I've been recently attempting to let people in on what I experience behind closed doors. Most of the time, I don't think others will truly understand the consequences of having anxiety and depression unless they've experienced them as well. In college, where you're spending nearly 2,400 hours studying, battling your instincts, and devouring the same old all-you-can-eat options in your commons.
During my junior year of college, I overlooked my mental and emotional health. I returned back to Penn State University with a child-like mindset, believing I can return and be free of the negative factors I experienced at home that previous summer. Fall semester, like most fall semesters, was tolerable in a sense, but it wasn't the best time of my life.
During the fall semester, I shared a single dorm with myself, and in the beginning, it felt like a great thing. However, I got accustomed to living near most of the friends I've made during freshman year and sophomore year. Most lived in apartments miles away, most were busy and others forgot I was ever at Penn State to begin with.
So, I took the action of occupying myself with organizations that I enjoyed. At the same time, I found myself in a hole. I removed myself from friendships that I believed were toxic, but I remained bitter. I became too addicted to social media and felt like I needed validation for friends who I personally felt were ghosting me. I took a short break from social media to clear my mind, but even that increased my anxiety.
Fall semester as a whole, however, was exceptional. I managed to exceed in all of my courses while finding a new environment to adapt in. But, once spring semester came, things went haywire.
First and foremost, I hope it's safe to admit that I became addicted to the drug and alcohol trends in State College. I spent excessive amounts of cash on hookah every night and spent most of my social life that semester trying to drink myself away. I wasn't happy.
I hated a majority of my classes as well. In fact, I had a ridiculously free schedule. One class every Monday and Wednesday, two classes every Tuesday and Thursday, no classes on Friday. It seemed surreal and easy in the beginning, but it eventually led to me not going to most of my classes at all.
My anxiety and depression came to play when I invested too much in my social atmosphere and struggled with trying to fit in with the crowd. Sometimes, I felt as if people weren't accepting me for being this theatrical, generous guy with a quick-witted sense of humor. I heard it through the grapevine that people were saying I was too "extra" or too annoying to be around. So, when I heard things like that I often beat myself up trying to figure out how to change myself to be accepted.
But, instead, I chose to shut myself out of my inner circles when my anxiety levels were high.
For the final few weeks of spring semester, I never left my room.
I binged on unhealthy snacks, lied in a dark dorm, and watched ridiculous Vine videos.
I skipped classes and walked around campus looking like complete and utter shit.
I suffered from periodic anxiety attacks alone, without any support.
I ignored most social media messages on purpose.
I spent nights at a friend's house almost every day, smoking and drinking in hopes of releasing the anxiety. However, drug use made it worse.
It didn't take until my final week of classes for me to realize that the things that I was doing were awful and it not only jeopardized my social life but my mental health, emotional health, and academic performance.
I noticed that once I moved back home for summer break, there was a weight lifted off of me.
The overarching point of this tell-all: mental health is a serious thing that society seems to overlook every day. I wasn't proud to admit that I struggled with anxiety and depression because most people I told often brushed it off as a "You'll be okay, man" or saying "I'm so sorry that happened to you," instead of offering a hand to help.
It takes more than a pat on a back and a reality check to help someone with mental health issues.
It's important that if you're a friend or a family member, talk to those you care about. You may think that they're okay on the outside, but anyone can battle inner demons behind closed doors. A simple "Are you okay?" can simply make someone's day worthwhile.