I bawled for an hour straight when I left my home in New Jersey to drive out to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for my freshman year of college. Actually, I probably ended up crying for half the car ride. I doubt there has ever been a wetter, snottier mess on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I was not looking forward to the start of college. I was going too far, didn't know anyone, was leaving all my friends behind, and I certainly wasn't prepared for the course load I was taking on.
The first couple weeks of school were probably the hardest weeks I've ever had to endure. I was on the phone with friends from home constantly and spent a decent percentage of my time crying or sleeping. I would try to talk to new people but more tears would just bubble up. I had suicidal thoughts, to the point where I started researching the number of pills it would take to cause damage. I even tried to convince my parents to let me come home and go to community college. Boy, what a mistake that would have been.
I don’t want to act like everything in my life is perfect now. It’s far from it. That being said, I have come a long way from that person I was at the start of my freshman year. I’ve made a solid group of friends at school, maintained a nearly perfect GPA, and have managed to find a guy that can put up with my super quirky personality (or maybe I put up with him.) Better yet, I think of Pittsburgh as more than just the city where I go to school. It's home.
To those who are entering college with anxiety or depression, I know how you feel. It is HARD. It's a hard process regardless. But I do think it's worse for those of us who are prone to those feelings anyway. Just know that you are not the only one struggling and that it is okay to be hurting. If you are feeling suicidal or feel the need to self-harm, please call your school's counseling center right away and make an appointment. If you are forward with them about how you're feeling they will get you in right away. I called when I was feeling suicidal and it was considered an emergency appointment. This is definitely a service that I recommend utilizing because it's free and right on campus. If your problems persist, you might want to try a combination of therapy and medication. That was the route I took. Even before entering college, I started to regret not going on medicine so I was definitely glad I got the chance to when I was really struggling. Meanwhile, I have friends who don't want to tell their parents how they're feeling so they can avoid speaking to physicians about medication.
Don't let this prevent you from improving your health: you're an adult so they legally can't tell your family. They didn’t tell mine. It was a decision I had to make on my own.
I also recommend maintaining a long - distance friendship with someone at home. Sometimes, it's good to have someone that you know really well to keep you grounded. At school, try your hardest to surround yourself with people. It might make you anxious or uncomfortable at first, trust me, I know, but eventually you will click with someone. And don't forget that you can talk your new friends about some of this stuff because chances are they're are experiencing some sort of homesick feeling too! If you are feeling uncomfortable being social and would rather have some time alone, take advantage of it and either get some exercise or put your energy into your homework! It'll only help you in the long run.
If you can push through your first semester or two of college and still aren’t happy at your particular school, it’s okay to look elsewhere. If that is what is going to make you happy, so be it. Happiness is a hard thing to achieve. But it is possible, so don’t settle for anything less. Reach out for help, branch out, and do some homework; it will get better.
If you suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org