Name: Amanda Topolski @caught_in_confidence
School: The University of Alabama
Year: It is my third year here, but I am a senior
Major: Biology (Pre-veterinary) / MBA
Fave Thing About Campus: Between the beautiful campus and the beautiful people I meet each and every day, it's just such a wonderful experience to go to school here. But if I had to choose one favorite thing, it would be the riverwalk right behind campus. It is so peaceful to just sit and read or to take a walk and the sunsets are absolutely breathtaking!
Dream Job: Owning my own veterinary practice.
What is your connection to mental illness?
I have anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and mild OCD. I'm currently stable with my recovery from my eating disorder. While I was growing up, I never expected to that I would be the individual to get an eating disorder. But, I lost a few pounds over the summer before my senior year of high school and became addicted to it. My eating disorder got really bad when I got to college my freshman year but, thanks to family, friends, and some amazing people, I was able to work through it while remaining at my university.
I work on getting through my anxiety each and every day, between the constant worrying thanks to GAD, the mild OCD, and the semi-often panic attacks.
For everything, I see a psychiatrist, a therapist, and am on medication. I see no shame in any of it - getting help for yourself is what you're supposed to do.
In addition to myself, I've seen loved ones of mine severely harmed by mental illness, which has dramatically increased my passion for ending the stigma. It's difficult to suffer yourself, but it's even worse to see those you love suffering.
How do you deal with stress from school?
Properly dealing with stress is one of the most challenging things for me. Personally, I need to distance myself away from school -- the academic and the extracurricular side of things because all of it can become super overwhelming. Typically, I like to color, write for The Odyssey, bake, watch Friends, listen to my "anxiety playlist" on my phone, and hang out with my friends, family, and boyfriend. Sometimes, even just a quick trip to Starbucks by myself can help me recenter and calm down.
What does your campus do to help with students’ mental health?
My school has a few different ways to help students with their mental health problems. The biggest way is the counseling center where students can get up 10 or 15 sessions per semester. In addition, the student health center has both psychiatrists and a dietician. Aside from that, we have various clubs dealing with mental heath, including NAMI, and they do multiple events per year. One of the biggest events is a walk to raise awareness of suicide.
Do you have any school year self-care tips to share with other students?
During your first few weeks at school, you're going to be both wide-eyed and amazed as well as homesick and a little bit down. Take my advice: do not try and join everything. Choose a few clubs that you're passionate about and that you think will be fun and partake in those. Also, do not try and take more than 18 credit hours- college is about first and foremost about school, but it's also about creating memories that you'll never get the chance to do again. With academics and extracurriculars, organize accordingly and use a planner in order to stay on top of things and reduce stress in the longterm. Besides that, make sure to set aside time for yourself, whether it's exercise, meditation, artwork, music, whatever relaxes you! Also, call you parents and friends back home often- it will definitely brighten your day.
What are you most looking forward to this semester?
I'm actually super excited for my personalized genetic medicine class! Recently we learned about a new study going down at Indiana University about using blood tests to check for individuals' suicide risk based upon genetic markers. I'm very excited for what else that class has to bring.
Besides that, I'm just happy to be back on this beautiful campus with my amazing friends and boyfriend. Roll Tide!