Dear College Freshman Self,
Oh how I wish you could read this now. It’s two months away from graduation and you are not where you think you’ll be in any way. You think that you’re having problems now, but just wait, it’ll get worse. I don’t want to scare you, because there won’t be anything thrown at you that you cannot handle. You manage somehow. But here is my advice to you as I prepare for the next step in this journey of life.
Don’t get too comfortable where you are. Life is dandy for you right now. You’re at University of Delaware, your top school, and you’ve made incredible friends, you’ve moved away from home, and you’re feeling pretty confident about this whole college thing. Well, adult decisions suck and you’re going to transfer from UD and end up at Towson, the very place you swore you’d never go. You’re going to commute and you’re going to feel out of place. Oh, and you’re going to develop an anxiety disorder and experience one too many panic attacks. Good luck with that, I won’t lie, you’re going to hit rock bottom soon. Just don’t take for granted the year you have at Delaware. Embrace it and do everything you can. Unfortunately, the best four years of your life are going to turn into just one.
Involve yourself in something you love. Seriously man, explore this massive world, try new things, adventure, and please, please, please do not let your anxiety keep you from that. Do things alone, test your limits, it’s actually not that bad. You may be surprised but your future self got her scuba certification, went sky diving, drove across the country, flew a plane, shot a gun, and lived in London. Pretty impressive, huh? When you are forced to transfer schools, wake up and get yourself involved in something. Go to YoungLife, read your Bible, walk around campus, and go to a freaking football game for crying out loud. You really are going to suck at being a Tiger and if you keep it up, you’re going to graduate without making a single new friend. Yep, not one. Now is your chance to change that.
Experience, experience, experience. I CANNOT EXPRESS THIS ENOUGH. Go get yourself an internship, even if it’s unpaid! Get out into the field no matter how you do it. You’re going to continue as a psychology major and you won’t realize until halfway through your junior year that you want to pursue social work and you’ll add a minor in family studies and human services. I don’t care if you absolutely hate your internship, I promise it won’t be worse than Sports Authority (you still work there, by the way, happy 3 year workiversary…). Your resume is going to look infinitely better with relevant experience than your crappy, thankless retail job. You can blame Towson all you want for not requiring an internship in the psych major, but you should have known this would come back to bite you. Grad schools like experience, trust me, your A grades aren’t enough.
Your plan won’t work out the way you’d hoped. Seriously girl, don’t get your hopes up, because plans change and life happens and sometimes you aren’t meant to go in the direction you want to. Don’t get me wrong, set goals and focus on them. Work hard and stay persistent through all of the struggles you’re going to face, but don’t get disappointed when it doesn’t pay off. You’re going to bust ass, fight your mental illness, defy odds, and put all you have into your school work, but sometimes that won’t be enough. Dear 18-year-old Bianca, I know that your biggest dream right now is to graduate with your bachelor’s degree and attend graduate school immediately afterward. You have a plan and you know you need a master’s degree and you want to get it as soon as you can and jump into your field and be the successful and independent woman you are. Here’s a spoiler, you’re not going to get into grad school. It's going to crush you and you'll feel hopeless and lost and disappointed and not good enough. You’re going to cry and you’re going to get angry and you’re going to be comforted by those you’d least expect, but you’re going to get over it. I know that you have your eyes, and your heart, set on grad school, but consider a plan B, and maybe a plan C. You may think you’re trapped but you aren’t, there is going to be a way out. Heck, I don’t even know what it is yet, but it’s going to be great. [Although, if you can read this, get that internship I mentioned above… because if I have a second chance at living out my plan, I wanna take it. I’m going to regret, every single day, not doing enough to look appealing to that admissions board, but if you get the chance to avoid that feeling, take it.]
The main purpose of this letter to you is just to offer this: just because you have a plan for yourself, doesn’t mean that it’s the best plan. Truth be told, you can’t see into the future. You couldn’t then and you can’t now and you won’t be able to next year. But God can. He knows what’s best. He works all things for good and He knows the ultimate way for you to use your talents and gifts. Please realize early on, that your trust in the Lord is going to be your greatest asset in life. You can’t get angry at Him for wanting the very best for you, and sometimes what you think is best, is actually far from it. Hold on, you’re going to be okay. He doesn’t fail us. And your life is worth something.
It’s been 5 months since my last panic attack.
Firstly, let me explain that there is a difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. A panic attack is the mind telling the body that it is in danger, resulting in the feeling that the walls are closing in, your throat is constricting, and that you are ultimately doomed. An anxiety attack is when the mind races, conjuring up every possible bad scenario, resulting in stress and fear, even if you don’t know why.
For me, anxiety is a daily battle. Sometimes I know the root of my anxious mind; a social obligation, a hectic workload, or simply the thought of leaving the house. Sometimes, I have no idea why my heart is pounding, my hands are shaking, and my vision is blurry. I could assume everything is fine and dandy until my brain kicks on for no apparent reason and causes chaos.
But, I haven’t had a panic attack in 5 months. I haven’t been overcome with the notion that I need to run, escape, or hide. I haven’t hyperventilated or cried uncontrollably. I haven’t called out of work or skipped class or stayed under the covers all day long. I haven’t lost control of my mind and my body and been convinced that it would never end.
It’s been 5 months since my last full-blown panic attack and I cannot tell you how much of a relief that is.
Yes, anxiety clouds my head every single day, but the fact that panic hasn’t been present for this long gives me hope that I’ll one day feel normal again. Hope that I won’t suffer for the rest of my life. Hope that I can regain control over my brain.
I have done nothing out of the ordinary or different to stop the panic attacks. For the most part, everything is the same. Now all that’s left to do is continue to have hope that this remission continues to last.
It’s been 5 months since my last panic attack.
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