By Julia Di Simone
Trigger Warning: descriptions of anxiety and panic attacks.
I struggled with near-constant anxiety for years before I realized what was happening to me. If you recognize yourself in this story, I hope you can learn that mental health struggles are serious and deserve treatment. Check out the resources at the end which can help you deal with the struggles you may be handling on your own right now.
A year ago, I was living with a near-constant hum of anxiety in the back of my mind. I lived in constant fear of silence because in the silences, the anxious thoughts in my mind got louder. I always felt like at least five thoughts were in my head at once. They were all layered on top of one another and it was hard to focus on any one thing at a time.
Audiobooks, podcasts and free-to-stream teen dramas became my constant companions, because having noise coming out of my headphones all day long meant I could escape my own disorienting internal chatter. My own mind didn’t feel like a safe place to be, so I avoided being in it as much as possible.
For years, I thought this struggle was all part of being a busy college student. I believed that constant, crippling stress was not only the norm but necessary in order to consider myself a hard-working college student. Even when I began to suspect I could benefit from getting help, I never felt I was “sick enough” to deserve help. Instead, I chalked all my issues up to stress and tried to muscle through every day instead of caring for myself so I could feel better.
When I finally got to the point where I couldn’t take the way I was living anymore, I sought out treatment and it transformed my quality of life. If a part of you wants to have help sorting through your struggles, know that you deserve it no matter who you are or what you’re dealing with.
To learn more about dealing with abuse, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm and more mental health challenges, check out Kati Morton on YouTube. Morton is a licensed therapist who makes approachable videos answering viewer questions like, “what is a normal amount of anxiety?” and “how can I heal from sexual abuse?” Search the iTunes store for “Kati Morton” to find her interactive eBooks for dealing with anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and coming out as LGBTQ (only $2.99).
A great start to sorting through your own mental health struggles is to share your feelings and thoughts with a friend or mentor who can hold space for you. The Willamette chaplains are an incredible, confidential resource. Regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, the chaplains may be able to help you get the conversation started. Call their office at (503) 370-6213, email or visit them on the second floor of the University Center.
Bishop still provides counseling services and offers 30 minutes sessions where you can unwind in the Mind Spa. Call (503) 370-6471 for both services.
Better Help is an online counseling service where, for a monthly fee, you can have unlimited phone, video and messaging communication with your counselor. No medical insurance is required and if you find a Groupon deal, you can try the service out at a serious discount.
If you are experiencing a crisis situation, call the National Lifeline Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. I keep this number in my contacts and call whenever I experience a panic attack and want to talk to someone.
My experiences of anxiety aren’t completely in my past. I’m still dealing with anxious thoughts and the resulting behaviors I use to cope, but my life has become dramatically better since starting treatment. My mind is a calmer and less scary place to be these days. I can focus on my school work, and I’m less fearful of social interactions. The work I put into treatment is worth it and if you’re struggling with a mental health issue or life just feels like too much to handle sometimes, you deserve help too. We all deserve to experience more peace of mind and love life.