'Normal' College Situations Aren't So Normal When You Have Anxiety

'Normal' College Situations Aren't So Normal When You Have Anxiety

How 'normal' students vs. anxious students react to different college experiences.

Anxiety is not something to joke about. Anxiety is not something to be casual about.

It's true, everyone has anxiety every now and then. However, not everyone is actually diagnosed with chronic anxiety. As someone who is, let me tell you what it's like to live with anxiety in college.

Gets A Bad Test Grade Back:

Normal Human: Oh, man! Didn't do so well! I'll talk to the teacher and try to bring it up.

Anxious Human: I'm so stupid. Oh, no, now everything is ruined. Now, I won't get a good grade in the class. Now, I won't graduate college. Now, I won't get a job. I'll be worthless. Why is the room getting smaller?

Something so minuscule like getting a bad grade can be devastating. It's important to remember that people with anxiety often take everything more personally and seriously. Something like getting a bad grade would've been something that I had been thinking about since I turned in the assignment.

Finds Out About A Paper Due Tomorrow:

Normal Human: Oh, no! Better drink a red bull and head to the library!

Anxious Human: I can't do this. This will never work. I have no idea where to start. I won't have enough time. I'm going to fail. I can't breathe. *Calls Mom*

When something like this is sprung on someone with anxiety, it projects them into an immediate state of panic. Having anxiety means needing a lot of time to process and plan things so that you know what to expect. Not knowing is terrifying.

Friends Making Plans To Go Out:

Normal Human: Yeah, I don't care. I'll go wherever the night takes me!

Anxious Human: So we're going to dinner at 7:00? Why not 8:00? That way we'll finish eating around 9:30, and then it'll take us about 15 minutes to get to the bar, and 10 minutes in line, so we can be in the bar before 10:00. Remember, the cover is $5 tonight. How do I know? I called ahead. Yes, I also made our dinner reservation for 8:00. What time are we going home?

Planning is key with anxiety. Key.

Suspicious Chapter Meeting Called:

Normal Human: Hm, weird.

Anxious Human: Oh, no. We did something wrong. What if we get kicked off campus? What if we get yelled at? What if they bring in a real grown up to yell at us? Or maybe we did something good. Maybe we'll get a surprise date party. Oh, no. I have no boys to ask. Oh, no. I have nothing to wear. Please let us be in trouble.

Again, not knowing is actually painful for someone with anxiety. Physically and mentally. It feels like you can't breathe or concentrate on anything other than what you're worrying about.


Normal Human: My friends will take care of it.

Anxious Human: Everyone is totally going to forget. Should I make my mom call me so I can subtly remind them? Are they planning anything? If they're actually planning something, I want to know what it is so I know what to wear. But wait, if they actually want to surprise me? That's cute. But I need to know if they even remember. But I don't want to blow my cover. Dilemma.

Birthdays in college are weird. In high school, everyone knew when it was your birthday. If your friends made you wear a "Birthday Princess" sash around school, it wasn't even that weird. But in college, like maybe 10 people are aware of your birthday, and only because you told them about it. It is because of this that I listed this situation at all. Because birthdays are scary.

All in all, anxiety sucks. And it really sucks in college. My friends have to constantly remind me to breathe, to relax, and to calm down (even though the worst thing in the world is being told to calm down). Again, not everyone actually has anxiety. Everyone has anxiety about specific things, maybe. But not everyone suffers from the condition. Keep in mind that people do. Keep in mind that your friends might. Try not to be too hard on them, they're trying their best, and at least you always know that for sure.

Cover Image Credit: practicalcures / Flickr

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The Truth Behind High Functioning Anxiety

How I plan to develop a new relationship with my anxiety.

I am just a girl. A girl with dreams. A girl with worries. A girl with so much love in her heart sometimes it hurts.

I am a girl that gets frustrated but not sad. A girl who complains a lot but is so grateful. A girl who loves creating inside jokes with complete strangers almost as much as the pursuit of making eye contact with every soul that passes by.

So it surprises people when I am physically unable to dial a simple seven-digit number and make a phone call. When I am physically unable to concentrate on anything important until I hear my teacher make it to my name at the bottom of the attendance list, as I rehearse in my mind whether or not I will say "here" or simply raise my hand. When I am physically unable to ask a store employee where to find an item I'm looking for because I'd rather waste 20 minutes trying to find it myself.

There are times where I feel totally alone. Don't get me wrong, I am surrounded by so many communities that play a role in my overall happiness as they support me in every area of my life. I have my home family, my home-friends family, my school-friends family, my education department family, and my diabetes family. As grateful as I am to have so many families that draw on my strengths and help me overcome my weaknesses, none of them specialize in anxiety. They find a way to help me through every other struggle in the whole wide universe except for this one. And that is what makes this so incredibly lonely. So incredibly lonely.

I feel like there's something wrong with me. I feel like I'm always overreacting when I find a task to be daunting because others don't even bat an eyelash. I feel like I'm making excuses and justifications and my reasons are almost never good enough, or at least not understood. It is exhausting to pretend you're okay with something that gives you anxiety, which you have to do often because you're afraid of the judgement you may receive as a consequence.

It is my biggest insecurity.

It's confusing, you know? I have worked so hard to build an empire of self-confidence. It started as a little box that looked like this [ ] and over the last couple of years I have filled it with leadership skills, perseverance, dedication, and courage. If you read one of my latest articles, you know I am an ambivert. Being an ambivert with anxiety is like a double whammy- my heart faces a lot of inner conflict as these aspects of my personality overlap, contradict and reinforce one another. I am just beginning to put the complicated pieces together.

But here's the thing. When I looked up "high functioning anxiety" online, I found so many things that do not apply to me. I am not a workaholic. I am a perfectionist but not in a Type A kind of way. I do not struggle with depression or have a hard time getting through each day. I don’t have any abnormal nervous habits. I do not avoid eye contact (remember, it's one of my favorite things), I do not hate making small talk, and I do not isolate myself (unless I'm introverting;).

But I worry. A lot. More than I should. About the future, things I can’t change, the unknown. I can’t fall asleep at night because my brain doesn't know how to shut off (apparently). I put too much pressure on myself to exceed expectations. I overthink I overthink I overthink. I don’t let little things go. I analyze conversations. I have trouble concentrating so I procrastinate. I have a crippling fear of letting people down. I am always thinking three steps ahead. I hate calling for take-out, going to the pharmacy, and navigating huge crowds. I hate driving on the highway, driving to anywhere I've never been, driving in the snow, and driving in the dark. I hate public speaking, I hate taking tests, and I hate when there is too much waiting time because I will think and worry and think some more.

This is what I tell people: if I don't have enough time to let myself think or worry about something and I just have to do it, then I'll do it. Sometimes I'm able to flip the switch and pretend I can do it until BABAM, see it wasn't that hard. But it was hard. I just have to pretend it's not.

I know that to get through life, there are times where that is my only option. Just pretend, persevere, and get it over with. And everybody gets nervous about things they've never done before, but then it gets better for them with time. Since I have high functioning anxiety, though, just because I prove I can do something once doesn't mean I'm suddenly cured of all my fears and next time will be an anxiety-free experience. It doesn't work like that. I don't work like that. I just have to keep pretending. It's not about the final product for me; it's all about the process.

I will have you know that I am quite the badass and I am very aware of how capable I am of accomplishing anything I want to- that part of my confident box is at an all-time high. But it's how I get there that matters to me. I know I am capable of reading a paragraph out loud in class. I know that I am very capable of putting gas in a car. I know that I am capable of driving to a nearby place that I've never been to before. But once I begin to overthink it- and I really can't help it when this happens- it's over. The anxiety may lessen in certain situations over time, but I'm beginning to accept that it's not something I will "outgrow" or that will just stop happening to me.

My anxiety is simultaneously the most inconsistent, confusing, constant, and pressing aspect of my life. It has made a nest at the top of my brain and contains wispy vines that laugh as they tie around my ankles. Every single day.

If I matched the descriptions and characteristics online, I suppose I could try medication or therapy. But the reality of accepting that as my fate is absolutely terrifying. Because that's not me. Textual evidence guys, it's not. But then where does that leave me? I'm like in between everything, always, for the rest of my life.

Then I came across the words, "develop a new relationship with your high functioning anxiety". Anyone that knows me knows how much I love developing relationships. I love to invest in, upkeep, and maintain healthy relationships with other people. And all those families I mentioned earlier? They allow me to maintain a healthy relationship with myself. But as you know, anxiety is the exception. This one I have to do on my own.

It's time for me to develop a new relationship with my high functioning anxiety. One that is accepting. One that is kind.

I'm done pretending it doesn't exist when it does. I'm done treating it as a lighthearted joke because I'm embarrassed when people don't understand. I'm done feeling bad about myself when I feel like I can't do something as simple as asking the waiter to give separate checks. I'm done telling myself I won't succeed at something as important as my MTEL tests because I'm letting my anxiety take over. I'm done. I'm done. I'm done.

It's time for me to develop a new relationship with my high functioning anxiety. One that is understanding. One that is productive.

I'm going to start accepting that sometimes things are harder for me overcome. I'm going to recognize the things that trigger my anxiety and focus on how to set myself up for success in every situation I'm faced with. I'm going to focus on my breathing and not on my thoughts. And everyday when I wake I'm going to tell myself: You are a badass warrior and you can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

I've tried to write this article countless times over the past two years, and we all know I've shared some deep and personal stories with the Odyssey Online. But I can literally write about my diagnosis, my guardian angel, my heartbreaks, and my inner core all day every day. This insecurity of having anxiety has suffocated me in ways that nothing else ever has.

But now I am developing a new relationship with my high functioning anxiety. One that will allow me to breathe. One that will allow me to thrive. Into the confidence box it goes [ ]. The first step for me is being able to write about it.

In case nobody has told today that you that you are a badass warrior, know that I think that you are. And I always will.

P.S. You can do this. <3

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Withee

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7 Things That Happen In The Mid-Semester Slumps

This is definitely something we all face in the middle of the semester.

It's that time of the semester where you just came back from break and all that stress is back. There's so much that needs to be done and you have no idea where to start.

1. Your workload somehow becomes endless.

I just came back from break and before I knew it, I was writing an essay, studying for a midterm, and studying for multiple quizzes when I got back. And everyone else I knew was on the same boat as me—there were some serious study parties at the library.

2. You are tired of food.

No, you’re not tired of eating but you’re tired of the food that you’re surrounded by (AKA dining hall food). You crave specific things from back home even though there is no way you’re going to get it right now.

3. You cope with your troubles with sleep.

It becomes a real problem when you schedule your naps, but you also nap when you aren’t supposed to.

4. Your room looks like a tornado hit it.

It’s funny how my room is so messy when I haven’t even been in it. And there is absolutely no time to clean it so I just sleep in the mess.

5. You give into retail therapy.

You feel the need to buy everything and don’t think about the fact that the money in your bank account is not unlimited.

6. You are stressing all the time.

There are so many things to do and so little time. In fact, there isn’t even time to stress because you can’t afford to waste a minute.

7. You want to go home and forget all your worries.

I wish I could click my heels 3 times and be back home where I can forget all my worries.

We're going to get through this. Right?

Cover Image Credit: Pxhere

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