Mental health in college: My story

My name is Austin Davis, and I’m a poet, student activist and sophomore studying creative writing at ASU. With the fall semester already underway, I’d like to talk a little bit about my experiences with anxiety, and how I learned how important it is to prioritize my mental health. 

As a college student and young adult, it’s natural to feel as though life has become a little crazy all at once. You’ve just been introduced to new stresses, new changes, and more responsibilities than you’ve probably ever had to balance before, and that can be overwhelming. That’s why checking in with yourself and paying attention to your mental health is so important. 

I’ve dealt with anxiety, OCD and ADHD since I was very young. Over the last two years in college, my worries, fears and anxieties have grown worse and it started to affect my quality of life.

When you’re having mental health issues, it can sometimes feel as though there aren’t many “doable” solutions, although that’s not the case. I can’t tell you how many times I could feel myself giving in to one of my compulsions. But because the fear was so high, resisting the urge seemed more daunting than fighting it. 

I was already so exhausted from being trapped in my head all day that normal parts of my schedule seemed impossible. Going to work and doing my homework felt like climbing Mount Everest. Sleeping became more difficult because I couldn’t stop myself from thinking and worrying. Eventually, I decided that I needed to make a change and help myself. 

Recovery really is a lot of work, but it’s so incredibly worth it. It’s important to educate yourself about your disorder and learn what helps other people and what experts think about your situation. Counseling and therapy is always an option as well, and it can be life changing. 

When I was struggling with OCD as a little kid, my mom (a psychologist at ASU) bought me OCD workbooks and we worked through the exercises together, and that worked for a long time. Currently, I’m starting that process up again by working through new workbooks to combat my obsessions, and I’m also considering going to therapy here at ASU. 

I’ve learned how important it is to listen to how I’m feeling on a day-to-day basis. If I feel myself falling back into old anxieties, I know it’s time to get out my workbook or go talk to a counselor. 

Being creative is another strategy that helps me immensely, I write a lot of poetry about how I’m feeling. Poetry has always been a kind of therapy for me, and it really helps me process it all and get my thoughts out of my head and onto the page. I believe that giving yourself the time to do something creative every week can dramatically help your mental health. 

Even if you don’t struggle with a mental illness, remember to still take care of yourself, especially when you’re busy. Adult relationships, young adulthood and college can be very stressful, and it’s vital for your well-being to be there for yourself. 

Take some time away from your phone. Go take a walk. Go to bed early. Call your parents. Spend an afternoon with friends. Paint something. Write a story. Do whatever it is that makes you feel happy, relaxed and revitalized. 

If you need help, look into ASU Counseling Services. Walk-in appointments for ASU Counseling Services are available on all four campuses from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you need to talk to someone after hours or on weekends, you can call the crisis hotline at 480-921-1006. 

You need to be your first priority. You have classes to pass, great things to do, people to love, and a bright future full of possibilities. Life is too short to have some disorder, stress or anxiety rule your life!

 Story by Austin Davis, Sun Devil Storyteller


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