Coming to terms with anxiety as a college student

Overcoming the stigmas of mental illness

More stories from Alyssa Anderson

Getting Weird
December 13, 2018

Anxiety freaking sucks, to put it bluntly. And being a broke, stressed-out college student definitely doesn’t help.

For as long as I can remember, I have been an unusually nervous person. As a kid, I was a huge scaredy-cat. I had every irrational fear you can possibly imagine and for a while, I even slept with all the lights on because I was scared of ghosts. Even as a six-year-old, I always found something to obsess over and worry about.

These feelings didn’t bring up much cause for concern until I started my freshman year of college. During my first few weeks at UW-Eau Claire, I often found myself holed up in my dorm room, suffering from debilitating panic attacks. I couldn’t do much besides lay in bed and wonder what the heck was wrong with me.

Eventually, I mustered up the courage to make an appointment with Counseling Services. I was afraid they would tell me I was totally insane or even just annoying, but they instead assured me that my feelings were not uncommon.

It took me several months to finally acknowledge the fact that I had a mental illness.

After my many appointments with Counseling Services, I realized I needed to make an appointment with my doctor to better cope with my issues. After describing my symptoms, which I thought would make me sound like a lunatic, he explained how I had an anxiety disorder. As it turns out, anxiety isn’t rare with people like myself.

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is the most common mental illness among college students. Anxiety, affecting 41 percent of all college-age individuals, is an extremely common and treatable condition despite its many misconceptions.

After visiting my doctor, I got a prescription for Zoloft, a common drug used to treat depression and anxiety.

Many people think medications used to treat mental illnesses turn people into mindless, zoned-out zombies. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I feel like a normal person, someone who can finally be calm.

Although I still experience mild anxiety and the occasional panic attack, I feel like I am finally allowed to be the person I was meant to be.

Mental illnesses certainly have many misconceptions. Having an anxiety disorder does not mean I’m annoying or just a worry-wart. My brain just works differently than most so sometimes I get anxious for absolutely no reason. I get butterflies in my stomach when I have no reason to be excited or nervous.

Anxiety sucks, but it is manageable. You are not alone. Having a mental illness does not make you crazy, no matter what anyone says. Having anxiety is just like being allergic to peanuts-completely out of your control.

With that being said, if you know someone with anxiety, please don’t tell them to “just calm down” because they literally can’t.

If you think you have anxiety, depression or just need someone to talk to, Eau Claire Counseling Services can be reached at (715-836-5521) or in the Old Library 2122.