I’m not sure why I thought college would be different for me. I had all these expectations of college and of myself here. I didn’t have these expectations because of any pressure I felt from my family or because I saw college shown differently in the media. It was because I put this pressure on myself to succeed, to socialize, to just do something. I put pressure on myself to discover my “blackness” here and free myself of the labels given to me in high school; constantly hearing, “You sound like a white girl” – whatever that means – or people assuming I was rich and privileged because I grew up in the suburbs. I wanted to prove to myself that I was black enough – or just enough.
I wanted to be a leader of something, a participant in anything. I wanted so much for myself, but sooner than later, my desires, aspirations, my literal spirit, were suppressed by something created by me.
I didn’t fully understand what I was going through my freshman year, and I didn’t give it a name until my sophomore year. I did not begin to make a change until my junior year. After failed attempts to make connections with people on campus, accomplish goals I previously deemed attainable and the loss of connections I had prior to WCU, I began to isolate myself and stopped trying. I assumed if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t even give myself the opportunity to fail or to embarrass myself. I left my room only to go to class and to eat, and that was only once a day and barely enough.
I spent a solid two years on campus in isolation. I could not leave my room without earbuds because I could not stand the sound of people enjoying this campus in the way I thought I’d enjoy it. I made a total of two connections on campus and not a dent in my list of goals. It wasn’t until those two connections began to point out that what I thought was only in my head was showing outwardly that I gave my mental state a name. Depression and anxiety -two forces working against each other and against me for years and still. These two forces began to cancel me out.
I finally decided this one night would be the night, my last night. That night, I concluded that although my issues were temporary, there was no way I could go another day feeling the pain associated with them. The fight against myself was long, lonely and heartbreaking. But I just couldn’t leave this world yet. I thank God my faith prevailed. As a Christian, I believe that my life is not my own to take and that God did not give me the spirit of fear. He also did not put me on this Earth with no purpose in mind. I’m here for a reason, even if it was just for someone to hear my story. So, what did I do? I put my faith in Him and took baby steps.
I applied for on-campus jobs. I spoke out in class. I was more open to going out more and at the least, trying. I started saying “yes” to things I previously said, “I just can’t.”
I went from thinking I have nothing to offer to becoming a mentor for the America Reads Youth Mentor Program, and my biggest accomplishment yet: being accepted into a study abroad program to the Cayman Islands for a DNA project this winter. I went from not being able to leave my room to preparing to board a plane to go to another country! I went from speaking to one person on campus from the confines of my dorm room to agreeing to take a trip with strangers to a different country.
These might be minor accomplishments to most, but considering my state of being this time less than two years ago, I am doing way more than what I could’ve imagined then. I’m in a place now where I remind myself to be proud of myself for the progress I made. So now, I am putting my fears aside and replacing my doubts of myself and my potential with hard work and prayer.
Depression and anxiety aren’t things that are just removed from your psyche once you decide you’re going to do something about it. It’s an ongoing struggle. So, if you’re reading this, and you’re struggling the same way, just know that your efforts matter, and I commend you for simply trying.
Milan White is a fifth-year student majoring in communications. MW851258@wcupa.edu