By Mara Everson |

I was diagnosed with anxiety and situational depression in March of 2019, perfectly capping off the end to my torturous senior year of high school.

I was the varsity cheer captain at my school, and from any outside perspective I must have looked the part too. I was peppy, on top of my work, a leader, but most importantly, I looked happy. No one would have known I was struggling to get out of bed every morning or that I felt lonely while in a room crowded with the people I called my friends and teammates. 

Until the day I broke. 

It was the end of the year, and the stress of college was starting to weigh on me. I was falling behind on my classwork, I didn’t know who my real friends were anymore, and get this, my boyfriend broke up with me. When I say I hit my breaking point, I hit that point like a freight train. I didn’t have anyone left and I couldn’t hide my emotions anymore, not like I used to. I didn’t know how. This feeling was all new to me and I felt helpless. I just wanted to cry and make all the stress go away, but I couldn’t. Sadly, that’s just not how it works. I started missing school to stay home and avoid my problems and when I was at school, I found myself running to the bathroom to cry and call my mom.

I was so conflicted. I hated how pathetic I had become and I hated that I let myself look weak to the people I was supposed to stay strong for, like my team and my family. But I also didn’t want to fake my happiness anymore. 

I didn’t know what to do, so instead I broke down.

I ended up going to therapy as a last resort, but in my mind it was not for myself. It was more to give my mother a peace of mind. My struggles were just as hard on her as they were on me. I wanted to make her happy, but how could I do that when I couldn’t even make myself happy? 

It took a lot of strength, but in the end I made it to graduation. At first I wasn’t looking forward to moving on. A lot of my fears about leaving high school came from this thought that I would be forgotten. Forgotten by the people I so desperately wanted approval from. This mindset made it really difficult for me to move on with my life. I was stuck in this in-between phase where leaving for college was in my impending future, but I had no motivation to prepare for it. But yet again, and despite the odds, I made it to college move-in day. 

Weirdly enough, college was life changing for me. I had come in with this horrible mindset that I couldn’t make it on my own because I wasn’t able to in the past. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t ready for the responsibility that college required, but that was just me trying to justify my fear of leaving the only home I knew. 

Once I was on my own in this brand new world called college, I took off. I starting doing things to better myself. I decided that I would put me first for once, and man did it work. I was in a place where no one knew the old me, so I didn’t have to fake anything anymore. I had the opportunity to reinvent myself and I took that opportunity. I started working out, eating healthier and more consistently, and not worrying as much about failure. Now don’t get me wrong, college is still stressful, but it also taught me how to handle that stress and not crumble under pressure.

I guess my point to this story is to show how normal it is to feel helpless and alone. A lot of people crack under the pressure of college but for some odd reason the stress and chaos saved my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but getting out of good ole’ Round Rock, Texas, was exactly what I needed to come out of that dark hole I had fallen into senior year. College allowed me to choose myself, choose happiness, and choose to be brave and unafraid.

I am happy to announce that I, Mara Everson, and proud of who I have become.