The Echo Chamber: The Path to Finding Myself

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By James Hicks
The Echo Assistant News Editor

My life at UCA is in intervals. There was an interval that included too many friends, an interval that included loneliness, and an interval that I’m in now that is me.

When I started college in 2013, I was a loner. Then, I was swarmed by Student Organizations. Thus, I wasn’t alone. Even though I always ate by myself in high school and didn’t know how to eat in front of people, I was invited by dozens of students to join them in the cafeteria.

Even though I turned down people at lunch in high school, they were at the most a group of five. Fighting against a wave was different. And once I was consumed by the wave, I assimilated.

Chi Alpha Campus Ministries took me in as well as liberal arts irreligious groups. The multiple crowds around me wanted to take me in because I could smile everyday and agree with them everyday; whether it was about the pro-life movement, abortion, evangelicalism, atheism, democratic capitalism or destroying the White House to form a communist state.

There was no me. I only wanted to be useful to others. It drove me crazy because I never got rid of the discomfort of being around people. Also, with my first days of college set a week after my oldest brother’s military death in Afghanistan, I needed a me to just come to terms with what I thought about the war, terrorists, the family I had left and “what is life”.

Everything intensified the flashbacks and recurring frightening thoughts that were under control when I usually kept to myself, but wasn’t anymore, hours of time obligated to associates. My mental fogginess increased each semester, added to by romantic loneliness I couldn’t express. Once I reached my sophomore year, it was taking me entire days to do small assignments, making homework a fear even though I could past tests and understand information.

I shutdown academically in late 2014. There was a lot of mental noise and I couldn’t sustain a thought long. I couldn’t sleep, had nightmares and heart palpitations and one hallucination. That’s when I went to the UCA Counseling Center to get help concentrating. I was thinking ADD because I just wanted to be successful in school, whether I could be around people or not. I was screened for other things and referred to a psychologist for an official diagnosis which turned  out Asperger’s, Generalized Anxiety, and Unspecified Depressive Disorder and I started taking an antidepressant.

I quit school in spring 2015 and began working as an overnight stocker at Walmart. I still had trouble concentrating and I couldn’t make my time. I wanted to be useful, but I couldn’t because I was so slow. The failure every day spurred suicidal ideations and mid-attempts that got me in The BridgeWay mental hospital 5 times over the course of 2015 and 2016.

The diagnosis was raised to Major Depression. I tried a lot of different medications and doctors, received lots of diagnoses and therapy while afraid to leave the house and returned to living with my mom for safety. I was romantically lonely, but had a hard time saying things to not be alone (still do, but it’s tolerable).

Finally, in 2017, I was relatively stable and remembered that none of my medicines helped me with my concentration. My therapist and psychiatrist gave me the ADD diagnosis I had wanted from the beginning and Adderall.

With my five medicine-regime and coping skills, I came back to UCA in that summer majoring in the only thing that stuck with me: creative writing. Those two years were worth it because I came back to UCA more determined than ever, making the grade again.

I also ended up on the school newspaper. People aren’t scary as they were before because I learned over my time out that I don’t have to always please them and can carve things out myself. I also have my own beliefs on things now, so I don’t let myself get swept up anymore and have my own group of my two best friends (which is enough).

Going to sleep each night knowing I accomplished something in college towards the career I chose for me makes falling asleep behind dark lids in a dark night under a dark bulb palpable.

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