A New Beginning: A Reflection on 2022 and How Things Are Different Going Into 2023
Trigger Warning: Mentions of self-harm and suicidal ideation
An introduction: Throughout these past few months, Riley and I have shared some about her mental health struggles. Yesterday, I wrote about them from a parent point of view. Today, she is sharing her story from her point of view. Our goal in sharing is to help raise awareness and to try and help to end the stigma and misconceptions about mental health, especially taking medication. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call 988 to get assistance.
As for many others, 2022 royally sucked. Just genuinely a terrible experience all around. This year has probably been one of the hardest of my life, but things are starting to look better for me.
This school started for me with a heavy course load. I was taking 18 credit hours, 3 of which were labs. It was a lot to manage for me, but I didn’t have much of a choice because that’s just how my major is. I went into this semester thinking that things would be pretty manageable, but things only started going downhill from there if I’m being honest.
Not too far into the semester, I got sick with COVID, and since everyone has kind of put the pandemic at the back of their minds, it wasn’t an ideal situation. When I got my positive test result, I did what was required, I submitted the online form saying that I had a positive result and contacted the person in charge of my dorm. After that, they told me that I, a girl who was sick, should go down and get the key to my quarantine dorm…at night when the building was 20 minutes from closing. I put my mask on and I made my way downhill to grab the key, and as soon as I get there to get the key, they say that they don’t have anything in the system for me. I show them my email and I stand back from the window while these two students call someone to figure out what to do with me. They eventually give me a key to a room that is on the other side of campus, so I got back to my room, pack my stuff, and make the long walk to where I will be staying for the next week.
Once I get to the building, I call my mom exhausted and just tell her everything that was going wrong. At this point, I realize that I do not have access to a restroom near me because the building was mod style, and I was outside of the mods. Thankfully, I knew someone who used to live in the building, and she told me that there was a single person restroom…in the basement. So, every time that I would have to use the restroom, I would climb from the second floor to the basement while sick with COVID.
Also, while quarantining in the room, I was not allowed to leave the building, but they had nobody to bring me food, so I was responsible for finding someone to bring me food every meal. I found someone, and every lunch and dinner they would go to the dining hall, and I would wait in the basement for them to bring me food. It was not a great situation, but I was fed consistently.
On top of all of this, I was still doing all of the homework that was being assigned to me because I was afraid of falling behind in the courses. There would be nights in that dorm that I would call people who I knew were good at the subject and talk to them for hours desperately trying to figure out how to solve homework problems because I hadn’t been given an extension on the assignments. After that week, I was released on the same day that I had an exam (which the professor made me take even though I had missed a week of classes) and that same professor had me make up the lab that I had missed earlier right after the exam. I am going to be completely honest; I do not remember a single thing that was on that exam but according to my friends I was really out of it.
After that week of COVID, things pretty much went back to normal regarding the courses. I was still taking all the same courses at the same times, but now there was a whole new issue. As the weeks went by, I felt more and more depressed and anxious. It was getting to the point that I woke up in the morning feeling like I could do nothing because I was so overwhelmed. In between classes, I laid on the floor in the hallway beside classrooms and tried to get things done even though I couldn’t focus on anything. Classes were a blur, I was crying nearly every day, and I didn’t want to do anything.
At some point, after I started thinking about how I wished I wasn’t alive anymore; I called the school counseling services even though the thought of that phone call made me want to throw up. On the phone, I set up my intake appointment and nearly cried while talking about going to see this counselor. Then, after some time had passed, I went in for my intake appointment.
At the intake appointment, I sat down with this sweet woman and cried at least four times while unloading everything that had been going wrong. After about 20 minutes of me spilling my guts to this woman, she looks at me and tells me that it sounds like I have really bad anxiety, depression, and social anxiety. Once we had that out of the way, she asked me if I would be interested in medication because she thought it, along with regular counseling, would help me a lot. And I jumped right on that train.
Let me just tell you, they give you medication really quickly when you say that you don’t really want to be alive anymore. So, I was put on an antidepressant, but they tend to take a few weeks to work. For the next few weeks, I was taking that medication religiously because I needed it so badly to work. Those few weeks, also, really sucked.
Before the medication started kicking in, things were just getting more and more stressful. I lost a friend because she said that I was “too depressing” to hang out with and there were things that I could have done before getting medicated like exercise more (none of my other friends felt that way so I don’t really know where that came from). Some of my grades were less than ideal, but I couldn’t find it in myself to care because I was so focused on not wanting to die. I had an exam nearly every week, as soon as one was done, I started studying for the next. It was just so much to handle and every day I got closer and closer to wanting to harm myself, which is something I never thought that I would even consider. But slowly, things started getting better.
Closer to the end of the semester, the medication and counseling started having an effect. Everyone was telling me how much better I seemed, and I really felt better. Finally, I wanted to get up in the morning, I wanted to spend time with friends, I wanted to do things that I enjoyed. I managed to find a really close group of friends who I saw every and still talk to every day. I kept my GPA where I need it to maintain my scholarship. I got a new job for next semester that I am really excited about. So, I think things are going to be just fine for me.
I still have bad days every so often, but those days are becoming fewer. I still take my medication, and it has really been helping. More than anything though, I am thankful for the people who helped me through these times. I am thankful to the friend who let me cry in his arms, I am thankful for my friend who dyed my hair in her bathroom when I told her I needed a change, I am thankful to my friend who gave me a hug even though she doesn’t like them, I am thankful to my friend who sent me updates on her boy issues to let me know she was thinking of me. Even more than that, I am thankful for my family who helped me get the help I need and made sure that I was going to survive.
I thought that 2022 was going to be the year that ended me, but I am sitting here on New Year’s Eve typing about being optimistic about 2023. I have plans next year to start working out with the friend who hugged me in my time of need with the guidance of the friend who let me cry in his arms. I have talked with the friend who dyed my hair and now we’re trying to start a club together. I still get updates about the boy issues. And honestly, I have never felt better in my life. I am confident that 2023 will not be the year that ends me.
Filed under: Mental Health
About Riley Jensen
Riley Jensen is a college student studying forensic chemistry. She likes to read books about murder and friendship because those go together really well.
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