Dunkin, Dean’s List, and Depression: how to be a mentally ill honor student

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Academic success has always been important to me. Once I realized I was smart, I had to keep that a consistent trait. It became more so about expectation than enjoyment of learning. My grades have always been above average. My friends were smart, so I had to be smart. People expected me to be smart, so I had to be smart. Throughout high school I enjoyed taking advanced placement classes. I genuinely love to learn new things. My anxiety doesn’t. AP European History was my first experience with fearing school for its academic component (my anxiety has caused me to always fear the social aspect). I didn’t know these people, and they were all smart, but what if I wasn’t smart enough? What if their smart was smarter than my smart? The first day of school hadn’t even begun, but I was already comparing myself to all of my other peers. School work has often caused panic attacks for me. It’s never the level of difficulty so much as the level of involvement in the sense of amount of work was required for an assignment. I would make myself so anxious that I was catatonic and couldn’t physically do anything. My homework always won in priority to my health. I would lose sleep to finish an assignment. I have given up showers, socializing, and eating to complete assignments. Doing homework has come to terrify me. My body shuts down to the point where I can’t do anything but sleep. It made school a place of fear for me. I never wanted to go. I would get nauseous and anxious whenever I had to go. It only got worse as I approached senior year. All I wanted was to go to Princeton. I built my high school career around it. I had other options, but I wanted to go to an Ivy League university more than anything. I equated my academic success with getting accepted to Princeton. I submit my application and cried for three hours afterward. I didn’t get in. I was devastated. I didn’t want to get out of bed for days. I was embarrassed of myself. What made things worse was that another girl from my school did get in. All I’ve ever done to succeed intellectually was for nothing. I was ashamed that I was going to one of my safety schools. I didn’t want to tell anyone where I was going to school. I still feel disappointment in myself for not getting accepted. As I learned that I love Temple, I learned I hate college. I felt overwhelmed and alone and my family was so far away. Everyone else loves college. Why couldn’t I just be a normal person? I felt like a freak because all I wanted to do was go home or hide in my bed. I didn’t make any friends my first semester; I would go to class and go directly home. Have things gotten better? Yes and no. I love learning about politics. It’s the one thing that I couldn’t not do with my life. But the work load, even it wasn’t at all heavy, rendered me cowering under all my blankets and not speaking to anyone. My GPA makes me look like a pristine college student who never has a problem studying or completing work. My worst semester, my GPA came to a 3.4. I cried for days because my cumulative GPA was ruined. College is still scary to me. I know I’m not supposed to have anything figured out, but I feel like a failure for not having anything figured out. Just doing an annotated bibliography (a very easy task) caused me to take a 2 hour nap because I was afraid to open my laptop because I knew it would set off a panic attack. My assignments always got done in a wave of violent anxiety, but at least they’re getting done?

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