I exist in a living nightmare where I fight an unending battle with my own mind. I’m hyperventilating. I am scared. I am small.
No, I’m not crazy. No, I’m not psychotic. And no, I do not deserve to be stigmatized by those who do not understand my condition.
I am real, and I could even be you.
During my second semester at USC, I reached a point where I succumbed in defeat to my own weakness. I accepted that there was something wrong with me, and agreed that it was important that I seek medical attention.
One day, I endured a terrible panic attack. It felt like I was living in another body, and that body certainly did not belong to me. That night, the world spun upside down and I felt like dying — almost. I heard screeching sounds near the back of my mind — half scream, half whimper, barely human and pure terror.
These sounds began to brew louder and louder in the back of my mind. Somewhere in between hearing the clock tick at 3 a.m. and the hour I called the emergency line, I heard the sound of my self-worth shatter against a brick wall in my mind. Never in my life had I felt so broken and despicable.
Welcome to college anxiety.
This is exactly what it feels like to be put in a situation where it feels like you have no control of your life whatsoever. It is a silent and painful experience, no lie. And almost everyday, it feels like a living nightmare.
After many therapy sessions and community outreach, I learned one of many things: No medication can remedy your situation. No biological compound can alter hormones in your brain to “make you well again.” No. That’s just temporary. I refuse to place a band-aid solution to remedy a problem that could possibly endure my entire life. If psychiatry won’t help, then what will?
I realized that unconditional love and support, a constant reminder of your self-worth through someone else’s eyes, whether it be from family, friends, a religious group or the community, is by far the best remedy to aid an aching mind.
For me, love and support came not only from family and community, but also in a special form: a human gem named Garnier. During my times of crisis, I was lucky to have Garnier stand with me. What felt like enduring hell every day was cushioned because I had a friend who listened to me, understood me and empathized. Anxiety takes over, all too many times has Garnier witnessed my raw, masked being. My anxiety had sunken over to frighten her, that it was almost unfair to her. She had felt my anxiety align with her, and she was afraid; she was lost at how to act. But seeing me in such a torn-apart state for the past few months, she was brave enough to lend me a helping hand, to try to understand me, to try to listen to me. Yet it was wrong of me to have treated her so poorly during my condition. I felt guilty being friends with someone so caring and giving, when I was a complete mess and had nothing too great to offer in return. All too many times, I had felt so undeserving of the friendship, yet she still invested care, love and attention in my emotional well-being that has been unparalleled. So, I learned that having a friend, a soulmate even, allows you to be encouraged and hopeful, and that these are the friends you must prioritize, because in times of crisis, they stand by you. My anxiety and depression did not escalate into advanced stages because of the unconditional love and support that I had received from my family, my community, my friends and Garnier.
You may think that many can only empathize, but according to the 2013 National College Health Assessment, approximately a third of college students endure a form of mental battle, whether it be anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. Most Trojans will experience some form of depression and anxiety in college. It’s a ubiquitous problem that rummages every university campus, but the problem itself is often overlooked. In fact, many college students who do go through anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness are labeled as “too crazy” or even “dangerous.” The social stigmatization of victims of mental health illness is all too upsetting, heartbreaking almost.
Depression and anxiety is real and existing. So, to the dear Trojans struggling to accept their identity, beauty, self-worth, potential and capacity to live in this difficult world, I want to let you know that your depression and anxiety is not forever.
You will never be alone in this battle because I stand with you.
Let me be your Garnier.