I was excited to come to college, ready to “spread my wings and fly,” as some may say. Hopeful and jubilant, I moved into Penn State University as a freshman three years ago.
People always say the college experience makes up the best years of your life, during which you are allowed to make mistakes, try new things and meet your forever friends.
I honestly didn’t feel that way when I first moved into Hartranft Hall in Pollock Halls. It was smaller than I was used to and very stuffy, the dust making me sneeze more than normal.
I was nervous about living with a complete stranger, to the point where I hadn’t eaten much the first week of classes. This led to headaches, and as a result, stress.
Outside of my dorm, I truly did feel alive. I joined so many organizations and got to chance to be a part of my first THON committee, something I had looked forward to all summer. I made friends in my classes and went to bonding events.
However, inside of my dorm I felt extremely uncomfortable. My roommate did not really like to talk and we clashed on differing viewpoints and aspects of living together.
I had a hard time falling asleep at night. When I was sick and unable to leave bed, she was upset that I was ill, opening the window and cleaning late into the night.
It was hard to be in the room that was supposed to be my home for eight months, and the girls on my floor were quiet and kept to themselves. This was much different from my friends’ experiences and it often led me to question if I was doing the whole roommate thing right.
I spent as much time away from home as possible, only there to sleep, shower, do homework or talk to my mom. I even developed an anxious response to the door unlocking.
It was hard to be in a room where I wasn’t wanted. When she decided to move out the next semester, I was the last to know, meaning I had no idea who I would be with the next semester.
It was tough, to the point that when I was offered a single my sophomore year, I took it without hesitation.
This was something that affected my mental health even more. Living alone both my spring semester of freshman year and all of sophomore year let me have too much time to my thoughts, which turned negative as more work and stress piled on.
I felt alone, finding myself calling people constantly with no one to talk to. I was busy, taking 15-18 credits depending on the semester, and I always dreaded going home.
I found myself having panic attacks as the semesters went on, my heart pounding and tears flowing over things that couldn’t be changed.
After spring semester, I went to see my physician. She determined that I had generalized anxiety and depression, which developed through my time living in the dorms and dealing with outside stressors such as family problems and financial concerns.
According to a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 75 percent of all mental health conditions surface by age 24. I was 19.
I can say now that had I not lived where I did freshman year, I am not sure I would have taken the necessary steps to get help. I felt alone and I needed to do better, something I am still working on today.
My living situation this year had some rough patches, but through therapy and a roommate swap, I feel comfortable being home again, with the ability to talk to my roommates about anything and everything.
According to the DSM-5, 20 percent of individuals receiving treatment for mental health have been diagnosed with an adjustment disorder.
Adjustment disorders may go hand in hand with depression and anxiety based on the situational effects.
It takes time to find somewhere that feels like home when your real home is hundreds of miles away. But, when you do, peace of mind ensues.