Ever since I could remember I was anxious. I was an outcast from Grade 1 when I entered a new school and was immediately the odd one out because of the color of my skin.

I got used to the teasing and the “Karine go push that kid, we really want you to”, and they would laugh at me but in my little middle schooler mind, so desperate for attention, I would just be grateful I was not ignored for once.

I really had a hard time growing up. Ftting in was never my strong suit. It followed me for years to come and high school was no easier. I was struggling with an inner battle much bigger than anything I could have ever anticipated.

At 16 my social anxiety and feeling of being an outcast got so bad the only thing keeping me grounded and pushing forward was my golden retriever and the endless amount of times I would listen to the Jonas Brothers on repeat.

What I did not realize in all that time was that if I just got out of the small town I was living in. I would realize that not all people were evil, that I could be liked for exactly who I was. I moved out on my own at 19, went to college for the first time and found the first person who I truly felt wanted my friendship.

But despite that, the feeling of anxiety never went away — it only got worse.

I would be so caught up in the feelings of other people that the minute something shifted, my mind never went to “Oh maybe they are just having a bad day” but always “They hate you, they are tired of you, they don’t want you in their lives anymore.” Ridiculous to most people, yes, but to me it was all I knew growing up and honestly, it’s what my mind truly believed.

Anxiety is one of the worst things to suffer from. Your brain is always running a mile a minute and telling you all kinds of things about yourself, the people around you and making you reconsider every decision you have ever made.

So how did I get here? How am I still here?

College is not easy, it’s a scary time in a person’s life and it’s one of the biggest decisions a young person will make in their steps to adulthood. Trying to keep on top of school and work and keep a healthy social life, it’s easy for a young adult to break down to feel frustrated and crushed under the pressure that society expects from you.

Mental health is hard, but my dreams are bigger than the fears and demons living inside my head. I grew up with a single mom who raised me and my brother to believe in ourselves and that we could do anything we wanted to do. She is my biggest supporter to this day. She supports me in every decision I make, from flying across the world to experiencing a big adventure at 21 to moving six hours away to start a new college program.

Like the amazing late Carrie Fisher once said, “Stay afraid but do it anyway; what’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident, just do it and eventually, the confidence will follow.”