I have never been someone to ask for help. I like to figure things out on my own, to be independent. I also got anxious when asking for help, I felt like some people may look down on me for needing that help, that I was weak or incapable. Then in my second year college, that changed.
There I lay in my 2nd year college dorm room, before the start of the fall semester. I was alone. I knew I wasn’t technically alone, I could call any of my family members, friends, but I was physically alone. None of my roommates had moved in yet and campus was still pretty empty. The place that I had longed for over the summer seemed dead. “Just get through this week…” I kept reminding myself. “You’re only alone for a week and then people will be here and you won’t have to sit in your room all day.”
Being alone with my thoughts was tearing me apart. I had just gone through a break up that summer. Even though I knew in my heart I didn’t miss him, it wasn’t a healthy relationship, I still wanted that companionship that I had when we were together. But I couldn’t, I sat in my room and sobbed multiple times a day, calling my mom every time I needed someone’s words to flow through my head other than my own. She would calm me but she couldn’t stay on the phone all day. I was scared I was going to be alone the rest of the year, no boyfriend, my friends too busy, my family far away. Even though I knew this wasn’t true and I was over reacting I couldn’t keep these terrifying thoughts out of my head
I started feeling sick to my stomach, not an uncommon occurrence for me. I could usually just eat small amounts for a day or two and it would go away. This time it didn’t go away. I couldn’t keep food in my system for more than an hour or two, I was repulsed by most foods, and the dining hall was a walk away but I began feeling weaker.
My mom was worried about my health so she asked me to make an appointment at the clinic on campus. I went and had blood tests, gave a urine sample for more tests, the doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. Anxiety was something I knew I suffered from but had never been diagnosed by a physician and had never been treated. She prescribed me an antidepressant for both the anxiety and depression. I started to feel much better that day, like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.
The next morning I woke up in a state of extreme nausea causing me to run to the bathroom. I called my mother again, sobbing, “I thought it was over, I thought I was better.” She took the day off of work and drove three hours to Cincinnati because she was scared for me. She was scared I’d end up in the hospital. I hadn’t eaten anything in 4 days, water and Gatorade repulsed me, and I had lost over eight pounds.
She stayed the night that night and I was doing better, however, the next morning I was still so sick I couldn’t do anything, I could barely move. She decided then that she was moving me back home, and after a lot of tears and calming down, we started to pack my stuff up and left for home.
Within a week back home I had been able to eat three meals a day again, stay hydrated and started putting on the weight I had lost. I was still super exhausted but was slowly regaining strength. I was visiting friends and spending the time with my family that I really and truly needed. I got a job and signed up for online classes. I wanted to be able to return to UC in the spring. Not long after, many people showed me an outpouring of love. They supported my decision, one of my friends even said that she admired me for taking a step back and asking for help when I needed it most. This was exactly the affirmation I needed.
I met with my doctor frequently so my medication could be monitored and she started me on medication for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) that was the cause of my illness during my anxious and depressed state. I started feeling better than I had ever felt before. Though the medication didn’t start right away, I could see a true difference when I would go to do something, like driving, that used would have me sweating, heart beating out of my chest, sick to my stomach; I didn’t get those feelings anymore.
Other than medication, I coped with these disorders by writing more, getting out of the house on a daily basis, performing with my old dance group, going on morning runs, and spending time with the people who I needed to be around.
In October I went on a cruise, something I would’ve had to prepare myself for month in advance in the past was something that felt so fun and adventurous now. I started dating again, a thing I feared in the past made me excited. I got a tattoo. I went on a plane for the first time (by myself) and also rode a Greyhound (by myself). I am also now preparing for another trip over spring break. These things that I couldn’t have done in the past with some major preparation, and I can now do much ease.
I am back at UC as a full-time student, I am working part-time through the university, and I am still very involved with many student organizations. I am looking for internship opportunities and growing in my leadership roles. I don’t think I would be in any of these places today if I hadn’t taken the time to myself to heal.
I am happiest than I have ever been. I am healthy. I am in a loving new relationship with some-one who values me for who I am as a person. Most importantly, I am grateful, for the people who stood by me, even when I felt so alone, for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me, and for myself, because I finally took care of me for once. I learned in this experience that it is okay to ask for help when you need it, that needing help isn’t a sign of weakness. I learned that I am a strong person, and most importantly I learned that I am worthy of caring for myself.
Madison Landkrohn is a 2nd year Psychology student and a 1st year WILLer.