It is important to remember that the best plan for dealing with anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress is the plan that you make with your doctor. Every individual situation is different, so an open dialogue with your care provider is the best way to handle difficulties at school.
PTS vs PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a heavily stigmatized diagnosis that the healthcare industry uses to label individuals who experience a great amount of post-traumatic stress (PTS). PTS is a natural response to a stressful situation. A diagnosis of PTSD is not necessary for an individual to be having symptoms of PTS.
What Should I do?
Many schools have disability resources offices for students who have a documented disability. The individuals in these offices are willing and able to help students with things like test-taking, designing a schedule, or even just sitting and talking about what is going on. I visit the disability resources center at least once a semester at my university. It does not mean I am a bad person, it does not mean I am incapable or weak. It is just a way for us to get a little extra help with some of the things we struggle with. If your school does not have one of these offices, talk to your academic adviser, a favorite professor, a fellow veteran, or a new friend. College campuses are full of so many different types of people, and although it may be frightening to reach out to someone new, it can be incredibly beneficial.
Curious if your school of choice provides these types of resources? Look them up using our School Matchmaker Tool to see exactly what Veteran Resources they have available on campus, as well as ratings from current veterans who attend!
Dealing with Anxiety
Anxiety can be extremely debilitating, but with courage and strength we can beat it! Anxiety can manifest itself in several ways. I struggle with being around groups of people, speaking in front of classes (i.e. answering questions, engaging professors in discussion, and giving presentations); I even have a difficult time walking across campus sometimes. Others struggle with exam-taking, submitting papers, and other situations.
Anxiety is not cured with a simple medication, or a quick visit to the doctor’s office. It is a continuous battle, but it is absolutely something that can get better. One of the best things for anxiety is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is the convention that through repeated exposure to situations that make us anxious, we can learn that negative results do not occur. Through some event or events we have learned that certain situations lead to negative consequences (I use the term “negative consequences” with full knowledge that this oftentimes understates reality). However, when we are continually exposed to situations that make us anxious (like walking across campus or speaking in front of a class) and no negative consequences result, our brains can be retrained to understand that there is not a need to be anxious.
The exposure therapy convention shows us that there is a very real way to beat anxiety; the downfall, though, is that the process can be long and exhausting. Continued resilience in attending classes and doing the things that make you anxious can lead to decreased anxiety.
Dealing with Depression
Depression is a truly difficult obstacle to overcome but, like anxiety, it is completely possible. Depression can lead to anxiety, hopelessness, and even the desire to stop trying. This can cause not only strain in relationships, but also in school and work. One important way to deal with depression is to talk about it. Writing is a great tactic for those of us who may not have someone to talk to. Another important thing to keep in mind is to not overload yourself. Check out my article titled Work Hard, Play Hard to read about some of the benefits of down time.
Have a plan. Try to figure out what it is you want to do with your degree. If you don’t know what kind of job you want then think about what field you want to get into. We can also work to find something that we love to do. I love writing; besides my job as a writer for G.I. Jobs, I write poetry with a veterans poetry charity. Hobbies are incredibly important.
Dealing with PTS
Post-traumatic stress is a scary and difficult thing to deal with. It can manifest itself as anxiety, depression, and other things. Dealing with PTS is very difficult alone, so we recommend you connect with friends, fellow veterans, professors, or classmates. It is important to remember that PTS is a NATURAL response for people who have been in traumatic situations. Asking for help does not mean we are weak. Asking for help means we are human.
Who Should I Approach?
Finding the right people to approach about these obstacles can be difficult. Check out our article on recognizing personality types. I find it helpful to have several people to talk to, all with different opinions and backgrounds. This sometimes makes it difficult when I get conflicting opinions and advice, but it allows me to see my situation from a multitude of different points of view and make decisions from there.