By: Reilly Siebert
For as long as I can remember I have lived with a knot in my chest and the underlying feeling of apathy. I, like many others, normalized these feelings and lived uncomfortably for a long time. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college I started seeing a therapist. This resulted in a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and persistent depressive disorder. There was a sense of relief in finally having an answer to why I felt so off my whole life. I was prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to help manage symptoms and started going to therapy regularly.
Although I had answers, things were not easier. Slowly throughout the spring semester of my freshman year I began to fall deeper into depression. I was isolating often and developing unhealthy eating behaviors (a symptom of my depression). I was still functioning but I definitely was not thriving. Going home for the summer I thought I would feel better. I thought being out of school and back with my family would help to combat my depression and anxiety. I was wrong. Throughout the summer my unhealthy eating behaviors became worse and I was spending more time in bed. Not because I wanted to but because it felt impossible to get out. Once August came around I began getting panic attacks at the thought of going back to college. I felt as though I was not ready to handle school and running and my mental health. I ended up going back to school. Throughout the first few weeks it was fun to be back with friends I had not seen all summer. After that things started to go downhill. I was experiencing panic attacks about workouts and races and began having trouble concentrating during class and while doing assignments. I began skipping class, which I had never even thought of doing before, because the thought of getting out of bed seemed unbearable. When I did go to class I wasn’t engaged like I wanted to be. By November my amazing coach realized just how bad things had gotten and reached out to my mom to come see me at school. It was then that I decided it was time to come home and take a Medical Leave of Absence from school.
It was this decision that saved my life. I came home and spent all of my energy on managing my depression and anxiety. I started going to therapy twice a week to really work on how to get better, and I started on a new antidepressant. After about two months of being home I began to notice a change. It was easy to get out of bed in the morning most days. It was easy to get out and run most days. I was feeling like myself.
That is not to say that everyday has been easy. There are still bad days, but they are much more manageable than before. My therapist always tells me I want to have more good days than bad. And I am happy to say I am at that point. Every journey looks different and no path is linear. My mental health battle is not over, I still have to rise above my mental illnesses everyday. But now, their voices are quieter and my strength is louder.