I’ve had anxiety for what feels like all of my life—though it’s probably only been a few years. I’m accustomed to those times when my thoughts are just racing and I very suddenly feel sick to my stomach as my body trembles. I’m also accustomed to those times when I can’t think at all and just feel my heart pounding so hard it feels like it might break free and kill me. I’ve avoided countless situations, and I’ve stressed enough to last me a lifetime. So many people struggle with anxiety and other mental health related issues, and yet nobody speaks out about it, even from within the liberal openness of college campuses.
When I was 14, I started to become increasingly terrified of crowds, which eventually led me to my first anxiety attack sometime later. My brain stopped working—I couldn’t think or focus on anything but my heart—my body was shaking. It felt as though I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs, so I forced myself to breathe until I was soon hyperventilating and felt like I could barely stand. The room spun and my muscles tensed in pure fear. For a while, that was just what my body seemed to do when I went into crowded spaces. Coming into college, that was one of the hardest things to deal with. Parties are great up until they get to actually be “great” for everyone else. It’s crowded and the lights are low, and the worry overwhelms me almost every time.
Over the last few months, I’ve been working through it all. Yes, my anxiety manifests in more ways than just the terror I feel when I’m around too many people; it shows up in other forms that I, at the very least, find to be a bit more manageable for the time being, and I’ll work through those more as time goes on. But I think it’s also important to get it out there, because anxiety and mental health are common problems that so many people have to face daily.
Tufts’ Active Minds, a campus group that I am proud to be a part of, works to combat the stigmas associated with mental disorders. On April 19th, they will be hosting the first annual Mental Health Monologue night. Anyone is free to go and give their support. And for those interested in telling their own stories, submissions are due March 27th. Mental health shouldn’t be something that people have to work through on their own. Yes, it can feel like the world is caving in on you, but it can get so much better, too.