Kianna Garmanian, Staff Writer
This year, our university is working to bring new mental health/wellness campaigns, awareness, and support to campus.
Saint Martin’s junior Sarah Zepeda shares her battle with anxiety, which she has experienced for a number of years. Sarah is an English major, the only girl in her family, has two brothers, is from Eastern Washington, and likes K-pop. Here is Sarah’s story:
How long have you been battling with anxiety?
“From what I can remember, my anxiety started in high school. It started to come, develop, and become more intense during that time. You know anxiety is a disorder when it prevents you from living your everyday life… when it prevents you from human contact and human life, and really impacts who you are.”
Tell me about the experience of anxiety. What goes through your mind? How does it feel, and how does it impact your daily life?
“Looking back on difficult times, like my freshman year of college and sophomore/junior years of high school, anxiety caused me to isolate and be alone. I was always concentrating on what other people thought of me and this made me feel uncomfortable. Because of this anxiety, being around people took too much energy, so I would isolate and hide away in my dorm.”
Describe to me a particularly difficult experience, day, or moment when you battled with anxiety.
“The most vivid experience I had with anxiety was during my freshman year of college. A friend invited me to a group event, and I wanted to go, but was so nervous to get to know new people. When I got to the group, I wasn’t with it at all. I wiped off the tears, hoping it wouldn’t draw more attention to myself. As soon as the event finished, I got up and immediately left. I ran out of the room, outside the dorms, sat by a tree and started to cry some more. I was so overwhelmed and believed everyone thought I was crazy. I had difficulty breathing, was really fidgety, and let the tears run down- it was just bad.”
How does being a college student impact your experience with anxiety?
“Being at college has given me lots of room to grow and challenge my anxiety. As a retreat leader and club president, I have to stand in front of people and have the courage to speak. These opportunities really help me build confidence. When you are passionate about something and anxiety prevents you from pursuing it, it’s important to not let that stop you… to push through and go for your goals.”
What skills have you used to help you through these difficult experiences, feelings, etc.?
“Sometimes, when I am freaking out, I take my phone and type out what is going on in my head to understand and process the emotions. I ask, ‘What is the root of this problem? Why am I feeling anxious? Why do I have these fears? What’s really bothering me here?’ For me, looking at the root of the stress, understanding it, and writing about it… this helps me process what I am battling.”
What advice do you have for others who are battling with anxiety?
“The best advice I have is to find activities, places, [and] situations that help you feel confident and use those things to build self-confidence. For me, I really like dancing- it’s one of the only times I feel confident in myself. Dancing has helped me carry out confidence to other parts of my life.”
Are there any resources or people on campus that have helped offer your support or guidance?
“I have gone to the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) on campus and that was helpful for me. The CWC gave me a place to talk out my feelings and difficulties and get affirmations about what I was experiencing. My counselor challenged me to think and see things in a new light.
Also, the extracurricular activities on campus allowed me to grow and connect with people I share the same struggles with.”
Any other advice, comments, or words of wisdom?
“You can do it. Don’t see anxiety as a wall. It’s not a defeat. It’s just something you have to work through. It pushes you to find a new way to communicate with yourself and with other people. It’s a big struggle but it doesn’t define you. Everyone has something they are going through and it’s okay to talk about it.”
If you feel the urge to share your story and be featured in the Belltower, please email firstname.lastname@example.org We will be publishing mental health stories and cases from our students each issue to start these important conversations and bring new awareness to campus.
Never forget: You are not alone.