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Welcome to my very first post regarding mental health! I’m really excited to be sharing my experience with you. Mental health is an extremely important topic to me, and it’s something I think needs to be talked about a lot more.
I wanted to start off by sharing my personal mental health story and how I’ve struggled with mental illness. It wouldn’t be right to write a whole portion of my blog on mental health without telling you all about my experience.
Outside of myself, I’ve had mental illness surround me for my entire life. Depression and anxiety has stricken everyone in my family at one point or another. Various other issues are apparent with other family members, too. It’s been everywhere my whole life.
My own struggle with mental illness started with severe perfectionism in middle school and high school. (Some people say that perfectionism isn’t a mental illness, but I think it definitely is. More on that later.)
I was a super busy student: heavily involved in extracurricular activities and continually striving for A+ grades. The problem that occurred for me was that the ambition took over my life. If I didn’t get perfect grades or do perfectly in my performances I would beat myself up to tears. I dealt with anxiety, too, but I really wasn’t aware of what was happening at that time. I thought my emotional panic attacks were normal.
During my first semester of college, I continued with perfectionism issues. I started counseling to deal with things I’ve gone through in my past that were unaddressed. I didn’t have too many problems with my mental health, otherwise.
There were the typical moments of college stress that got to me but I was okay. I only had 12 credits and they were all GE’s so, academically, I didn’t have too much going on. I missed my friends and family, of course, but everything was good.
In my next semester, the fall of 2017, (I didn’t go to school in the fall of 2016, but more on that later) things went downhill for me drastically.
At that point, I was a chemistry major and forensic science minor. The start of the semester was super exciting because I was finally at Ohio State for the beginning of the year!
I still had to deal with anxiety most of the time but it was good! I wasn’t on medication for my anxiety but I did take Valerian Root for when it got bad. In my experience, Valerian Root does a great job of calming my anxiety enough to manage it.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and I do not know how certain products would affect you. If you want to try Valerian Root, consult your doctor first.
I want to preface the next paragraph by saying that one thing I’ve learned is that sometimes mental illness strikes in the strangest of times. In can be elevated for the most random reasons and it isn’t always because something really bad happens. The tiniest situation could put you over the edge. It’s important to remember that mental health issues aren’t always as big and dramatic as the movies and social media make it out to be.
Things got bad in October. My boyfriend, Alex, came to visit me. We were just hanging out in my dorm when I spilled my drink on my laptop. It completely stopped working and I was immediately panicking and sobbing. (Not to mention that I was in the middle of an 80+ question assignment that was due the next day.)
When I went to see if someone could fix it, I was told it pretty much wasn’t possible. My mind went reeling: I’d have to buy a new laptop immediately! That would drain me of over half of my savings. Would I then have the money to pay for my tuition deposit for the spring semester? I probably wouldn’t so I might as well drop out of the semester so I could go home and work to rebuild my savings.
Dramatic, I know. But I kept going downhill. I realized through all of it that I didn’t like my classes or my major. I was just miserable. And it continued to affect me for weeks.
I cared less about my school work; I barely ever turned it in on time or put in much effort. I hardly ever left my room. I didn’t hang out with anyone and I responded minimally to everything people said. I had an 8am math class that I skipped for a month straight. I cried all the time. I didn’t put effort into anything that I enjoyed. I felt sick from anxiety.
I remember going into counseling and just bawling because I was so afraid of dropping out of school and what my future was going to look like.
One night I called my mom and just asked her what she thought I should do academically, because that was a problem I knew I could solve before anything else. She recommended that I go into architecture.
When I was a little kid, I seriously loved architecture. I fell off of that wagon as I got older but when my mom mentioned it, it struck something in me. I immediately started googling everything I could about it and I found the magical world of landscape architecture.
I made an appointment with an adviser of the Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State that night. When I talked to her, I made the decision to switch majors right away. I scheduled my classes for the spring in the landscape program.
Normally that is not like me: I’m the type of person to think through every possibility and decision to the tiniest detail. But landscape architecture felt right, and I was so ready to leave my misery in chemistry behind.
That glimmer of change gave me the strength I needed to push through the rest of the semester. I took the time over winter break away from school to understand what was happening with my mental health and get ready for the fresh start that was coming.
I went into the spring semester feeling SO much better. I was still really afraid that I was going to end up feeling the same way as before, but I had hope. I talked to my counselor and finally allowed myself to accept that I had both anxiety and depression. Honestly, that was a really hard realization to make. But I wanted to take the steps to get better.
I decided to talk to my doctor and start medication. Medication isn’t for everyone, but I knew I wanted to try it out. I started on Zoloft, and I quickly noticed a positive difference.
My classes were so enjoyable. I sought out my friends and opened myself up socially again. I was motivated and was getting a lot accomplished. I continued counseling and addressing problems I was having. I felt like myself again.
I finished my semester strong and I feel good! I went through a lot but now I know how to manage my mental illnesses and I’m prepared for any time it gets bad. In some ways I’m thankful for my struggles because they taught me more about myself. And they give me a better understanding of mental health as a whole.
Mental health is so SO important. I’m really excited to be able to share my experiences and to help others with their illnesses. I hope this post helps you see that anyone can go through struggles. And everyone can find the way out and be healthy again. It’s totally possible, and I’m here to help you through it.