My first experience with anxiety was during an exam. I already had a diploma in Early Learning and Child Care, and had decided to come back to get a degree so I could better support my son. I was motivated, ready to learn and pumped to be starting something new.
Then midterms hit. I studied hard – I even helped lead our study group – but during the exam I felt this tightening feeling and so much heaviness. All I could think about was getting out of that room. By the end of the test, I couldn’t remember anything I had written. I basically threw the paper at the prof and ran out the door.
I ended up with 52 per cent on that exam. I was devastated. I knew my anxiety during the test was a huge part of the problem, but I thought I’d just work on it and it would get better. It didn’t. When it happened again in my psychology midterm, I talked to my prof and she offered to work with me on strategies to combat the anxiety during her office hours.
Making it to my fourth year has been a lot of hard work – probably 10 times harder than I’ve ever expected it would be. I do everything I can to be the best student I can be. I get help from a counsellor. I’ve learned to separate the demands of home and school. I work out regularly. I talk to my program advisor twice a semester – once at the beginning and once at the end – to check in on my progress. I make a point of talking to my profs and saying “Hey, I’m dealing with anxiety and I have a lot on my plate. Let’s talk.”
I’m a single parent, I take five classes a semester and I volunteer for a club. A lot of people seem to assume I have everything under control. They can’t see the inner turmoil. They don’t perceive me as someone who deals with anxiety and panic attacks – that I might need support, to do things in a certain way, to stop what I’m doing and walk out the door, or take a moment away to re-centre myself. Those are things I can’t control and talking about them can feel awkward, but it’s important.
I’ve learned to tell people around me what’s happening and what I need from them. When I open the door, then we can have a conversation. Sometimes it’s about letting people know that this isn’t something you can just “fix” with medication. Sometimes it’s sharing the resources that are out there to help – and making sure people know that connecting to those resources isn’t a shameful thing. It’s actually really smart.
– Christine, 4th year student, Bachelor of Arts, Psychology
Christine's story is part of Changing Minds: Creating a healthy campus – an initiative that makes mental health a priority. The program connects training opportunities, support services, resources and stories from real people across the MacEwan University community.
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