By: Rachel Mangold
In just a few short weeks, I will be completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Ohio State University. I’m honestly quite surprised I managed to do it in under four years considering the various challenges and shortcomings I have faced.
When I began my undergraduate studies, I had just finished high school at the top of my class with a GPA and ACT score that satisfied even my own perfectionist lifestyle. I knew college was going to be a greater challenge but I wasn’t prepared for the fact that the biggest challenge would be facing my mental health issues head on. Academically, college didn’t challenge me. Not in the way that I expected. Maybe my major was too easy or maybe I didn’t try hard enough; but, I never seemed to struggle with studying and assignments the same way my peers did. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was still stressed academically and I felt the dread of finals week and paper deadlines just the same. It just seemed as though I had somehow reached my capacity to care or try to the degree at which I did in high school. Throughout my high school years, I pulled all-nighters, studied for hours on end, and held myself to VERY unrealistic expectations. By the time I finally got to college, I was tapped out. By the spring semester of my freshman year, I was spending hours each day on Netflix, taking daily hours long naps, and spending a large bulk of my savings (despite not being employed). I was in a depressive spiral while experiencing daily panic attacks and paralyzing bouts of social anxiety. I hated who I was and the anxiousness I felt about not being productive only fueled by inability to get anything done. I reached out to the counseling services at Ohio state and told them I was suicidal. They told me they didn’t take my insurance and that they could email me a list of off-campus therapists that did. However, as a freshman, I didn’t have a car and I didn’t want to risk using my insurance and alerting my parents that something was going on. They, like all of my friends and family, were completely in the dark about my issues. Flash forward a few weeks and I was a hospitalized patient at Harding Psychiatric Hospital after attempting suicide for the first time. What a wake-up call that was. I spent the worst week of my life in that place trying to explain my emotions and past trauma to my mom all while trying to understand it for myself. Upon being discharged, everything changed with my family and we’ve never had a better relationship. The rest of freshman year actually went very well and I was finally living from a place of honesty and enjoying my life with friends.
Even before classes began my sophomore year, I had promised myself that I would never again allow myself to reach that dark place and in order to do that, I would stay as busy as possible. Worst. Decision. Ever. I overworked myself and double-booked my schedule to the point where I was in a constant frenzy. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Two weeks after the one year anniversary of my suicide attempt, I attempted again. (See https://be-mag.org/2019/02/19/my-recovery-update/ for this story).I dropped out of college, moved home with my parents, and later that summer, got to travel the world. Since that trip and since I’ve been able to define my goals and aspirations for my career and future, things have gotten much better. And this time, I’m really being honest.
There was a point where I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to graduate college. And now here I am, graduating a semester early with a major in Psychology and a minor in Substance Abuse and Addiction. I work as the Lead Personal Trainer for Ohio State, I’m in the best physical and mental shape of my life, and I have purpose for myself. I don’t know what my plans are for after graduation and where I’ll be a year from now, but I know that no matter what I face, I have the perseverance to get through it. Looking back on these past few years is incredibly emotional and I can’t help but feel blessed despite all that I have been through. For the first time in my life, I am excited to NOT know what my next step. For the first time, uncertainty makes me feel alive.