4 years ago, when I started my freshman year of college, I could not have been more excited to start a new life in my dad's hometown. Sure, I was a little nervous, but I couldn't wait to meet all new people and start studying marketing at a top 25 business school.
It was the worst year of my life.
Don't get me wrong, I made lifelong friends, made incredible memories, and learned so much about myself. But I had never been away from home before and I quickly discovered that I was one of many people who suffers from crippling anxiety for literally no reason at all. I had trouble making friends, woke up every morning with a feeling of hopelessness and dread at every day tasks like getting out of bed and eating breakfast at the dining hall. Getting out of bed was one of the hardest things I had to do every single day - and collapsing back into it between classes was the only thing that made me feel okay. I literally couldn't function. I called my mom and dad crying on an almost daily basis, planned my transfer to home, and all but gave up. But I didn't.
I saw a therapist. I visited my local family (I had an aunt and grandma in the area) almost every weekend that I wasn't visiting my boyfriend in Buffalo. I tried my hardest to latch onto a small group of girls that lived on my floor that I ACTUALLY got along with (I didn't live on a great floor). I tried so hard to make Pittsburgh what I wanted it to be. I didn't want to give up. I didn't want to fail. I ended up staying at Pitt and living with those 3 girls my sophomore year.
And I stayed.
My boyfriend and I broke up in May of 2014. I wanted to be independent. He played a huge role in saving my life freshman year, but I didn't want to be indebted to someone I didn't see a future with. I came back sophomore year, absolutely terrified of experiencing that anxiety again. But I didn't.
I had so much fun with my friends, I met a new guy who I went on to date for another year and a half, I met really cool people in my building. I started working. Everything started to get better.
Fast forward to senior year. My life couldn't have been more perfect. I met one of my absolute best friends, solidified friendships with people I had met earlier, continued and started some great internships, worked on campus in the business school, you get the point. I met some amazing guys that will always have a spot in my heart and head, even though none of us were ready for anything serious. I helped someone through what could possibly have been the worst time of their life, using my terrible experience with anxiety to help them understand that their life wasn't ending.
I had the best year of my life. I finally found happiness in Pittsburgh. I found my life. My friends. Lifelong memories.
And now I'm doing it all over again.
Some people think I'm crazy. I probably am. I'm throwing myself into a brand new situation, with no friends, acquaintances, or coworkers. I'm moving to Nashville, TN for a great job, working states away from anyone else in my company. And I'm terrified.
I'm scared to feel like my freshman year again. I'm paralyzed by it. But I'm doing it.
Why would I walk away from the most amazing year of my life? All of my best friends? Amazing guys that I can see a future with in a year or two?
Because I'm brave. I want to inspire people. I want to show people that anxiety cannot control you, and you cannot stand still. My senior year was amazing. But now I'm a graduate. And I don't want to stay still. Nashville is amazing, I love it there. The only reason to not go is my anxiety, and that is not a valid reason.
Anxiety. Can. Not. Control. You.
My friends tell me that I "know how to manage it" now. They tell me that I've beat my depression, but I disagree. That all went away because I found my life. I found my friends. Those things are not following me to Tennessee.
I am going to be depressed. I am going to be anxious. I am going to want to leave. And I am going to be okay.
3 years after the worst year of my life, I absolutely killed it. I might have another worst year of my life, but it's not forever. It's going to creep in, and I'm going to figure it out. Just like I did 3 years ago.
There's no doubt that I'm literally asking for it. And anyone who's felt like I felt 3 years ago is probably thinking I'm absolutely insane for doing this - I definitely think I'm insane for doing this. But I want to go to Nashville so badly. I LOVE it there. I'm so excited to live in the south. And I'm not going to let this completely irrational, fake, intrusive feeling keep me from that adventure.
I might come back to Pittsburgh. I might end up going back to NY to be with my entire family. But I'll probably stay in Tennessee. I'm taking a leap of faith, knowing I have a support system and some amazing opportunities. Those are the same things that got me through it 3 years ago, and I'm counting on them to get me through it again.
This is not a success story. This is a work-in-progress. I want to share this because I want everyone to know that you can still live like a normal person. Anxiety can't hold you back. Well it can, but don't let it. I know how incredibly incapacitating anxiety can be, and I'm still standing here today inviting it in. Not giving up.
And to anyone who deals with anxiety and depression, do not let it control you. Find out what makes it better. Figure out who you can call. Take that tiny bit of energy you have left and use it to do something productive. Small victories are still victories.
Take a leap of faith. If I can do it, you can.