If you're reading this, you're all you were before and more.
Sometimes the hardest part of having a mental health issue is figuring out who you are after. For me, my anxiety was an experience that changed everything. It fundamentally altered how I interacted with the world for years. Dealing with anxiety took a massive amount of my time and energy, so when it was gone, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was faced with a difficult realization; I would never be the same person I was before.
Having watched several loved ones overcome severe depression, I knew that it was possible to conquer even the worst of circumstances. I also knew it was possible to become a better iteration of yourself through the process. As much as I wanted to reset to my pre-anxiety self, I knew that I had simply been through too much to do so. Of course, I wish that I had never gone through it in the first place. However, if there’s one thing that I have learned, it’s that every experience, good or bad, is valuable.
It took me months of therapy, medication, and support from my loved ones to manage my anxiety, and it has taken me almost a year to figure out who I am again. For a large portion of that year I was thousands of miles away from UVA and my loved ones, working on the west coast and studying abroad. Initially, I was afraid to be far away from my support network, in new and challenging places and situations. However, I found that the lessons I learned through the process of managing my anxiety never left me, and neither did my support network. Being away from everything UVA-related gave me time to redefine my values and priorities, but what would happen when I went back? Would this new me be able to hold up against the stresses of UVA life?
When I returned to UVA from my semester abroad, it was strange to interact with the world I had left behind. I was once again afraid of falling back into anxiety and depression, and there were moments where I did slip back into my old ways. However, I now knew how to accept the support of my friends and family, seek help, and push myself to do the things that I love. I can say with confidence that I am not the same person I was a year ago and that I will never be that person again. Now, I am someone better.
You may feel afraid when you leave UVA or return after time away. You may feel yourself slipping back into a bad state. You may not know who you are anymore. I beg you to remember that you are not the only one who has felt this way and you certainly won’t be the last. Those of us who have dealt with mental illness will never be the same. However, we know what it means to be resilient.
If you’re reading this, you’re all you were before and more.
Claire B., University of Virginia '19