I was diagnosed with severe anxiety in my first year of High School.
Being around 13 years of age and coming to terms with a diagnosis of what is seen to be a mental illness was not an easy thing to do.
At the age of 13 the meaning of anxiety was not known to those around me and in some sense, I didn’t truly understand it myself. There was this stigma that anxiety was a fashion trend, it was as cool as buying a new purse, it showed need for attention and popularity. It came along with people pretending they had a mental illness to fit in, that if they were remotely upset and cried that they had anxiety. I struggled to be able to tell anyone about my diagnosis because I was scared of the reaction I would get. I was scared of people judging me for something that I wasn’t able to control.
I felt it caused me to slow down in my process of growing up, if I didn’t have such a supportive family around me I feel I would have still been stuck in that state to this day. I spent my time moving from friendship group to friendship group but never felt as if I fitted in anywhere. I would spend endless nights lying awake in bed thinking about how people were only friends with me out of pity and how I was part of a large-scale joke. I never felt as if I wanted to make friends because it felt as if it was too much hassle than gain. I had to make myself become more independent.
I was unable to speak to people over the phone. People had fears of dying, clowns, scary movies but mine was having to hold a conversation over a mobile device. It sounds ridiculous but to me it was the end of the world. The thought of something going wrong loomed over me all the time, people don’t like speaking on the phone and I understand that but I would never answer my phone. I would watch it ring out and if a person rang again I would turn my phone off completely.
I never wanted to go anywhere by myself. I hated shopping. I would never be able to look around a shop by myself or be able to buy anything. The scenario came along with many things going wrong, I could run out of money, I could buy the wrong thing, I could stutter my words, things people didn’t ever think about caused me to stop myself from doing basic human duties.
I had panic attacks over things that people wouldn’t think twice about. I ended up in an ambulance because I got so freaked out over being stuck in an unknown town. I cried because I felt like an embarrassment to those around me but I felt embarrassed of myself.
I decided to write this because I feel as if this label does not claim hold of me anymore.
I finished High School. I sat my exams without constantly breaking down the night before.
I have a job. I speak to new people every day.
I answer the phone. I put myself in situations that at one point would have been my worst nightmare.
The stigma behind mental illnesses is that they are a weakness. That its something that gnaws away at you until it defeats you but in order for me to grow I had to fight that stereotype and I am proud of how far I have come. I aspire to be able to go even further.
I’m not “cured.” I don’t ever think I see a time in my life where the diagnosis will be gone. I don’t believe that any medication or amount of times telling somebody “how I feel” and how I can “only make myself better” will improve my mental wellbeing. I answer the phone but still have the thought that something could go wrong. I pay for things myself but check I have the correct amount of money in my hand several times before. I walk down the street but sometimes have to hide when seeing someone I know. It will always be there, always stuck at the back of my mind but it no longer consumes me.
I posted this not as an attention seeking message and I hate that the feeling of “attention grabbing” comes along with people speaking out about how they suffer. Seeing people speak out about mental illness made me stronger because it comes from the people you least expect.
I posted this because I made myself stronger, I did that by myself. I didn’t find a cure but I sure as hell made an improvement.
I no longer let anxiety define my life.