You are not alone


Mariah Valles, Social Media Manager

As someone who personally struggles with anxiety, I am here to share my experiences with the intention of inspiring at least one person to reach out and get the help they need. Mental illnesses are extremely common yet seldom talked about. Never did I think that I would be sharing my small story in a university newspaper, but here it goes:

 After the passing of my grandmother in 2009, I began to fall down a deep hole of unignorable sadness. At the time I was in elementary school and while this time in my life is blurry to me now, I remember a few instances in which my mom had arranged for school counselors to take me out of class in hopes of getting me to talk about my feelings.

 I refused to talk about my feelings. I felt as though my feelings and emotions weren’t valid; I didn’t “want the attention.” While at the time I was angry with my mom for thinking something was going on with me, she was right.

 Looking back, I realize now that I took myself away from socialization. I ate lunch, played at recess, and insisted on doing group projects––alone. All I wanted to do was bottle my emotions inside of me. I just wanted to wake up and have it all go away. Because of the way I chose to handle my emotions, my case of anxiety grew larger and larger.

 What’s unfortunate is that I thought this was a normal way of handling emotions. I didn’t realize anything was wrong because I thought that everybody did what I was doing. This is an area that I hope K-12 education improves on. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, one in five adolescents have a diagnosable mental illness, and 25 percent of people with mood disorders find that they emerge before adulthood.

 While I knew that my family loved and supported me, I still didn’t know how to handle my emotions while physically at school. When I saw everybody else happy, I felt isolated in my bubble of sadness. I felt like an outcast. I continued to ignore my thoughts and feelings throughout elementary school and chose to carry on. I’ll make friends in middle school, right? A fresh start, right?

 Because I took myself away from all social aspects of school, being around crowds and the sea of sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the hallways terrified me. Presentations were a no-go. Changing in a locker room surrounded by girls I don’t even know? Yeah, right. I remember always sitting in the back of whatever classroom I was in, hoping to God that the teacher wouldn’t unexpectedly call out “Mariah, read the next paragraph out loud.”

 If I’m being honest, I don’t remember the exact moment it clicked that I was dealing with anxiety. But I do know that by the end of my second year in middle school, I was introduced to what I consider to be the coping mechanism of my anxiety: journalism. I joined my middle school’s yearbook and newspaper and the rest is history.

 While most think of journalism as being neverending, fast paced, and stressful (and oh boy, are they right), to me it is a gateway to taking my mind off of my anxiety. Being in journalism opened my mind to a whole new realm of people and ideas. New cultures, styles, and most importantly: the idea that mental illnesses are not uncommon. I found that other people both in the field and all over the world are also struggling with mental illnesses. I was lucky enough to encounter an amazing adviser during high school who helped me become a strong and confident leader and young journalist.

Throughout my high school years, and as I became more involved in school, I noticed my anxiety lessened. While I still have days that my anxiety reminds me it’s still there, I have learned how to calm myself down. My advice to anybody struggling: First, do not do it alone. Once I reached out and expressed my feelings to those around me, my life began to turn around. Second, you are not alone. I know it may feel like you are alone, but believe me, you are not. About one-third of college students suffer from depression, and nearly half of all college students suffer from anxiety, according to the 2013 National College Health Assessment. Third, get help. There is nothing wrong with getting help and I wish the stigma around getting help would vanish. If you are in need of counseling services, the Student and Medical Clinic on campus is a good place to start.