During my time as an undergraduate I began to realize that my familiar overthinking, irritability with people I logically did not want to be irritated with, and need for perfection wasn’t normal. More importantly, I further realized these symptoms of anxiety got in the way of being the person I wanted to become. Despite this creeping suspicion that I was unwell and trying to manage my mental health alone, it wasn’t until my last year of undergraduate when a visit to the doctor with chest and leg pains did I consider I was unwell “enough” to take anxiety medication. Due to a lack of health coverage in my city of residence, I opted to not take medication, despite the recommendation from the provider I saw that afternoon.
I finished my undergraduate degree a quarter early and during the six months between then and the start of graduate school my anxiety symptoms receded. They were still there, just less intense and obtrusive. I had more time for yoga and reading for fun and fewer responsibilities to juggle that helped this. I thought I had finally gotten a handle on my mental health and could manage graduate school. However, a few weeks into the quarter and the panic, quick to be overwhelmed, and restlessness returned at full throttle. I was on a new and bigger campus swarming with more students than my last, living in a new part of the city with eight new housemates, in addition to a full course load. I recognized I did not have the time to figure out how to manage my mental health on my own, if I even could, in two intense years. I did not want to spend all my time coping with classes, rather I wanted to be getting the most out of my degree, wanted to be present with my classmates and professors, not intimidated into silence and meekness around them. I wanted to take on projects I knew would be uncomfortable and a stretch for me to complete. It was finally an easy decision to take anxiety medication, one supported by my provider, even though that was my first appointment with her. I walked out of the doctor’s office with a prescription for Lexapro, and within a few weeks I was feeling more like myself than ever. I still get anxiety and have moments where my mind and heart unnecessarily race, but I can manage it and not every moment of my life is tainted by overthinking and defensiveness. This term I am taking 11 credits – 3 classes, and 1 credit for an internship (or, directed fieldwork as my MLIS program calls them), writing for this blog, doing an independent research project with a classmate, preparing for a study abroad trip to the Netherlands this summer, and managing the rest of my life.
There are a lot of moving parts this term and the last, and the transition is always hard. I am entirely thankful I have the opportunity to take all this on while also keeping my sanity because of my anti-anxiety medication. Part of the desire for this full schedule is the pressure to do as much as I can in graduate school in order to get the most out of it, pressure that is perhaps justified. Another part of having such a full quarter is my own personal interest and wanting to get out of my comfort zone. I could not be doing so much thus far and be mentally well without the little pill I take every morning. I am not ashamed of it, nor do I feel it makes what I have done less notable. I feel this way because I am more myself than ever, defined not by how anxious I am, but by traits I am proud of; my spontaneity, gentleness, patience, that my anxiety got in the way of (and still does, on occasion). Each of these traits are things I want to bring into my work wherever I end up, whether that be in a public library, archives, or elsewhere.
To those preparing to enter library school, or any other big life changes, talk to a doctor and/or therapist about any mental health issues you have or think you may have! You deserve to do well in graduate school, no matter what that looks like for you. For those already in school or the workforce it is never too late to take the steps you need to be mentally well. Maybe that looks like taking medication, maybe taking on fewer responsibilities or asking for help (or all of the above). Life may still be busy and hectic, but it should not be a constant battle against yourself, in all aspects of your life. Anyone else wish they had known to make sure to address any mental health issues before library school, as the demand of classes would not be conducive to mental wellness?
Featured photo by Rob Ireton
Hanna Roseen is a first year residential MLIS student at the University of Washington with interests in public librarianship and archives
Categories: mental health