As a university student, I experience my fair share of stress and anxiety almost every day. Assignments have their way of causing stress, but as someone with social anxiety, creating and maintaining new relationships in a new place, where I knew no one, caused me to experience a sort of stress I couldn’t handle. I am now in my 2nd year of college and looking back at my first day at my university, I realize that I should have asked for help a lot earlier.
For the first few weeks, when classes started, I had a hard time talking to my peers and could not make any friends. I even had a hard time getting along with my roommates. I would not go to the mess and would skip meals. I couldn’t even speak up during classes or talk to professors, and would run to my room the second the class was over. The entirety of my first semester was filled with moments of weakness and isolation.
The sense of self-doubt and loneliness left me questioning if I even wanted to be here. There were times when I experienced an overwhelming feeling of loneliness while I scrolled through social media. The group pictures, the laughter, the friendships that seemed so natural, all of these things made me feel like I didn’t belong here. I felt like I was the only one who was not experiencing college right. College was supposed to be a place of growth and self-discovery, supposedly the best time of my life. But there I was, sitting alone in my room watching other people live their life.
When I noticed my mental and physical health begin to deteriorate, I decided to use the campus counseling services and began going to therapy. Talking about it was liberating, like finally taking a deep breath after holding it in for way too long. Through those sessions, I began to challenge the distorted thoughts that fueled my anxiety. I took small steps, such as attending a club meeting and striking up conversations in class, and gradually, the feeling of being left out started to lose its grip. I also channeled my anxious thoughts into writing. I maintained a journal where I wrote about everything, the good and the bad. I also started posting blogs and short stories online anonymously to create an outlet for my feelings.
Even after all that, there were bad days as well. But I have been going to therapy for 4 months now and I feel like I have grown a lot as a person. Although I still get nervous talking to new people, I try and make the effort. But, college is turning into more than just a series of missed connections now. It’s becoming a space where I’m learning and growing. So, if you’re feeling the weight too, know that you’re not alone.