Anxiety disorder drives student to Whitworth

by Lindsie Wagner

Sitting down to do Spanish homework, her heart begins to audibly pound. Her brain races from subject to subject — concentration is near impossible. All she can do is try to take deep breaths and concentrate.

Freshman Kathleen Zeitz often feels this reality as she sits at her desk and attempts to begin her homework. She was diagnosed with anxiety during her senior year of high school, and has found homework, especially Spanish, to be a trigger of her anxiety attacks.

“I love working with professors here, but it can be frustrating,” Zeitz said. “A lot of the professors understand ADHD and depression, but not anxiety because it’s less common.”

Zeitz’s disorder affects more than her academics, though. It is also what brought her to Whitworth.

Before being diagnosed with anxiety, Zeitz had planned to enroll in a school where she could enter an Air Force ROTC program and then enlist upon graduation. Due to her anxiety, though, she is not eligible to enlist in the military.

“I went as far as getting a three year military scholarship,” she said. “Then, I got diagnosed with depression, which turned out to actually be anxiety.”

When Zeitz found out her dreamed-of military career would be impossible, she decided to attend Whitworth, as she had heard good things from her sister who is an alumna. At the time, she considered going into psychology, but eventually decided on elementary education.

“I knew I wanted a career where I would be helping people,” Zeitz said. “And when I’m around kids, my anxiety goes away.”

Setting aside her anxiety disorder, Zeitz is also different from the majority of Whitworthians in her religious beliefs. She is spiritual, but not religious, she said. Zietz has found this sometimes results in judgment from other students.

“I’ve felt what I call ‘the look,’ when I tell people I’m not Christian,” she said. “I can feel their entire perspective of me change in an instant.”

Zeitz said that she shares many values with the Christian faith, though.

“Most of what Christ says makes sense,” she said. “The Ten Commandments—they make sense. Who’s going to say that it’s not a good idea to abstain from murdering or stealing or lying?”

She said that her personal philosophy is that people should do as they please, as long as their actions will bring no harm to others.

Zeitz said she found Core 150 to be fascinating because of her beliefs.

“I treated it not so much as a religious class, but a culture class,” she said. “It was interesting to get a perspective into Christian views.”

After she graduates, Zeitz plans to either teach in a low-income area or join the Peace Corps. She eventually wants to become a Department of Defense teacher, instructing military children in schools overseas.

“I miss the military life,” Zeitz said. “I eventually hope to be a part of it again in some way.”

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