I have always prided myself in being an outgoing, lively person. I love meeting new people and learning about their passions and goals and connecting with them. When I got to UVA, it felt like an oasis. There was so much to see and conquer, and there were so many people to learn from. In my first two years at UVA, I became a part of countless little families that I hold dear to my heart. I was surrounded by people who I loved and who loved me, and we were all working towards finding ourselves and pursuing our passions in this crazy world.
I have also always had some anxiety, but it was never unmanageable and I just assumed everyone went through it in some way. After the best summer EVER, I entered my third year full of life and ready to take on what would be my hardest year academically and professionally. The little perfectionist in me was confident in my ability to juggle my growing responsibilities and social life. I balanced everything as best as I could, but I didn’t exactly take care of myself in the process. I’m not entirely sure where things got bad, but in the fall of my third year, I had a few panic attacks. They weren’t often, and I just brushed them off as circumstantial because of my course load and stress level. I thought to myself: “it’s just one semester, and you can go back to normal at the end of it.” I didn’t think to stop and breathe, and just continued pushing on until the semester was over. However, at the end of the semester, I was not the same person I was before. I was exhausted physically and mentally.
The following spring semester was the lowest I have probably ever been. I had developed anxiety and fear in every aspect of my life. I isolated myself from others, and I pretended everything was fine and would go back to normal eventually. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, and I didn’t talk to anyone about it because I didn’t think it was possible that I would ever develop any sort of mental illness. I went through the semester in a sort of haze, just going through the motions and feeling nothing. Somewhere along the way I realized that I did not know who I was anymore. I decided to start the long road of finding myself. I wanted to begin living and loving others again.
These past four months have been the toughest of my life, but they have taught me lessons that I will never forget and I will never stop using. I have re-fallen in love with life, and it’s a feeling that seemed foreign for a long, long time. Do not ever forget who you are and what you are living for. Do not sacrifice the nights you can sit in your room and think about the good times and just be. Do not sacrifice the times where you sit laughing with friends for just a little too long. Most importantly, don’t forget that there are people who love you and will be there for you if you let them.
Throughout this, a quote from one of my favorite shows has stuck with me. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” UVA can be a really beautiful and incredible place, but sometimes it can be a really scary place where you feel as if you are all alone. In the end, always remember that everyone is working through this exciting and complex world together, and that we are all trying to lift each other up.