My father often tells me it is something strange in my DNA. It never occurs to him that my DNA is just a compilation of his and my mother’s. Thankfully, it does not overpower my life to the extent that I need to be medicated, but that does not mean I am not at the mercy of it constantly. It is what shapes my happiness, my sadness, my empathy, my anxiety. It is what dictates my day, who I will talk to, how I will talk, who I will be. I feel things intensely.
When I arrived in Boulder for college, only knowing the comfortable high school I had left behind in my Philadelphia suburb, I was ready for my new life. I was extroverted and friendly the first month, but fell victim to the vulnerability and unfamiliarity as others started to settle in. As quickly as I had opened up, I had violently shut.
The transition was accompanied by major tribulation. The little slices of anxiety and depression I noticed in high school were entirely ripped open in college. I soon found myself wishing for weekends to be over, for breaks to arrive and for days to end. I was constantly pricking myself with reminders of how college was supposed to be. I logged in hours on the phone with my parents who felt helpless 1,700 miles away from me. The happy, outgoing, and at ease person I was at home was paralyzed into an anti-social hermit. I found myself sabotaging every experience that had even the slightest potential to further my growth, wielding an uncontrollable power to make my life harder.
I joined a sorority. I thought I wanted a group of girls who could support me. I quit after a month because it was stressing me out.
I joined an intramural soccer team. I stopped going after a couple of months because the boy I liked on the team brought a girl to a game.
I stopped hanging out with the girls on my floor because they created a bond that I assumed did not include me.
This has been the most uncomfortable and depressing year of my life.
But, the most uncomfortable and depressing year of my life became the most enlightening.
While at home for winter break, my father urged me to meet with a psychiatrist, a practice every one of my family members participates in. I mustered the little courage I had left and endured a painful 45 minutes of expressing my inner thoughts to a complete stranger. Because I am not one to bottle up my emotions, I had no trouble letting my words flow. After a few sessions, it began to feel GOOD. I had slowly begun to discern the advantages of spouting your thoughts to someone who could decipher them effectively. I was understanding why I think the way I do. I began to grasp my weaknesses and my strengths. I was conscious of the uncertainty and insecurity I often feel. I started to meditate. I organized ways to coexist with my anxiety and constant criticism of myself. I felt in control.
With this newfound control, I gathered the courage to apply to smaller schools I believe would better fit my academic and social needs. I enrolled in a Film Journalism class in New York City for this summer. I have invested more time in developing my relationships with people here in Boulder. I am venturing out of the tight corner I had confined myself to.
Although there is still a substantial amount of work I need to do to comprehend my “strange DNA,” I can say with certainty, that the journey I have embarked on to navigate the uncharted waters of my mind has been well worth it. I am not saying that I have it harder than anyone else, in fact I most certainly do not. But, relative to our own lives, we all deserve to make life a little more bearable. I want for everyone to find the curiosity within themselves to understand what makes them who they are and how to coexist with their seemingly wild mind.
Author: Alexa Cotler
Author Bio: Alexa Cotler is a Philadelphia native studying just about anything her advisor allows her to at University of Colorado Boulder. She is currently striving to identify what makes her happy and how to be her best self in life. She loves stories and hopes to tell her own one day.