I did, I could never truly enjoy myself because I was out of the comfort of my bed with the covers pulled up over my head and all of the lights out.
I was finally able to understand why I was feeling that way for so long – all because of this one visit to my doctor. Even though it did not fix all my problems, being diagnosed gave me closure and the courage to take the first step in getting treated. I signed up for monthly sessions with a mental health counsellor who gave me the tools needed to change my unhealthy thinking patterns. I remember getting so frustrated with him constantly asking me to explain “why” I felt like if I left the house I would get made fun of; but looking back on it now, I realize that he was only doing it to show me that my worries were unreasonable. Showing me that there was no actual proof that it was going to happen, it was just my mind convincing me that it would.
Although changing the natural reaction of your brain can take a long time, I find myself taking pride in the small changes I see in myself every day. Struggling with mental illness has taught me to always look for the positive in any situation; no I may not have been able to go to the mall today, but at least I went on a walk around the block – and that is good. I no longer try to hide the fact that I get very nervous in social situations, I just acknowledge that it is difficult for me and I try my best to conquer it.
I strongly advise anyone who may be feeling worried or stressed out to go and talk to someone. There are so many helpful personal on campus who are ready and more-than-willing to help you. My progress only started after I was able to go and speak to someone about my feelings, which has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I am looking forward to the day that I am able to leave the house without worrying about who I may run in to, or what may happen if I trip and fall in front of everyone. But until that day, I am taking pride in the little things, and I believe everyone should do the same, regardless of whether or not you are suffering from a mental illness.