In college, I discovered the anxiety that I didn’t know I had, but looking back, the symptoms were always with me. While I have always had generalized anxiety, focusing on control, my primary symptoms surrounded perfectionism, specifically related to my grades in high school and college. I had my first panic attack in my first month of college which got me an emergency appointment at the counseling center. I didn’t realize what had happened until afterward. I was dizzy and I couldn’t think. People compare it to having a heart attack, and I would agree. That’s when I started seeing a therapist at Stockton regularly. I learned my studying habits of perfectionism were similar to symptoms of OCD. I would compulsively study the same material over and over again until I felt like I could stop. When I finally exposed myself to the fear of “failure” and broke my studying cycle, I took control of my anxiety.
In therapy, we initially used CBT to work to defeat irrational thoughts and deal with my fear of “failure.” But using Lexapro has been my key to success. I was very reluctant to begin using medication, but I finally said yes after two years. Taking this medication has been the best thing I could have ever done for myself. While it is all very difficult, it is worth it to feel “normal”. I remember the first time I realized that this might be what “normal” people feel like. Now I feel almost lazy without anxiety from due dates, without my perfectionism screaming at me, and without this pressure to perform.
The best thing that came from this experience, however, was learning that I am very intelligent. I don’t obsessively study, compared to before, and I have maintained a 4.0 GPA since my freshman year. I don’t procrastinate, but I don’t spend weeks on end writing the same papers either. I’ve been accepted to 4 graduate schools for social work, and I have been President of Stockton’s Active Minds chapter for three years. Do I always feel great? No. But, I’m successfully living with an anxiety disorder and I am continuing to work on maintaining my positive mental health.