Last week, I was on a walk in the park with a friend talking about COVID-19 (there’s not much else to discuss these days, is there?), when he said something that really resonated with me. As we discussed the implications that this virus has on mental health, he reasoned, “never have we had so much in common with each other yet felt so utterly alone at the same time.” He couldn’t be more correct. I don’t think it serves as much of a surprise to anyone, but people are struggling mentally now more than ever. Obviously, the coronavirus has awful physical implications, but the pandemic as a whole has had more effects on the mind than we even realize. While many people have found productive ways to cope with the unknown, from exercising to taking summer classes, many other people have found it increasingly difficult to make the most of these times. Certain friends of mine who I used to describe to others as the absolute epitome of happiness are now on anti-depressants. Other friends who I looked to as sources of strength now tell me about the anxiety attacks they wake up with every morning. I’m in no way saying that everyone is now mentally ill, but the majority of people I know have more bad days than ever before. I couldn’t understand why our brains weren’t just adapting like they adapt to plenty of other challenges until I read a post that said that our brains are just literally not programmed to face a situation like this one. The phrase “unprecedented times” applies to mental health issues too.
Coming home from college after your first semester is full of catching up on sleep, reconnecting with high school friends, and answering the dreaded “so…how is college?” question. To be perfectly honest, I dreaded this question for the longest time, for college hasn’t been anything like I thought it would be. In a lot of ways, my first few months at William and Mary have been amazing, and in other ways, they have challenged me in ways I didn’t think I could handle. Answering this loaded question can’t be done with a simple explanation, so I figured I’d come on here and write about it to try to put into words the craziness that has been the past four months of my life. Let’s go piece by piece.
A few weeks ago I saw someone post a poll on their Instagram story that said “does the summer in between high school and college feel weird?” I honestly don’t remember what the results of the poll were, but I remember feeling an immense sense of relief in knowing that I wasn’t the only one who felt a sense of uneasiness about this chapter of life we incoming freshmen are experiencing.
For as long as I could remember, the first few weeks of school have been full of pure anxiety. Every year I have an unshakable fear that I’m going to fail all my classes and that I’m not going to have anyone to talk to. Every year, I end up proving myself wrong. My grades end up perfectly fine, and I make some friends in each class. Still, this fear haunts me every time a new school year starts.