The reality of mental health: Hannah's story

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, April 21st, 2016 at 8:02 AM
The reality of mental health: Hannah's story  by Hannah Webster
Contributed Photo

I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life.

At 15, I was diagnosed with anxiety after freaking out over the littlest things. I’ve always had fears, but my anxiety makes them all the more real. I’ll see a spider and instantly start crying or think of dying and start hyperventilating. It’s the littlest things that mess with my mind and allow myself to overthink, over-analyze, and over-exaggerate anything. I’ve experienced this in college, especially with papers to write, exams to study for, and with a sleep pattern to maintain. Sometimes you just need a day off to relax and unwind.

I have not missed any more days than the time allowed for each class for my anxiety. Since there are few days you can miss without harming your grade, I have to pick and choose when I feel the most anxious about attending class. What if I skip on a day that’s not as stressful as a day in the future? Great. Now I’ve given myself more opportunity to feel anxious.

I don’t know how many times I have found myself on the floor in a ball wondering “what’s wrong with me?” What kind of monster is taking over me? Why do I have no control over myself or my emotions?

Many times, I have wanted to go out and enjoy my day, but I can’t because I am so anxious that when I hear people whispering and laughing as I walk by, they’re talking about me. One odd look from a friend can send me into a frenzy trying to figure out the sense of their expression. I have to give myself a pep talk almost every single day in order to get up every morning and get to class. It’s not everyday that I wake up entirely chipper and ready to take on the world.

My case is not as bad as others, but it sure gets the best of me. According to Healthline, 1 out of every 4 college students suffer from depression or other mental illnesses. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in college students and 19 percent of young adults in the United States contemplate or attempt suicide every year.

Throughout high school and college, I’ve wondered why I really matter. What’s my true purpose? I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve zoned out contemplating life and all existence. College students go through a lot. They are just learning how to be an adult. One moment you’re living with your parents who provide for most things and the next you’re out of the nest, in the real world, trying to figure out how to survive on your own.

After my ex-boyfriend and I broke up my freshman year, I started losing a lot of weight. Yes, I was also working out every day, but the weight was shed quickly and became noticeable. My family soon became concerned about what was going on in my life. School stress started to get the best of me, on top of my personal stress. It isn’t easy plugging out research papers, studying for tests, doing homework, and getting the right amount of sleep each night.

Not only was my weight declining, but my grades dramatically declined as well. I lacked motivation to do much more than show up to class and pretend I was listening. It was hard to focus with my emotions all haywire. Soon, I was receiving Cs and although I knew the grades were not up to my standards, I frankly didn’t care. School became the least of my concerns as I slowly withered away.

According to a study done by Brown University, only 11 percent of students report having good sleep, while 73 percent of students had issues sleeping. Sleep deprivation harms an individual’s everyday functioning.

According to HealthResearchFunding.org, this specifically pertains to students’ ability to pay attention in classes. Students with sleep deprivation were also found to have lower GPAs due to the inability to concentrate, learn and absorb information.

I don’t know why professors think it’s that easy. Most college students are working part-time jobs and learning to adjust on their own. Do they really think we can complete all our assignments without getting beat? After all, there’s bills to pay, jobs to be done, and sometimes we all just need time to breathe.

For some, juggling school and work at the same time can be easy, but for others, it’s difficult. Imagine having anxiety on top of the stress of working while attending school? Anxiety could dominate the focus of someone who is multitasking, leading to an overload of stress.

Sometimes students just go through depression and can’t seem to shake the symptoms of lack of motivation, loss of emotion, sadness and disinterest. Depression can come in all shapes and sizes and for a variety of reasons. For example, an individual may feel depressed about not doing their best on an important test or assignment.

According to Healthline, 44 percent of American college students have reported symptoms of depression, while only 75 percent of college students actually seek help for their mental health issues. Without seeking help for the things that slow us down, how will we ever be able to improve our ability to focus or get things done in a productive manner?

We are given a certain amount of allowed days in order to be excused from class. However, the excuse is only given for “extreme” situations like death in the family or illness noted by a doctor. Why isn’t mental health being recognized along with the flu? Sure, it’s not contagious, but it affects most adults.

As you get older, things in life become more stressful since we understand the amount of work put into everyday activities and are no longer living carefree lives. With each thing added to our list of troubles comes more responsibility and attention. It is easy to let the world swallow you whole, so sometimes it’s important to just let yourself breathe.

Most work places allow a specific amount of days of leave for certain circumstances like medical and personal days. Colleges should have a similar option for students. That is simple.

Like I have mentioned the plates of college students are pretty full and in need of some TLC. The more time to be given to detoxing the brain from worries and troubles, the happier and more relaxed you will feel.

I’m worried people are too afraid to talk about this issue and instead pretend we’re alright but the truth is, we’re not. We are most definitely not alright if we are not in control of our own mind. Anxiety, depression and stress are all mental illnesses that need to be taken more seriously.

Without proper precautionary measures, many lives and valuable time will be lost to the devils inside of us. The mind is a beautiful creature with the ability to do the most remarkable of things, however it sometimes doesn’t know how or when to turn off.

In the words of Shinedown, “I like to stare at the sun and think about what I’ve done/I lie awake in my great escape/I like crossing the line/And slowly losing my mind/Are you ok?/ ‘Cuz I feel fine/Maybe it’s me, I’m just crazy/ Maybe I like that I’m not all right, all messed up and slightly twisted/Am I sick or am I gifted?”

Hannah Webster is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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