August 3rd was a day I marked on my calendar very early this year. It was my graduation day. The sleepless nights, anxiety, mania and exhaustion were battle scars and my diploma was my victory. As I watched my fellow classmates enroll in campus classes, I remained in my online classes, content to be in the safety of my little house. I only had to drive to campus for supervised exams and then I got to go home again. As summer passed, August loomed closer and my excitement mounted. I bought my cap and gown. There were announcements with my name on them. I felt disconnected, as though it was not real. I compulsively checked my online account 4-5 times daily until graduation day because I was certain a mistake had been made. I called the records office and was told multiple times it was correct. Finally the big day arrived! Me, a college graduate. Sure, I am 30, but it made it sweeter. I got my nails done, my hair done and put on the outfit I had carefully chosen. After being in public all day, interacting and overwhelmed, I ignored the feeling of panic inside of me. I chalked it up to graduation jitters. There was no rehearsal for graduation which made me feel unsure and confused. It was a new social situation and I had these racing thoughts from my anxiety. Finally, we began to walk into the auditorium and I saw the stage; the stage I was supposed to walk across, in heels. We stood for ceremonial purposes and I began to feel the room swirling around me and black spots in my eyes. Still, I stood. Praying for relief, we were finally motioned to sit. As I sat down, the words coming from the podium were quieted by the ringing in my ears. Before I knew what was happening, I had nearly fallen out of my seat. My anxiety attack had become so severe I was barely able to stay conscious and my heart was racing. I ran out of the building in tears and disappointment. My crowning achievement in academia was overshadowed by my mental illness. I was taken to an urgent care center and given an exam and an EKG because the doctor was so concerned with my heart pounding. However, despite this experience, I would do it all again. My error was not listening to my body because I was convinced I was above it all that day. I did not take care of myself and I got very sick. I still earned my degree and it cannot be taken away. Education is fiercely important to me. As the school year begins for so many, please come up with a plan with your medical team or educate your teachers on your illness. There is no shame in it at all. Being prepared sets you up for success. Good luck to all the students this year and take care of yourself. You deserve it.