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A Day in the Life of a College Student With Anxiety and Cerebral Palsy

7:25: I awaken and shower, pondering my future as the warm water rushes over me.  Do I take a service year or go into advertising as I’ve been planning?  Will I be employed when I graduate?  Why did I decide to leave college so early?  I’ll be leaving my friends behind.  I’ll be leaving the life I know behind, all as a third year.  What do other third-year college students muse about in the shower?  Certainly not graduation.  I’m defying convention, but is that the best choice I could have made for myself?

7:54: I scan through all of my available clothing options, finally settling on a navy blue floral dress and white flip-flops.  I discard possible choices based on a myriad of factors that make sense only to me.  My mind is a perpetual pro-con list.  I am analytical to a fault.  I search for my favorite necklace — silver with a heart — to wear with the dress and worry that I accidentally threw it away.  Calm down, you have much bigger fish to fry, I think.  I give up looking.  This outfit will suffice.

8:10: I blow-dry my hair, return to my bedroom and eat breakfast, checking Facebook while I eat.  A sudden jolt of worry rushes through me.  Where are my glasses?  What if they’re crushed somewhere?  I decide that they’re probably just fine, and I keep eating.  I find my glasses after I eat.  Good.

9:05: I print out my résumé for my Leadership class because today is the day we learn about résumé formatting.  My computer isn’t printing my document, and an unfamiliar notice lingers on my screen.  I call my family in desperation for any type of help, but I can’t reach them, which frustrates me further.  “Why can’t you pick up your phone?” I cry rhetorically.  “I can’t do this! I need this printed!”  My roommate hears me and asks if I’m okay, and I immediately feel guilt wash over me.  My anxiety is challenging for everyone.  I wish I had control, but I never feel in control at all.  Anxiety runs my life.  We print the résumé out with a different printer, but I can’t help but think that my roommate doesn’t deserve anything I put her through.  My anxiety isolates me.  My anxiety harms others.  My anxiety makes me feel like a monster.  When I leave for class thirty-five minutes later, I still have tears in my eyes.

10:05: I arrive at my Memory and Cognition class and sit down in the second row.  Today, we are learning about attention theories.  The class fascinates me, and I take quick, furious notes throughout.  An hour in, we have a ten-minute break, and my professor chats with me about my internship because I’m one of his research interns this quarter.  When we return to the material, he states that some actions we take are unconscious, like walking.  “I guess I’m doing heel-toe right now, but we don’t have to think about things like walking and talking,” he says.  I realize that he is speaking from a place of incredible privilege.  Some people can’t walk heel-toe without having to focus on their gait.  They’re not wired that way.  People like me.  I doubt any of us intend to reveal our unconscious biases, whether they’re racist, sexist, or ableist, but we need to be cognizant of them in order to change.  I realize that I’ve taken my own abilities for granted on numerous occasions, and I walk out understanding not only attention but the power that our unconscious holds over our schematic biases.

11:45: I arrive at my Leadership class early.  We spend the entire class learning how to properly format our résumés.  I realize that mine is out of order, and I worry about finding time to reformat it.  As to my future employment prospects, I hold a mixture of hope and self-doubt inside of me.  I hope that someday soon, my résumé will be the golden key to unlocking my dream job.  All of my senior classmates are interviewing, and many are so close to becoming employed.  I feel insecure in comparison.

1:15: I arrive at my apartment, quickly heat up food, and eat.  Twenty-five minutes later, I rush off to the psychology lab, hoping I can arrive before my first participant is slated to be there.

2:00: I arrive at the lab, let my participant into the room, and run through the informed consent and study procedures.  I study for my Food Science midterm while I wait for the participant to finish and debrief them afterward.  The study runs like clockwork.  It has to be methodologically sound, I think because I don’t want to ruin my professor’s study.  My eyes fall on the corkboard in the room above my head.  Thumbtacked to the board is a slip of paper with the words “You are important” written out.  I don’t feel important.  I don’t even feel happy today, but the words make me smile.  We all have a piece of us to share with the world that will make the world a better place.  We are all important, whether we recognize it or not.  I greet my next participant with a smile on my face and a renewed sense of faith in myself.

4:00: I stop at a small store in my apartment complex to pick up a snack.  I arrive at my apartment and study for tomorrow’s Food Science midterm for the next three hours.  I feel a wave of exhaustion run over me.

7:00: I rest my head on my notes, and fall into a dreamless sleep.  Maybe I should rethink studying on my bed!

10:00: I jolt awake, feeling completely disoriented.  I worry about the three hours of my life I could have spent studying for the midterm, and I decide to make myself a very late dinner.  I eat ravenously.

11:00: I decide to take out the trash, but my roommate’s in the kitchen, and we chat for a while.  I still feel guilty about making her worry about me earlier.  I hate the guilt and I hate the anxiety, but I feel powerless to stop them.  I take out the trash, shower, and prepare for bed.

12:05: I listen to music before falling asleep.  Seemingly out of the blue, three words stick in my mind: I’m an overcomer.  I fall asleep with a renewed sense of hope in tomorrow.  I know that I am naïve to assume that there will be a tomorrow, as so many people do not have that luxury, but I understand that I can overcome the difficulties of today if I strive to use the tomorrow I’m fortunate to have to better myself.

Kelly Douglas

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

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