I can’t believe this is where I ended up- sitting in my car with the key not even turned, crying, breathing heavily, and texting a Crisis Hotline. The sad thing is, what I went through isn’t uncommon. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves– Let me take you back to the beginning.
It was a Thursday night, a night before a test, where I realized I had enough of years of untreated anxiety and panic attacks hidden behind bathroom stalls and silent bedroom cries. After several emails to my professors and friends, I got a list of resources on campus so that I could be seen immediately. Even though I was ready to be heard by a professional, I was terrified. I was scared that I was “giving up” by going to see someone. I was scared that my family was going to be upset with me, my friends were going to make fun of me, and my professors weren’t going to understand.
Yet, I woke up first thing in the morning with a determined fast-beating heart, got in my car, and skipped my first class to go straight to the counseling center. As I nervously opened the door, I was greeted by a dim-lit room and a multitude of empty chairs. I felt I was somewhere safe, quiet, and private. My optimism was growing. I then walked straight to the front desk and with a shaky voice uttered:
“I need to make an appointment for today.”
My eyes were already swelled up with tears and it was taking all my being to hold them back.
I took a deep breath. Here we go, I thought. I’m finally here. I’m really doing it.
The woman at the front desk looked at me with boredom, and said flatly:
“Have you been here before?”
I choked up and sputtered out, “Uh, no. It’s my first time.”
“Well. We don’t have appointments available for the next four weeks. Should I sign you up for then?”
My chest tightened. My hands started sweating and I started feeling light-headed. Who knew I could have a panic attack in the middle of a place that was supposed to feel safe, that was supposed to take me in?
“Never mind.” I said sharply.
The woman then gave me a confused and concerned look. Yet before she could say anything, I ran straight out of the building and to the confines of my car. I busted into tears, texted my boyfriend, my professors, anyone who gave me my campus as a resource.
One professor gave me the number of the last resource on campus. I called.
“Hello ma’m! What can I help you with today?”
“I need to make an appointment. Today.”
“Oh, I’m sorry sweetie, we can’t do that. We won’t be open until…hm…let’s see. We have an opening in about 4 weeks. How does that sound?”
I hung up. How could my campus preach that “mental health is as important as physical health” when I couldn’t even get an appointment the day I needed to see someone? If I had a cough I could get it treated today. But anxiety? Forget it.
A panic attack started to sink in. My thoughts started racing. Why would you skip class for this? You knew this was a bad idea. You should have never emailed your professors about your problems. Just suck it up. Stop being so emotional. You’re a failure if you start panicking again. The list of scary thoughts goes on. So I text the crisis hotline.
“Hello. How may I help you?”
“I need to see someone on campus today. I can’t stop having panic attacks. I need to go to class but I can’t. What do I do?”
“That sounds really hard. I’m sorry that’s happening to you.”
“What do I do??”
“Have you tried talking to campus resources?”
I stop responding. Now I’m laughing between tears. Not even the robot can console me. Eventually, I found an off-campus resource that could take me in. The entire appointment was annoyingly reminiscent of the stereotypical therapist skit. There were a lot of “How does that make you feel?” There was a long chair to lay down on. There was a weird rainbow orb light.
She was kind, but she was surprised I already knew so much about coping mechanisms yet was unable to use any of them.
That was her biggest advice. I left the office with no panic, but instead, a feeling of frustration and hopelessness.
I have not seen a center since. Yet, I will make this very clear: I am still fighting to find a place that “fits” my needs today. Even though it’s been several weeks without any appointment, I’ve found comfort in naps, changing my study routine, and spending a little time on myself. All those solutions sound cheesy and unhelpful. Sometimes they don’t work. But it’s what gets me through.
To those who are scared to find help- don’t be. You need it. You deserve it. You are not less than for admitting that you can’t bear it all.
To those who are brave enough to get help, but don’t receive any: I’m sorry. I know it hurts to put yourself out there and receive no help in return. But you are brave. You did it! Keep fighting to find someone who will help you, fit your needs, and make your brain feel lighter. You’re almost there. I believe in you. I believe in us.
To myself: I’m proud of you. I can’t wait to see how you grow when you find someone who can really help. You got this, girl.