Audrey Whelan's Story
For almost ten years, Audrey has been struggling with mental health conditions. Read below as she shares her story of ups and downs, and the support she has felt from her sisters in the Greek Community.
"My name is Audrey Whelan. I’m a senior here with a business management and marketing double major and a minor in psychology. I’m kind of in that exploration stage of senior year where I don’t really know which direction I want to go to just yet.
My journey with mental health started in the beginning of high school. I started experiencing depression, which took the form of very consistent low moods. For weeks and months at a time, I never wanted to leave my room. I was tired all the time, I was always sad and I didn’t know why. My sophomore year I went through a breakup, and it went downhill from there. There was a lot of negative thinking and hopelessness. I self-harmed
for a brief period of time. Fortunately, I was able to talk to my family about it.
I started seeing a psychiatrist when I was a junior in high school. There was this difficult trial and error period while we were trying to figure out which medications were right for me. I’d never been to any kind of counseling before, so I was just getting used to that. It was definitely not an overnight process. Eventually I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t just sad because I went through a breakup, or I was having problems with my friends. I was sad because there was a chemical imbalance in my brain.
I don’t really know when it started, but I also experienced general anxiety, social anxiety, and panic attacks. It came and went throughout high school. My freshman year of USC was when it started relapsing. I thought it had gotten better, so I stopped taking medication, but coming from out of state and not knowing a lot of people in addition to taking new difficult classes, I was so scared that it was going to get bad again. In high school I never considered suicide, but I thought about it a lot. I knew what a dark and terrible place that was, and I didn’t want to go back. My second semester here, I started seeing a psychiatrist to get back on medication.
Because my family has always been so open to talking about mental health, I didn’t have an issue talking about it to my friends. I know it’s something that is a part of me- it’s something I’m not ashamed of. When I was experiencing difficult and challenging times, I turned to my friends. My freshman year I joined the sorority Alpha Delta Pi. Being in a community of women who share similar values to me and are open and willing to get to know me and get to know my story has been one of the most influential parts of my college experience.
It’s a constant battle. At the beginning of this year, I decided to finally go to the counseling center and use my 10 free sessions. It takes courage to go into a public place, to sit in the lobby, and think “they’re judging me because I’m here.” But it’s not like that. Sometimes the biggest obstacle between you and your wellbeing is yourself. I was able to get over that fear of 'What will people think if they know I was going to counseling,' and I realized that it doesn’t matter. I know that the more proactive I can be with my situation, the better it will be.
My biggest advice to people is to not be ashamed of getting the help that you need. Know that mental health doesn’t only mean that someone has a mental illness that requires treatment. Rather, it's simply a conscientious effort toward taking care of your mental wellbeing. When you’re really stressed, it’s taking a bubble bath, watching Netflix, or talking to your friends. If something doesn't feel right- there is always something that can be done about that. Tell someone how you're feeling- a friend, a family member, a professional. In the end, know that there is always help out there, and you are not alone."