• Maddie Duthie

My Experience As An Undergraduate Student with Anxiety

Throughout my life I thought it was normal to plan everything in advance, feel your heart race before beginning a test, or even cry at the simple thought of writing an entire paper. However, when people close to me would say things like “that isn’t normal” or “maybe you should get medication or something for that” I realized that there may be something I am dealing with that not everyone can relate to. Fast forward to Fall 2018, which is when my doctor diagnosed me with anxiety. In a sense, it was a relief to finally know that what I had been feeling was validated and that someone heard my plea for help. Although I had received a diagnosis, the suffering did not end there.


As I began SFU in September 2018, I had to learn to navigate university level courses without the help of my high school teachers who had known me for many years. The months leading up to university were anything but peaceful. I began stressing about courses in March, thinking about a parking pass in July, and textbooks in early August. I was doing everything in my power to be the most prepared for this new chapter of my life – despite not having a clue what was about to come my way. PSYC 100. If anyone has taken this class in person, you know it is intimidating to say the least. Images Theatre packed full of almost 450 students. It felt impossible to focus and even harder to retain any information in a class this size (especially growing up in a small town where my grad class was less than 150 people).


Although I would not say my first semester at SFU was my best GPA-wise, I do believe I learned many coping techniques (mind you, I am still learning new techniques here in my fourth year) and the realization that despite change being the most terrifying thing in my life, eventually the change becomes your new normal.


I think starting university is difficult for everyone but having your mind self-sabotage every thought or action that comes across does not make it any easier. “You’re not doing good enough”, “Why didn’t you study for longer”, “You can’t go out with your friends until you get this assignment done”. These sentences ran through my head day after day for years at SFU (occasionally still do if I’m being honest). However, sometimes you just have to learn to weather the storm of a difficult course or difficult semester knowing that it won’t last forever. While I will say that I have become ‘used’ to my anxiety, I also believe that I have learned many coping mechanisms that work to ease the chaos within my mind.


First (and not surprisingly), I love to plan in advance. This includes writing down all the due dates for the semester as they come in, planning the next semester (or few) in advance, as well as time blocking my schedule, so that I know what I need to work on and when. I also find that making daily achievable goals aids in the feeling of accomplishment that I so often crave while combating the overwhelming feeling of writing a term paper. Although my anxiety will never be ‘cured’, I like to think that I have learned to live with it and accept it as a part of me. If anyone wants to reach out to talk about anything, my email is mduthie@sfu.ca


Here are some helpful SFU Resources for Mental Health:


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