Content Warning: This article contains content regarding anxiety, eating disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Dear readers, my name is Katherine, but most of you probably know me as Kat. This is the first article of my new column “Well-being Wednesday” where I will write about mental health and the various ways it impacts us as individuals from all walks of life.
I am a senior from Adrian, graduating in May with the future creeping up behind me, ready to attack at any moment.
The idea that, at the age of 21, I have to make choices that will shape my entire future, is terrifying. These impending decisions are causing me profound anxiety, and truthfully, I find myself at a loss for how to navigate them.
I experience intense waves of anxiety on a daily basis. Some days, that fear of “after college” is the reason for my apprehensions. On other days, it stems from my deep-seated discomfort with physical and mental loneliness.
Balancing the typical stresses of college life alongside my ongoing mental health challenges continues to be a major conflict for me. However, my journey on the mental health rollercoaster did not start during my senior year; rather, it has been a continuous struggle I’ve faced throughout my life.
I have been struggling with my mental health since middle school. Bullying, paired with my dad moving away when I was 11, caused a pretty interesting background story for my would-be villain arc.
I was (and still am) the fat girl who kids prey upon for their enjoyment. I played sports, danced competitively and even excelled as the class clown. No matter what I did, I was never worthy of a friendship that lasted longer than a few months, or someone’s touch beyond a few eye glances in the hallway.
Even though I cried, hurt and questioned my self-worth, I truly didn’t understand mental health struggles beyond what social media presented. The sad Musical.ly (now TikTok) videos and the Instagram posts with daily sad quotes – “it’s better to be alone, no one can hurt you” – were the epitome of my “depression.” Until they weren’t.
Let me set the scene for you: I was a first-year here at Albion College amidst the COVID-19 crisis, five months into a toxic relationship (my first real relationship, by the way) and had just been released from the hospital after having contracted COVID-19. Although all of those things were very traumatic for me, being hospitalized with COVID is what made me spiral.
After testing positive in my hometown’s emergency room at 2 a.m. on April 2, 2021, I went through a series of tests including X-rays, multiple CT scans and lung scans. Eventually, I had blood thinner shots administered in my stomach. The doctors discovered blood clots in my lungs which resulted from a combination of COVID-19 and a previously undiagnosed blood clotting disorder. While I was in the hospital, one of the nurses that was on my floor asked me if I had a will, in case I “succumbed to COVID.”
I was only 19 years old and I was alone, per the visiting restrictions imposed by the CDC.
After three days in the hospital, I was cleared to return home with a doctor-prescribed two-week quarantine.
I was confined to a room, enduring excruciating pain from the clots in my chest and relentless body aches. I lived in constant fear, afraid that either COVID or the clots could kill me at any instant.
The fear and isolation I experienced during April 2021, paired with previous experiences, resulted in my panic disorder diagnosis. I was then prescribed Buspirone, a medication primarily used to treat anxiety disorders like mine.
Fast forward a year to June 2022. My junior year here at Albion College consisted of me recovering from academic struggles, to the point where I was a year behind. In addition to this, I was coping with the trauma of my ex-partner’s harassment, eventually resulting in a restraining order against them.
Trying to “pull myself up by the bootstraps” was more difficult than I had ever anticipated – it led to many days of sulking in my bed, not eating or experiencing intense binge eating.
At this point, I had thoughts of ending it all.
Admitting it is hard. How could I be so selfish? How could I take away my mother’s only daughter, my niece’s aunt or my own future?
I battled with this mentality for months, ultimately leading to my depression diagnosis and the prescription of Lexapro to be added daily. I started at five milligrams, then 10 and eventually 15. The increased dosage made me feel numb – which swung my mentality into left field. I made the decision to bring my dosage back down to 10 milligrams because my body and I knew that it was the right decision.
Throughout all of this, therapy was a constant. But it was up to me to make the effort to schedule appointments, work on my goals and better myself; it was something I wasn’t ready for then, and am still working on now.
Going from such a dark and traumatic place to trying to see (and believe) that something better can exist is hard. Knowing you deserve better and wanting something better is a laborious process and mentality. I’ve been fortunate to have my mom and other loved ones sit with me while I cried, hold me as I fell to the ground and encourage me to want better for myself.
I do not want to be like the stereotypical infomercials about mental health that end with the whole “you are not alone” spiel. Even if it’s true, I will not say that.
What I will say is that you deserve a brighter and healthier life. You deserve ease and comfort and all of those things you keep begging for and crying about.
But no one can fix it for you. There isn’t a button you can press to make it all go away.
I wanted that. I wanted to be rescued. I still want to snap my fingers and make life easier, but I can’t.
We have to be the ones to help us. It’s okay to lean on someone, reach out to a mental health hotline or genuinely just lay in our beds with the curtains closed and sulk. As long as you keep getting up every day, you are doing something to better yourself.
I am not perfect – nor will I ever be. I have mental disorders. I am overweight. I am constantly struggling with something. Facing my demons has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, and while my journey is not finished, I know it’ll be worth it in the end.
You can never truly understand the struggles someone else is facing, so my final piece of advice is to make that connection. There are many of us out here who are willing to offer support, even if we can’t provide a complete solution. We can extend a lifeline – but you have to be willing to put in the effort.
Please, don’t lose hope; you’re important. Your well-being matters. You’re the only you that we’ve got.