What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
I didn’t realize it growing up, but I have always been high strung. I put a lot of pressure on myself in high school to be perfect. When I got to college, the perfection was a lot harder to achieve. Naturally, I was not always perfect and when I would fail, however minor of a failure, I would break down.
The first year I applied to medical school I did not get in—the biggest failure of my life—and I started having panic attacks. I went to the on-campus clinic and she explained to me that I have generalized anxiety disorder, with some panic disorder symptoms. At first, the diagnosis made me feel like I was crazy, but now, a couple years later, I realized that it’s helped me navigate my intrusive thoughts.
Since finally entering medical school, I have made strides in overcoming the perfectionist attitude, but then my anxiety started manifesting in other areas. I live a long way from home and my family. This made me feel alone and without a support system during a really difficult time in my education. Because of this, my anxiety manifested through to more of my social life. I started losing sleep because I was staying up worrying if I was coming across as smart enough to my peers. This had made me start up counseling again. This time, counseling has given me a person that I trust to support me, which was something that I felt like I was lacking.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
Counseling has helped tremendously.
For a long time, I didn’t realize that I needed to have a mental health journey. There will be many opportunities to fail in medical school, and I am so fortunate now that I have the ability to process those failures a lot better. So far, medical school and counseling has taught me that I need to take care of myself in order to better care for people in the long run. Counseling has been such a positive part of my life that I now volunteer at Coyote Clinic, which offers free, student-run psychiatric services to the community of Sioux Falls.
Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges?
We have to be open to receiving help, and we have to make our mental health a priority in our busy lives.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
You often can never tell when people are struggling with their mental health, so remember to check in with the people in your life.