Adjusting to College Life with Social Anxiety
I have always faced anxiety in life. It began when I was young when my parents separated. I couldn’t sleep at night, talking to friends was a challenge and I was even afraid of my dad for a while, which was not his fault. To make things more complicated, my mother has untreated Borderline Personality Disorder, a fact that I did not learn until a few years ago. My deep-rooted social anxiety did not fade with time. It often resulted in me avoiding other people, including my own friends and instead opting for solitude in my own house. I felt like I was always being judged by others for the way I talked, how I walked, what my interests were and an assortment of other bullshit that no one should have to be judged on. This anxiety continued throughout high school, where it turned into depressive episodes a few times.
Then came college. I was very excited about college. I felt that it was going to be a great time where I could get out and explore the world and finally become the person I wanted to be. However, during my senior year of high school, I had a panic attack. I realized going to college meant being around new people 24/7. Would I fit in? Would I find a group of friends? Would I survive? Coming from a school where my graduating class was just 15 people, the jump to Fordham was monumental. I knew no one here, I had never shared a bedroom with someone else, and I did not know how to make friends without being forced to by an intimate class size.
I will admit, my first semester was not great. My first night was scary: I was in a forced triple, both of my roommates brought girls back to the dorm and then they proceeded to get wasted at Mugz. Eventually, I found a seemingly nice friend group, but then one transferred out, and one turned out to be an asshole. At this point, I was terrified. A lot of the people in my classes seemed like douchebags, and my dorm building, Queen’s Court, turned out to be very cliquey. I started a relationship with a girl, who I am still dating today, but I knew that it wasn’t healthy for your significant other to be your only friend.
You can imagine that, at this point, I was looking at ways to transfer out. When I asked my therapist and my family what they thought I should do, they all said I should stay where I am. This made me mad. I figured they were just saying that because here at Fordham I was close to home and had a considerable scholarship. I assumed that they weren’t taking my feelings into account. But, I stuck it out. I tried to make the best of the situation by embracing academics. Eventually, I convinced myself to reach out to CPS, where they put me in group therapy. It was there that I learned that I was not alone in my feelings. (I definitely recommend this experience if you are having troubles). There are lots of people on campus who are struggling socially and will never show it because of social stigmas. Group therapy gave me the encouragement I needed to join clubs, go to campus events and even just talk to people in the lounges. In doing this, I did eventually find the right friends, it only took time. Never judge a book by its cover; you will never know an authentic person unless you dig past the facade we all like to put on.
This article is meant to be more than a story. I hope to encourage those who, like me, are anxious, nervous or even feeling hopeless. With a little effort, it always gets better. The most important thing to remember is to always be yourself, stay true to your principles and don’t give up. Perhaps even more importantly, don’t be afraid to seek out help, whether it be in the form of friends, family or professionals. In my own life, I still have a long way to go to become the healthy, happy person I desire to be, but I know, even when it doesn’t feel like it, that I can achieve that goal. Get out there and embrace life. Join clubs, go to on-campus events and talk to people. You are okay, you are not alone and you will find friends!