So here is the thing, I am really awful at meeting new people. I don’t know what it is, but anytime someone introduces me to their friend/significant other, I get all manic and loud and just, well, hyper. Keep it at small-talk level, add in a “oh WOW that is so fascinating” along with some terrible self-deprecating jokes here and there, and you have me.
And while it may seem like I am just really interested in whatever you have to say, I am really just trying to make it through the awkwardness of it all. In fact, as you are talking, my mind is usually all over the place with negative and intrusive thoughts such as:
“Did I really just say I hate wearing bras? Why did I just tell her that I ran out of shampoo two days ago? Haley, pull it together and stop being so loud. Just try to be normal. Gah, can it be anymore obvious that I have generalized anxiety disorder?”
To be clear, this is not just nerves. For days or even weeks, I replay past conversations in my mind because I am beating myself up over how annoying/abrasive/arrogant I was. I just laugh when people say I have a good memory because that is precisely the problem: I can almost never let anything that I did “wrong” go.
And this is me on medication.
And so, what is the point of me telling you avid U of T blog readers this? Well, I think the fact that I am so self-aware of one of my many anxiety triggers and that I am comfortable telling you all this (albeit, behind a laptop) is a MAJOR step from where I was in first year. Back in the day, I had no idea what and who were my triggers. Now, I know that I will get anxious when I meet new people and that is okay. More to the point, I know it is okay to step out of those unavoidable schmoozing situations for ten minutes and to say no when I feel like going out is too much for me. Plus, I know my psychiatrist at CAPS will be there for me at our next appointment.
For me anyways, I have found that being self-aware about my mental health and knowing my limitations is what keeps me on track. No matter how many degrees someone has, the person that knows you the best is you. So take advantage of you and be selfish when it comes to your mental wellbeing. Talk to folks who “get it” (yes, there are people out there), use the resources on campus, and don’t feel ashamed to go to your college registrar to ask for an extension. I am telling you in all cerealness, putting myself first was the best thing I could have done.