Taking Steps – A Personal Narrative

Taking Steps

Anxiety is an issue everyone in their life goes through, whether it be caused by exams, speaking in front of a large crowd, job interview, or a social event. When anxiety enters your life, that effects you daily, it then becomes a disorder. Just like any mental disorder, it develops over time, some effects are apparent, and some not until later years. The sooner the disorder is treated, the better you have control over your life. Over time I have noticed that my anxiety has become a major problem for me, and in my teenage years I did nothing about it. When I went to orientation for Michigan, they introduced Counseling and Psychology Services as a means for people to better their mental health. I had never received professional help for my anxiety, and I decided it was about time I did. I decided to reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services or CAPS at Michigan. They offered extreme help, and is a resource that I plan to take advantage of. Attending and reaching out for help at CAPS is a big step. Realizing that there is a problem and seeking out help for my problem, is a larger step than the one Armstrong made on the moon. My mother once told me that the first step to anything is always the hardest, for it requires the most courage, but the courage you had to make the first step quiets your fears enough that you can take another.

While going through my impending weeks and first week of college, I noticed that my anxiety heightened. I always had anxiety issues, but I never sought out help. It was frightening to feel what I felt, and it was interrupting my everyday and academic life. I was starting to have more anxiety attacks than usual to which I was experiencing more of the physical effects. I was completely overwhelmed, had constant nausea, trembling limbs, and was short of breath. No one likes to feel not in control, overwhelmed, and exceedingly anxious. I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, especially while going to a university that demands my whole attention, focus, and stability of mind. I decided to go to CAPS for counseling on how to deal with my anxiety.

When I walk into a room I tend to observe and familiarize with it, so I can get comfortable. This tactic works to calm my anxiety, down the more comfortable I can get, the better, entering the CAPS department was no different. CAPS is located on the third floor of the Michigan Union; as I felt my feet transfer from laminated floors to one of carpet, I started to think about turning around and going back to my dorm. I reminded myself that this appointment was going to give me insight on the steps to control and calm my anxiety. I walk up to the receptionist, and wait for her to ask the destined words, ‘how may I help you’, while waiting I noticed the desk cluttered in flyers of places in the Michigan Union to relax at, self-help brochures, sources of help outside of the University of Michigan, and so on and so on. She asks me how she may help me, and I ask for the counselor that was given to me, she checks the computer, and says that I am signed in, and may take a seat.

The seats are near the entrance to CAPS and not very far away from the reception desk. I sit my bag down and take a seat in the comfy chair. My leg starts to shake nervously, but I try to distract myself by looking around the purple and peach colored clinic. I see to my left six other chairs, and in front of me are five. Behind those five chairs I see the gray cubicles where people fill out their personal information. On the front of these cubicles are self-help posters. One in particular has a variety of posters on it, one has an animated character, colored pink, one side is dressed like a boy and the other a girl. The poster goes on into a paragraph how boys and girls should not let what their gender stereotypes are, define them and how they should liberate themselves from such stereotypes. Another simply states how your words matter. After I see that picture I look down to my left and see a little coffee table with self-help brochures galore. The brochures all had non-striking colors, like burgundy, pale green, pale yellow, and white. They had ones on perfectionism, stress, anxiety, depression, sexuality and gender, anger management, and so on and so forth. I look around at another coffee table not far from me and see color picture drawings. They use this as a technique for people to express themselves and release tension through art. A number of people enter and are asked again and again the destined words ‘how may I help you?’ and the seats of the room start to fill up. As I sit there waiting for my counselor to show up, I search the room some more, and look down the hall, and see the offices where I will discuss what is going on.

The more and more I sat there, the more I felt like I was in a clinic. Of course it is a sort of clinic, but I wasn’t going to accept the fact that it was until I saw the magazines at a coffee table across from me. I look up and see the white bare sealing and think about life, and how in the world I am going to get through college. My counselor rounds the corner and says ‘Alexis’. I greet her and say her name. She guides me to her office, which is only a right turn from the reception desk, down the hall a little, and her office is on the right. I enter and sit down in a chair, and start to look around the peach colored room.

For the most part, I see all the calming colors depicted on the furniture and the pictures. I think to myself how therapeutic colors schemes can be; I start to see how if there were colors like stark red or blue, how I would probably get a different feel to the place. The chair I am sitting in is grey, and the pillows are yellow, her chair, which is across from mine is the same. To the left of me is another coffee table, except it is blank. In the back part of the room there is a book shelf, a plant, and a desk with a computer on it. The room is painted a peach color, with more of a yellow undertone. There is a painting on the wall next to me and on the back wall. The picture next to me, is a huge painting of an orchestra, but it looks like its mirrored by water. The other picture is more of a bunch of colors, possible depicting country life. As we sit, she pulls out a file of printed papers, which show high and low areas of mental health and the personal information I had to fill out, in order to have the meeting with her. She then proceeds to ask me questions about what I said in the files and what is depicted in those high and low areas, we have this conversation for 45 minutes.

The conversation, though long, did not cover as much we both wanted. She asked me to explain how anxiety effects me. I told her of my lack of sleep and how my anxiety is effecting my school life, because it doesn’t allow me to participate. We discussed the intensity of my anxiety attacks, which entails shortness of breath, incessant crying, overwhelming fear, trembling of limbs especially my legs, and my emotions and thoughts being thrown everywhere. The next thing that we discussed was how these anxiety attacks were started, what were the triggers. Any social and academic events, or incidents that I can’t forget, make me have an anxiety or anxiety attacks. There is no pinpoint series of events that, are going to trigger in my mind ‘start having an anxiety attack’. That part of the conversation was a relief to finally explain my anxiety and what happens during an anxiety attack, though, I would have felt it more, if I had not been crying most of the time. The second part of the conversation was more personal, which added more tears, and more things that I held in about my anxiety, to which I could now actually release.

We actually went over the consultation time. Afterwards, I felt good about myself. We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and I realized new things about myself and how my anxiety is triggered. We established great goals of how to deal with my anxiety and who to go to if it is causing a huge attack or if something more dangerous happens. This one-time experience didn’t cure my anxiety issues, but it did set forth a plan that my counselor and I have, which is to have therapy with her and take medication. We both came to the conclusion that medication and therapy work hand in hand. My experience at CAPS, is not a one time, but an introduction to a system of help for my mental health.

Reaching out and finally receiving help for my anxiety was probably the greatest thing that I have ever done for myself. I now have a counselor and impending medication that will help me overcome my anxiety. This experience and the continuing of therapy is going to help my collegiate life so much more, for now I am working towards better participation and how to handle my anxiety when in class. I am so glad that the University of Michigan has this wonderful mental health resource and that I took advantage of it. The thought of no longer living with overwhelming anxiety, is a goal that I am stepping towards. I took the first step, and I am ready to take the next.

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