As a senior in high school, I was both very excited but also very stressed. I was in my last year of high school and college was just around the corner. My mind was constantly focused on college applications, college visits, and well, college.
My last year of high school was definitely not my best. Thinking of how great college would be was basically all that kept me going. So, when I finally got my acceptance letter from the school of my dreams, to say I was excited is a huge understatement.
When the time finally came for me to go off to school I was ecstatic! Before I knew it I was shopping for dorm decor in Target and ordering textbooks for my first official semester as a college freshman! Yet, once the semester actually began my unrealistic expectations of the perfect college life slowly started to shatter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some good memories that were made during that first year. Those late night CookOut runs and movie nights were so fun! That first week was so unreal! It was after that first fun week that things started to change.
My entire student life revolved around trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations and standards I had created in my head. For a while I was living up to them at least on the outside. I remember hanging out with one of my friends in her room one night, talking about how she was struggling to find the right group of friends to hang out with. I began to talk about how I could relate to how she felt, yet her response was not what I was expecting at all. She was so surprised by what I had to say because she thought I knew everyone and was super social.
Now, to the average outsider I probably did come off as someone who everyone knew and was I very socially active. I was involved in lots of clubs, was involved in several Christian youth groups, and I always tried to talk to a new person in the dining hall. To my friends and family it would have looked like I was having the time of my life, but on the inside I was dying. I didn’t even go home on weekends that often because I was scared that my family would see how miserable I was.
There was so much my family and friends didn’t see. Those late nights when I cried myself to sleep and those many hours I spent stressing out about upcoming exams were definitely not part of the plan I had for the perfect college life. I would tell my family that I was fine, when really I could not be farther from it. I would tell them that my grades were good when really I was barely passing most of my classes. I was so worried about what others would think of me that I kept it all to myself. I thought the reason I wasn’t having a good time was because there was something I wasn’t doing right.
I blamed myself for so much, when in reality this feeling I was having was completely normal. I thought I was the only one who felt this alone. It never occurred to me that there could be others who were experiencing these exact same feelings. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was definitely not the only person feeling like this. Some of the students I knew whose lives seemed so great were later revealed to be far from perfect.
Since that year has passed, I have been able to get help from a professional therapist who has really helped me understand my feelings and how I could cope with them in very healthy ways. I then came to realize that those feelings I was having were not just stemming from loneliness or having difficulty adjusting to a new environment. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety.
When I was first informed of this, I was honestly very scared. Mental health was a very foreign concept to me. Now that I have learned much more about depression and anxiety, I have come to accept it as something that is a part of me, not anything to be feared or ashamed of.
If I could give any advice to my past self or someone who is in a similar situation, it would be to tell someone. Tell someone, anyone about what you are struggling with and how you are feeling. Call your mom or your dad. Go see a therapist if you can! I promise that are not alone. I also advise you not to fall for the trap that social media so often drags us into. Just because someone posts lots of pictures on Instagram and Facebook of themselves having looking like they are having the time of their life does not mean that they actually are! For in the words of the great Selena Gomez, “everything is not what it seems.”