Who Am I?

Hey. I’m Zach Westerbeck.

 

And above all else, I am the partner to an amazing woman. I’m also a professional mental health speaker, College Success Coach, and author of the book “You’re Not Alone”.  My mission is to help educate college students and organizations around the world to understand the complexities of depression and anxiety in today’s modern society.

Candidly, I didn’t always know this would become my life’s work. I’ll explain.

In late 2015 I began to experience physiological symptoms in my body that I was unfamiliar with. At first, it was a pounding heart, dry mouth, sweaty palms and racing thoughts every morning as soon as I woke up. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I didn’t like it.

Because I wasn’t educated on the signs of anxiety, I decided to keep this to myself and figure it out on my own. In all of my infinite wisdom, I determined that my brain had flipped a switch, like how someone turns a light bulb on and off, and all I needed to do was flip it back to the way it was before.

As I wearily rolled into 2016, the symptoms of anxiety had intensified and an additional emotion had crept in. That was depression. Like a thick, grey fog rolling over the hill and into my life, my brain was filled with feelings of deep sadness and hopelessness.

I was 24 years old, living in a new city far from home and battling a foe no one else could see and I couldn’t understand.

With panic beginning to set in I desperately tried everything I could to eradicate the feelings. No matter what I tried, nothing worked. Within a few months’ time, not only was I experiencing severe anxiety and depression, but I was thinking about suicide from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep.

It wasn’t until I hit my rock bottom moment, where I seriously contemplated suicide to end the psychological pain, that I realized I needed to get help.

I confided in my support system and ultimately scheduled my first appointment with a psychologist.

In late 2016, I was diagnosed with a chronic anxiety disorder known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where the core symptoms are severe anxiety, deep depression and thoughts of suicide.

By utilizing intensive talk therapy, meditation, persistence, and making lifestyle changes I was eventually able to get my symptoms to a manageable place.

Through my journey of recovery I promised myself that if and when I got better, I would never let anyone else suffer in silence. I became Mental Health First Aid certified and began traveling the country sharing my story with thousands of college students.

My recovery was not easy or short. It took a lot of effort to relearn my brain, but years later, I am so thankful that I took the necessary step of seeking professional help. It has made all the difference in my life.

I recovered so I could prove to others that they could too. Now, my goal is to get in front of as many people as possible to let them know they are not alone and that hope for recovery is always possible.