I want to be real with you: life is C R A Z Y right now. April has been a whirlwind of school, emotions, fun times, and hard times. I got so caught up in life that I rarely took the time to slow down and take time to write, which led to me not posting on here for awhile. I’ve been trying to be better about that: taking time for myself, focusing on rest, and making sure I don’t get too caught up in school. I’ve seen some improvements for sure, but really I’m still trying to figure out this whole work and life balance thing.
What’s most important, though, is to remember that life is about enjoying the journey. Instead of expecting myself to perfectly change all of my daily habits at once, I’ve tried to remind myself to just take little steps; to make decisions along the way that lead towards positive change and towards where I want to be. And in this process, I also have to remind myself to trust God, because He is working through this with me, and He will unconditionally love me, no matter where I’m at. Personal growth becomes much less stressful when you hold onto those beautiful truths.
Yet sometimes, I still get caught up in trying to make everything perfect. I tend to blame my parents for passing their perfectionistic tendencies on to me, but really it’s not their fault. Is it wrong to want to do your best and be your best self? No, but it can turn into a bad thing if that totally interferes with how life should really be lived.
Not meeting my own or other people’s standards for myself is one of my main triggers for anxiety. This isn’t always the case, as sometimes I really have no idea where the attacks come from, but it definitely affects me if life isn’t going a certain, perfect way.
I don’t really know how to explain what it’s like. I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder in March, after experiencing symptoms for almost a year. I never saw it coming.
One year ago today, I announced that I committed to study music therapy at Cleveland State University. If you had told me a year ago that I would absolutely love CSU and the music therapy program and that I would have great classmates and be involved with Cru and make a lot of friends, I would probably believe you. I was so excited about all of those things coming in, and I’m so happy to tell you that all of those are true in my life today. But if you had told me that I would develop an anxiety disorder over the course of my first year at college and that it would make school so much harder than it normally is for me and that throughout the course of it I would feel further away from God than I was before college, I’d probably say that you were crazy.
Because there was no way that I was going to be one of those Christians who falls away from God when they go to college. There was no way that I’d let the college course load get the best of me. And there was absolutely no way that I would be so stressed to the point of developing a disorder because I had Jesus on my side, right?
Yet I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in my bathroom, two days before moving out. I tried so hard to calm myself down, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t even think, even process why this was happening. I prayed and prayed for it to stop. My mom came to check on me, trying everything she could to comfort me and calm me down, but I just felt like a helpless child in her arms.
Eventually, I ran out of tears. Feeling drained and numb, I tried to keep going throughout an already busy day while also trying to figure out what had happened. I ended up deciding that that must’ve been a result of the stress of moving out, packing, and transitioning to college.
But then, October came, and I had another big panic attack. Once again, I couldn’t calm myself down; I was shaking, crying, and felt like it was hard to breathe. Through talking to my mom and a friend from back home, I confirmed that this wasn’t just normal stress.
Then, throughout the rest of my freshman year, I began to become more aware of the anxiety that I felt and more aware of what might trigger it. I remember believing that I would just work out some deep emotional stuff with my Cru mentor, pray more, and get better at managing stress, so then this wouldn’t be a problem anymore. That method helped a little, but it didn’t solve everything. I began noticing that I was experiencing anxiety more and more often, and I had no idea what to do.
I began to believe that I did have a disorder before I went to see the doctor, but hearing the diagnosis made it all so real for me. My entire perception of mental illness changed.
I could write out all of these facts for you (which I had heard too) about how mental illnesses are like other illnesses, how a person cannot really control it, how they might need medication, etc...but the reality of experiencing it personally is so much harder to explain. It was weird, confusing, difficult, and more of a struggle than I ever expected to have at college.
But you see, Jesus was (and is) on my side. Despite my doubts about that, God never left me.
Looking back on this past year, I have learned so much and grown as a person. Making the decision to come to CSU was a hard and uncertain decision, but I can’t imagine where I would be without this music therapy program and all of my new friends. Sure, there have been so many ups and downs and changes in my life since I made that choice one year ago, but most years will be like that, I suppose.
Life is about making the most of it: each day and week and month and year; grabbing a hold on God and people and all the good things in life and never letting go. Hardships and stress and trials will hit you like waves but I promise you, I promise you, the ocean’s still a beautiful place. As Dory would say, just keep swimming, just keep swimming!
At your lowest moments, God is still there, and He always will be: chasing after you, arms wide open, with the never-ending love of the Father. So don’t give up, don’t ever give up, because there is indeed joy set before you. God is always working for good: so trust that, have faith in that, believe in the hope that you first believed in, and keep on searching for the good in all parts of life. Sometimes it’ll be so hard to find, sometimes it will jump right out at you like a sunny 70 degree day in the middle of Ohio winter, and other times it’ll kinda bump into you with little reminders; like an inside joke with a friend, a kind gesture from a stranger at the bus station, or a group hug in the middle of a rainstorm (literally).
Whether you’ve personally experienced mental illness or not, we all have things that we struggle with in life. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up.
You will be found.
Hi! My name is Rachel Schoeff, and I'm a college student in Cleveland, Ohio. With this blog, I aspire to share a little bit of what God is doing in my life, and use that to inspire others. We're all messy people, and we're never going to be perfect, but I hope that, together, we can all learn to embrace being "perfectly in progress."