Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Graduating is not my greatest accomplishment

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

There are six weeks until graduation, and as a candidate for commencement, I can’t say I’m anything but stressed and terrified. My friends and family are incredibly excited for me and can’t tell me enough how much it means to graduate from college. “You must be so proud of yourself, Christina.” Every new congratulatory statement makes my stomach sour.

While I can’t deny that my time at the University of Massachusetts has been the best time of my life, it has also been the most difficult. College is supposed to be about branching out, exploring yourself and having fun, right? While I’ve tried my best to do so these past four years, I am also one of the 13 percent of all college students who have been diagnosed with one or more anxiety disorders. What that means for me is that every day is an extra struggle.

An upcoming exam or deadline doesn’t just yield the minor stress that an average person would experience; it means sleepless nights, nausea, self-doubt, intrusive thoughts and panic attacks for days at a time beforehand. Sometimes, what should be a fleeting moment of regular sadness or disappointment over something sends me into a state of depressed behavior that can last weeks.

Anyone who has experienced these or any other symptoms of anxiety and depression knows that in the moment, it can feel like the world is coming to an end. No matter how much you try to breathe or distract yourself, sometimes it truly feels like you are drowning in your own turmoil. For four years, I had to carry the burden of managing these anxious and depressive tendencies on top of the assignments and expectations already thrown at me as a college student.

In the years that I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, I’ve tried just about every type of treatment in the book. Long-acting medications (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), short acting medications, acupuncture, yoga, vitamin supplements, exposure therapy, hypnosis, you name it.

While some have worked better than others, the quality of their results always boils down to one factor: my willingness to participate and help myself. Even on my most depressed days, I have to physically kick myself out of bed and think, “Today I’m going to face the world.” When I’m in the midst of a crippling panic attack, I need to force myself to step outside and socialize, because there’s nothing worse for a racing mind than solitude. It’s through these mechanisms, along with unending support from my friends and family, that I’ve been able to power through my four years as a UMass undergraduate. I’m keeping my head above water.

So yes, graduating with my Bachelor of Science degree is a huge accomplishment for me. However, what I feel most proud of is the fact that I have endured every terrifying and discouraging thought that has popped into my head along the way. Being in college has forced me to conquer aspects of my anxiety and depression that I had never experienced before, and I feel like a warrior because it.

When I receive my diploma at the end of the semester, it will be more than a piece of paper acknowledging my academic accomplishments; it will be a testament to the fact I survived and learned to manage my anxiety in one of the most stressful environments a person can encounter. That is an accomplishment I can truly be proud of myself for.

I wasn’t always this confident when it came to speaking openly about my anxiety struggles and taking steps to overcome them. The fact of the matter is that mental health disorders carry an unfortunate negative stigma that discourages many people from seeking help and speaking up. Perhaps this is why two-thirds of all people suffering from an anxiety disorder go untreated.

However, advancing technology and education on mental health is giving people like me new resources for management of my symptoms.  Some of the resources listed below have been incredibly valuable to me during my ongoing struggle with my anxiety, and I sincerely hope they can help other people find comfort in their own battles.

  1. UMass Center for Counseling and Psychological Health
  2. UMass Psychological Services Center
  3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255
  4. Crisis Text Line: Text 741741

Christina Moschetto is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    chrisJun 24, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Right on. A truly fantastic and enlightening read. Thank you for sharing.