I didn't know until the beginning of my college career that my constant worrying could be medically diagnosed. I finally realized I wasn't crazy and that my "freak outs" were not me just being over-dramatic and a teenager. When I eventually noticed that my systems were similar to what a lot of people with anxiety had, it suddenly dawned on me that this is what could be affecting me as well. But I didn't reach out for help. I let my anxiety continue to have major control over my life and my relationships.
There is a stigma around seeking therapy and taking medication, whether it be from society who tells you that that is only for crazy people or if dragging yourself to therapy once a week seems way too depressing. Normal people who have their life in control don't need that because they have their act together and can tell their brain to shut up when it starts going into overwork and anxiety mode. And I wanted to believe I was one of those people because I didn't want people to think that I was crazy.
For the most part, I had my life together. I was doing well in school, I was maintaining a normal amount of friendships and my boyfriend of just over two years at the time was extremely happy with how things were progressing with our relationship. We had just moved in together and started planning an out of state trip for the end of the year.
Things changed when I started taking classes in the journalism program. Classes got harder and instead of doing homework I would let my anxiety take over and I would be left immobile for hours on end, forcing myself to stay up late to get assignments done. I suffered my first major family death and had to miss a week of classes to fly out of the country to go to the funeral with some professors being less than helpful about the days I would miss. It felt like my life was falling apart.
So, I started going to group therapy. I went for eight weeks to an anxiety mindfulness group at the UCF health center and for those eight weeks, I felt better. My anxiety attacks stopped happening as often and I was able to get schoolwork completed much sooner than I was before. At the end of the semester, the sessions ended and so did school and my anxiety was under control for winter break.
Then, the worst semester of my college career started. I had a professor who for the first time, no matter how hard I tried, couldn't produce any amount of work that he liked. He spoke harshly to me during his office hours and it was the first time a professor had ever done that so I did the normal thing. I went home and cried for three hours straight. I was doing well in my other classes but the fact that I was unable to do anything right for the professor was weighing on me more than anything else and I couldn't handle it.
So, I did the thing I knew how to do best. Let my anxiety take over. I refused to do any work because of the extreme stress it caused me and knew halfway through the semester I wouldn't be passing the class and that destroyed me. I had never failed a class before and my anxiety was worse than ever.
After a particularly awful night where my boyfriend and I fought about my lack of trying and I had a terrible anxiety attack, I decided it was time to try medication. I was done living behind my anxiety and I wanted to get my college career back on track and I was terrified if I continued on this way, my life would spiral out of control.
That week I went to the health center and met with one of the nurses there who spoke to me about how I was feeling. She was extremely nonjudgemental and explained to me that she could prescribe me a medication that day, instead of sending me to the psychiatrist who I thought I would have needed to see.
She walked me through three different medications I could try and explained to me how they worked and what the side effects of each one were. I chose Zoloft because she said that is one that is taken daily to control anxiety levels instead of taking a pill whenever I felt anxious. She told me that it takes a few weeks to start working, so don't be annoyed if you don't feel any changes immediately. I walked out of the building 15 minutes later with a two-week dosage of pills and a follow-up appointment scheduled.
Aside from feeling nauseous at times, I felt better by the next follow-up visit. I wasn't having daily anxiety attacks, I could rationalize things inside my head instead of blowing them out of proportion and I wasn't freaking out about some subtle thing my boyfriend did every other day. And I finally felt good about my classes even though I knew I would still fail the one I was struggling with. I could finally tell myself it would be okay and it wasn't the end of the world. I would keep my scholarship and I could retake the class next year with grade forgiveness and my GPA wouldn't be too badly affected.
I know this doesn't happen for everyone. For some, it takes time to find the right dosage or even the right pill. I'm extremely thankful that the first one has worked so amazingly for me.
In full honesty, medication changed my life. I am a less anxious person overall and thanks to my parent's healthcare, I am able to afford the prescription refills every three months. People should start realizing that taking medication doesn't make you crazy. Everyone is different and some people just need a little extra help living their life and that's totally okay.