The following post contains the words my younger self would say to my present self, if she could. Though tailored to my personal experiences, this post serves to publicize the damaging effects of depression and anxiety which students are at risk of developing at varying points in their 20s:
What have you done to us? I don’t know you.
To quote one of our favorites: “You were much more… muchier… you’ve lost your muchness.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
I want to call us “us” or “we” but we are not the same person, and we should be.
Yes, before you interject, I know change is good. It would be foolish to expect, and rather disappointing to discover, that five years have passed and everything has remained the same.
But you were supposed to grow. And today your most upright stance is a struggled crouch.
We used to exude life.
Everyone was attracted to our magnetic presence. We made a difference. We uplifted others. We thrived on interpersonal interactions and made friends everywhere we went.
But now you fall silent during most social interactions.
And again, before you argue, I know there is nothing wrong with being a voyeur, watching and listening instead of explicitly participating. For some, this is ideal and comfortable. Someone has to do it. But that’s not what you want. I know it’s not.
You want to share your ideas, your voice, and your talents. You want to reach out and make meaningful connections with people.
But you’re paralyzed by fear.
You beat yourself into submission with the same endless loop of self-regulating thoughts: “What if I stutter? “What I say something stupid or wrong?” “What if they don’t think what I said is funny?” “What if I’m boring?” “Oh, I am boring.” “Don’t even bother trying.”
So you follow your own advice, and you sit there. You use your phone, a book, a pen, anything within reach, as a crutch to distract yourself from how horribly you struggle to perform the simplest task.
But your mind still decays. “People will think I’m rude.” “She came to a party, to dinner, to coffee, etc. to be on her phone?” “What’s her problem?”
But the first series of thoughts are stronger, so you submit to them. You would rather have people think you’re too pretentious to give them your attention than to simply flick your eyes upward to meet their gaze.
Best case scenario, you push away the contradicting thoughts, convince yourself that it’s “okay,” and continue fiddling with your distraction while you miss your chance to make some meaningful memories. Worst case, you repeat the two progressions of thought in your head — self-regulating, bargaining, repeat — until you succumb to an anxiety attack.
Pick your poison…
Hey, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to assault, belittle, or upset you. I love you, even if you don’t love yourself.
But I’m outraged…and I want you to be too.
Please, keep fighting. I know you want to.