Understanding My Anxiety During Long Breaks

Understanding My Anxiety During Long Breaks

I thought long breaks were supposed to help?
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Often I think of how much my long-term breaks from school have really changed compared to the public school setting. For some reason, being a college student now, the breaks feel more empty, demanding and exhausting compared to the times off in high school. I can’t quite put my finger on why it feels this way, but I hope in some way writing about it might help me in defining it, and maybe I might find a better way to consume all this free time.

As I mentioned before in a previous piece I wrote, I suffer from an anxiety disorder that really muddles my way of thinking. With this in mind, I’ve noticed how weird and awkward my holiday breaks feel now compared to when I was in high school. But let's be real here, big holiday breaks like Christmas and the summer during high school didn't really count to me. They always assigned things like homework to do over breaks to remind you about school. Don't even get me started on the AP summer homework before the new school year! To be fair, with the amount of required state exams and tests of that nature in school, it's understandable that they would give us work to do over the summer so we're still prepared. Nevertheless, high school breaks felt generally boring and stressful from the amount of work I had to do, but at least I had something to do and still being in an academic setting helped me with school.

Two years into college, I've realized by now that everything you do academically is all up to you and its your choice whether or not you want to participate in it at all. The two biggest breaks students usually look forward to are the months off in-between semesters, that being winter and summer break. Everything else amidst the semesters like long weekends, Thanksgiving break, and even spring break isn't entirely that hyped up since, depending on the class, you might end up with homework to do that may consume your time. Typically during the longer breaks, people go on vacations, work extra hours, or spend time with their friends and family. Now how does my mental illness tie into the conversation about breaks from school? Surely being away from what can be a stressful environment might help me take a sort of mental health break for myself?

Unfortunately it doesn't work like that, and I still don't understand why.

Having too much free time for myself drives me insane, especially since a lot of times I have nothing to do. On a normal day when I have free time during the semester, I use it to play video games or write something. Sometimes I use TV shows and new games as motivators to help me get through my work faster because honestly, who doesn't like a good reward after so much work? But during the breaks, especially in the heat of summer, the free time turns way too excessive to the point where I just run out of things to do and I feel less motivated to participate in activities I actually enjoy. People always talk and write about doing so many things to stay motivated during the summer, but it never works for me. I leave books, shows, and games untouched for days on end and it makes me feel guilty. Don't get me started on feeling like I'm bothering friends by asking to hang out with them too, it's a mess.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, why don't you just get a job over the break? Won't that help me out? True, it'll give me something to do with all the free time I suppose, but that's my problem; my anxiety makes it hard for me to get a job in the first place because I'm just so afraid of everything. So now I'm not working, I'm not in the usual academic setting, I'm sitting at home lost in thoughts, and I keep thinking to myself, "Wow I am really wasting my time here, aren't I?"

In truth, my anxiety makes it really hard to enjoy things normally how others might. I'm not justifying my lack of motivation through my mental illness, but it has really affected me and I wish there was a better understanding for it. A part of me wants to do fun things over the summer, to go to the beach or city and have fun with the people I love, but another part of me just wants to stay shut at home in bed with the air conditioner on blast. The days are long and hot and sometimes I just feel like nothing will ever get better. I even go days without even stepping foot outside my own home because everything is just too overwhelming. The scary thing is how I value having this excessive free time so much when I'm in school. I start feeling nostalgic and end up missing the days where I can just be a hermit in my own home and basically do anything I want. But here's the thing, I don't want to be someone who does nothing for a long period of time anymore.

I want to do things and not feel guilty for never participating in anything anymore, but I also want to prioritize my mental health above all and take care of myself and go at my own pace. I'm happy to say that at least this summer hasn't been entirely too bad because I've been finding more things to do without feeling drained. My writing has increased, I tutored a group of lovely high school students in writing their college essays, and I even finally started getting driving lessons.

But no matter how much I try and consume myself in activities, it doesn't feel any different, I still feel lost. What I've done thus far is only a start in the process of becoming a better person for myself.

I'm doing more because I'm forcing myself to, but I just want my breaks to actually feel like a vacation already.

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Anxiety Medications Aren't As Scary As You Might Think

It took me about 2 months to even find the right medication and dosage. It's truly a process.

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Before my journey with anxiety, I was very anti-medication. I truly didn't understand the purpose or need for it. Boy, have I learned a lot since then. Upon visiting the doctor, I learned that there are two types of medication that do two different things to the neurotransmitters in your brain. These are categorized as SSRI or SNRI. According to anxiety.org, "SSRIs increase serotonin in the brain. Neural systems affected by increased serotonin regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and digestion."

The medication that I am currently taking falls under the category of SSRI. As a result of taking this medication, "your brain is more capable of making changes that will lead to a decrease in anxiety" (anxiety.org). I don't know if that sounds nice to you, but I loved the sound of it.

On the other hand, per mayoclinic.org, SNRIs "ease depression by impacting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells. Like most antidepressants, SNRIs work by ultimately effecting changes in brain chemistry and communication in brain nerve cell circuitry known to regulate mood, to help relieve depression."

From my understanding, the different types of medication focus on different neurotransmitters in your brain. I don't think that one of these is "bad" and one of these is "good." This is simply because anxiety and depression are very personal and impact people differently. My anxiety is not the same as my friend's anxiety. I think it's more of a spectrum.

There are a lot of misconceptions upon starting medication. I think the first is that it works instantly. I have some bad news and it's that some medications take up to a month to get into your system. I mean, you're chemically altering your brain, so it makes sense. It took me about 2 months to even find the right medication and dosage. It's truly a process.

Another misconception is that the pills are addicting- making them completely unnecessary or dangerous. That wasn't true for me. One of my dear friends told me that if you don't feel guilty for taking cold medicine when you have a cold, then you shouldn't feel guilty for taking medication that helps your anxiety. I think this really does boil down to knowing yourself and if there's a history of addiction in your family. However, as someone who's taken the heavy pain killers (via surgery) and now takes anxiety medication, I can testify to say that there's a difference.

The pain killers made me a zombie. The anxiety medication allows me to be the best version of myself. I like who I am when I'm not constantly worried about EVERYTHING. I used to not leave the house without makeup on because I constantly worried what people thought of me. I used to be terrified that my friends didn't want me around. I used to overthink every single decision that I made. Now, none of that is happening. I enjoy my friends and their company, I hardly wear makeup, and I'm getting better at making decisions.

Do I want to be able to thrive without having to correct my neurotransmitters? Sure. However, this is the way that I am, and I wouldn't have gotten better without both therapy and medication. I'm forever grateful for both.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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