Nobody told me it’d be this hard. No one, not even hours of therapy prepared me for the undeniable feeling of guilt and shame that would flood me when I became unable to turn in my assignment or pass my math classes.
I was first introduced to GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) when I was a teen and my depression forced me to stay in my room for more than days at a time, I started treatment that did not work for me and due to the stigma that Mental Health brings in my home country, I decided to stop taking medication. Fast forward to today, I live on my own in the U.S, a country known for its openness on Mental Health Issues (MHI). Now, how did I realize that I had MHI? For once the thought of anything brought me immense worry. I had a routine which if not done correctly would send me into a spiral of guilt and I also pressurize those around me to stick with that routine. I would have no option but to deal with immense waves of anxiety and worrisome if I said or did anything I considered less than appropriate. If I did not get a good grade to begin with, I would slowly become too worried about the subject which would lead me to a state of fear where I simply stare at the book while trying to do my homework.
Another unsettling part is the constant fear and anguish of failing or not living up to the expectations which have at times made it impossible for me to even want to attend lectures. I am exhausted of feeling like I have to become Heisenberg overnight in order to get somewhere in Science. It’s freaking hard! Not only do I have to deal with the pressure from an over competitive field, but I have to deal with the pressure of my own mind playing devil’s advocate on me. But you know what? No more! I say, let’s all unite and kick Mental Health to the curb.
I have compiled a list of ‘Tricks and Tips’ as I like to call them to help all my peeps out there who struggle with Mental Health. Trust me, it might always seem like it gets worse, but there is a lot we can do. I understand we have this urgency and need to be perfect, exact and logical all the time but we’re also human and I’m hoping the following can be of help to you.
1- Find a friend.
However...this is a special type of friend. I’m not asking you to ‘breakup’ with your current however sometimes you just need to find someone who truly ‘understands’ you. I am very lucky to have amazing friends, however two of my friends have become my haven during these months. They also have struggled with mental health issues and knows more than anyone what it’s like to wake up one day feeling like the last thing you want to be doing is to function. It went something like this:
Me: You know, I felt really suicidal the other day. I’m really struggling lately, perhaps it’s this new medication…
Her: Maybe! You know, I thought about suicide too. But, girl, what would you do with the body though?
The fact that I was able to share all the thoughts that trouble me with her and joke about it to the point of comfort has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know for a fact I could knock on her door in the middle of the night and tell her all my irrational worries because she has had the same thing happen to her. She completely understands me. When I failed my math class, I was so ashamed until my other friend told me the X amount of times it took her to pass that class (mind you, she had a 4.0 GPA last term after recovering). Having people that understand what you’re going through has been crucial to my everyday life. They remind me that at the end of the day, I am truly doing the best I can to push myself forward. You can find this type of company in Support Groups, Online Discussion Forums (be careful online…) or you can always go to my page and DM me if you need some reassurance!
2- Set a routine
Am I a 50 yo in a 21yo body? Well, maybe!
Does everyone agree with my routine? No!
Does it work for me? Heck, yes!
As someone with GAD, I need to know what’s going on at least 150% of the time. So, me and my therapist have created some ‘base lines’ Maintaining a routine can be hard when there is so much going on, and at times it can be unrealistic so having at least a thing or two to ‘ground’ you can be helpful. Mine is having a cup of coffee (lets ignore for a second my coffee addiction here…) Regardless of what state I am in, I like having coffee in the morning. Good thing? There’s coffee almost everywhere I go. Having a good breakfast. I have a morning routine video up in my Youtube Channel where you can check out my morning routine and give yourself more ideas on what keeps me going. For now, write down 2 things that you can do daily to make yourself feel like a human! (Washing your face, taking vitamins, etc.)
3-Look for a therapist
It’s not the easiest thing to do. First of all, it took me months before finding someone with openings and then even more time finding someone I clicked with. But it was well worth it. I know it can be tough with insurance, I got lucky, but if you’re worried about it therapists can provide certain letters of documentation for you to ‘get away with it’. In a lot of work environments, they will also be able to provide this resources for you and there is counseling in almost every college. It varies from place to place but try going to Student Services if you need more guidance on how to find a free therapist or call your insurance for more information. My therapist is the best, we even share pancake recipes! Trust me, they went through years of school because they literally want to help you feel better….don’t hesitate!
4-Go to disability Services
I did not know this existed until I moved to the U.S. and it rocks! Like...they really have my back. I used to score horribly on my tests, why? Well, Anxiety. Guess who went from D to A on a test by taking test in a separate room? Moi! These folks will literally let you know the A to the Z on what they can do to best fit your situation. This past term I was taking medication which makes me extra drowsy and sleepy for my morning class. My teacher was notified by them about accommodations to my class attendance (I still went, but maybe there were a couple times where I’d be a bit late) or I was able to talk to my teachers if I was having side effects and needed maybe an extra hour to complete an assignment. You have to be ethical with these accommodations though...they’re not a free pass by any means. I still had to do all my work, and get graded the same as everyone else, they just were accommodating to the fact that I was going through different circumstances medically speaking. If you don’t know what your college offers, simply try googling ‘Your College’ + Disability Services. Voila!
5-Freaking own it!
At the end of the day, this is part of who you are. It doesn’t make you any less or more than someone else, it’s just a ‘thing’. Some people have diabetes and must restrain from sugary things and I have Anxiety and must watch out for my train of thoughts. I struggled so hard with saying the words ‘I have Anxiety’ and now? Well, yikes...I have Anxiety! And after saying that, I am still sitting behind my computer, writing this to you. Nothing changed, mainly my outlook on it. The support I’ve found from others has been huge, even from my college when it comes to accommodation. You own that antsiness! Go get some support and embrace your new healthy life choices!!
Sincerely, and less anxious….
If you need help- feel free to contact me for resources. Also, if you’re in immediate crisis or think you might be suicidal call 911, or your local Crisis Hotline for more help!
Lifeline (Suicide Hotline)
Find Help- Mental Health America
Find Support-National Alliance Mental Illness
Karelly is from Monterrey, MX and recently moved to the U.S to become a Chemistry undergrad in Portland, OR. She plans on becoming a Science Communicator and advocate for Women in STEM. She runs her own blog thesolutionisk.com along with her Instagram page: KarellyRG. She hopes to soon start uploading videos to her YouTube which can be found on her page. Her goal is to promote an image of a healthy lifestyle paired with academic development for all STEM majors. Make sure to talk to her via Instagram and share your favorite science concepts!