Searching for a Sense of Self - Anxiety and Depre...

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Searching for a Sense of Self

SchuylerW profile image

Hey gang, I am a 20-year-old college student and I have really been struggling academically. Last spring semester began my biggest spiral yet. I had recently lost my dog unexpectedly, I was having family and relationship problems, my self-esteem was plummeting, and my anxiety and depression were at an all time high. Since then, my situation has improved a lot. I am in a loving relationship, I feel supported by my friends and family, and I am able to somewhat function again. However, I continue to do poorly in school.

I was a straight A student all through grade school and in the beginning of college, but now I get B's and C's. I've always found a sense of identity in being the "smart kid" and being generally academically gifted. I was never very popular, I was never good at sports, I didn't partake in many extracurricular activities, so I always felt like I belonged in the classroom as a teacher's pet. All this changed as depression started crushing me more than it ever had. I had no motivation to do school work and when I would finally do homework, I could barely focus.

Although I'm managing my mental health issues better than before, I still find it nearly impossible to attend class regularly and complete all my assignments. Part of me believes I'm just being lazy, but I feel like my desire to do well would have snapped me out of a lazy streak by now.

Constant exhaustion combined with my "I don't care" attitude has resulted in me doing poorly (by my standards) in school for a while now. This is a terrible cycle because the more poorly I do, the lower my self-esteem. My low self-esteem pushes me further into negative thinking patterns and depression. My dropping GPA has resulted in me totally losing my sense of self. I feel like I don't know who I am anymore and I'm tired of letting everyone down.

I don't even necessarily care that much about just raising my grades back up (although that would be nice). I just want to feel like I'm more than just my academic performance. I need to find new ways to feel like myself and find fulfillment.

I'm sorry this post was very "venty". I appreciate anyone who's here to listen and offer support.

6 Replies

I am 48, but I can relate. I was the valedictorian of my senior class with a straight A average. I did well in college. When I had my first breakdown 2 years ago, all of that changed. My mind is not the same. I cannot reason through things the way I could. I can't focus. When my brain is spent, I cannot push it to go further. I have had to accept this. I am in graduate school right now and have gotten accommodations through the disability office. I get extra time to do my assignments. This has helped a bit. Have a professor who uses the phrase, "B's get degrees". There is a lot of wisdom to this. No one will care about your GPA. If you get your degree, that is all that counts. There is much more to life than grades. It sounds as if the most important things are going well.

I understand having your identity wrapped up in academic success. But that is just what you do, it is not who you are. Your identity is about your character, you passion, your hopes, your dreams. Well wishes to you!

SchuylerW profile image
SchuylerW in reply to AZ1970

Thank you so much for the reply. I really appreciate you sharing your story. I wish you lots of luck in grad school!

Hi Schuyler,

What are you studying? Does it continue to interest you?

May I ask if you are you in therapy?

I've had a couple of these identity crises in my life and they've turned out to be really good, life-changing experiences in the long run. But not at the time. At the time, I felt like you do and I know how scary and unpleasant it is. This first identity crisis happened at--- age 20, just like you are now. Oh if I could go back in time and not put so much pressure on myself to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be!

You will eventually find out. And AZ1970 is right- it isn't your interests/hobbies/grades that define people at ALL. It's all the things she pointed out. You don't have to figure out who you are and what defines you right now. Maybe just practice just BEING for awhile.

I'm glad you are not worried about your grades. B's and C's are good. I like that you are not adding that stress to this at the moment. Who knows, your motivation for school may just pick back up once you feel more integrated again. Be gentle and patient with yourself.

Totally feel ya. I was an A student in high school and was used to being the best and being recognized by teachers and other students as the best. Then in college things changed.

I fell in love with physics last year of high school and decided to study physics and math in college. But there, the best students had been studying physics and astronomy from the age of 10 and had participated in physics olympiads and the like. They already had many skills I didn't. So I couldn't compare. I became an average student, having to study double the time the best students need to get those A's. And this grievance is something I still try to get out of my psyche.

I think your soul is trying to tell you something...I think internally you have grown up and realized how vain being the best student is. And you feel the need to figure out who you are. It is never too late to figure out your unique self-expression. Try stuff. Music? Theater? Some other art form?

In both my undergrad and beginning of my graduate studies I would push myself to do well and be consistent with studying and assignments, then towards the end of the semester I would be so fed up and so unfulfilled and empty, because studying is all I would be doing, that the "I don't care anymore" attitude would take over. And as a result I'd finish the classes with B's, even if for most of the semester I was an A student.

Find yourself outside of studies. Find people who can have deep, meaningful discussions with you. Find the hobbies that let you express your soul. It's not easy. It takes years, and trying out different things, and hanging out with different crowds. You are young, you got time. And it's ok to make mistakes. You have to lose yourself to find it again, this I can say with certainty.

Wow, it sounds like you got some really good advice from those who have commented... like they said, your identity is rooted who you were made to Be rather than what you are doing. I would suggest finding things to pamper yourself so that you feel good and try new things/little things to see what brings you joy. Success is found in many different things, not just what you can "see" (ex, grades, career). Find success in enjoying who you are, the little things that bring that spark of "life" to your life. I believe that once you start to uncover these hidden gems, you will feel more motivated and at peace to accomplish these other things, assignments, etc... I know that when I wasn't feeling good about myself due to health reasons, it really affected my concentration and ability to focus, so I had to make daily goals to accomplish to include all sorts of things (pampering, housework, physical activity, rest)... I actually wrote it down and checked the list off as I worked through them throughout my day. Without it, I could easily find myself in a rut, unable to focus or be productive. Little steps add up. And I love what one of the girls said above when it comes to academics and obtaining that degree "B's get degrees"... remembering that may help take some of that pressure off.

Im barely holding on, a lot of us are actually struggling academically remember college is the big leagues and to top that off having anxiety, the first and second semester can be hard im hoping i get the hang of things soon, hang in there

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