It’s no secret that with our recent generations that there has been a significant increase in people having anxiety. The constant intake of social media and comparing ourselves to other’s highlight reels on the internet certainly doesn’t help that statistic either. But the fact that we grew up in a time where technology changed and advanced so quickly and so many other factors of modern society, it’s no wonder that so many of us are suffering from anxiety.
The most infuriating thing for anyone struggling with mental health issues is when someone belittles it or says that the overall illness is not real. Unfortunately, this is the reality of the world we’re living in, but it doesn’t always have to be like this; we can be the generation that breaks the stigma of mental health/illness. What I want for my future children and future generations is that they don't have to feel alone when they feel that something might be wrong with them. I want them to be able to talk about what they're feeling and going through freely and without judgment. And that starts with us right now.
So, since it is Mental Health Awareness Month I wanted to take a minute to open up about my struggles with anxiety. I don’t have anxiety as bad as some other people have it and some people have less anxiety than I do, but it’s still something that I struggle with every day. And, of course, there are some days/weeks/months that are better than others.
When I was in elementary school, I had no problem with speaking in front of others. I was always quieter than most kids, but it never bothered me when I had to give a book report in front of the class or read out loud. I started noticing something was “off” in me in middle school, but it wasn’t bad yet. It was nothing that couldn’t be blamed on other things like puberty or the mean girls.
When I was a freshman in high school is when I really knew something wasn’t right anymore. Things felt like they took a downward spiral really fast. This is when I really felt like I was depressed, and nothing was that fun to me anymore. But I still couldn’t explain what I was feeling or why I was feeling it. Sure, there were other factors like family and friend issues and bullying, but that wasn't quite it either.
I had gotten so desperate to figure out what was wrong with me that I started googling my issues, things like feeling nervous/tense all the time, feeling tired for no reason, increased sweating and heart rate when I had to talk in class. That was just the tip of the iceberg of what I was feeling. Even now, I find it hard to describe what exactly I'm feeling when I'm having an episode and all I can tell my mom or my boyfriend is that I feel anxious and panicked and I don't know why. So, after I googled my symptoms things like generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety came up and that's when I started to feel less crazy about how I was feeling because I finally had a word for everything I was constantly feeling.
Last week, for example, I’ve been out of school for the summer for a week and I’ve just been relaxing but as I tried to relax I had an overwhelming rush of anxiety and panic take over my entire body and I couldn’t sit still. I paced around the house and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus on a single activity to calm myself down. Nothing was working, and I couldn’t pinpoint what was actually wrong either and honestly, I still don’t know what was wrong.
Another example that was by far the scariest moment that I experienced with my anxiety was this past semester, I was at school killing time before work doing homework when all of the sudden I felt like I couldn't breathe and tears starting to well up and all I knew is that I had to leave where I was immediately. I sat in my car for 20 minutes before work trying to calm down when I wasn't even sure what I was panicking about. That was the first time an episode was that intense, and thankfully it's been a few months since that and it hasn't happened again.
Basically, what I want you to take away from this post is that even if someone’s life looks pretty and perfect on the outside that might not always be the case. You never know what people are struggling with on the inside, so try to be a little kinder, online and offline, to each other. You gain nothing by being mean and you lose nothing by being kind to others.
I'm not defined by my anxiety and if you're struggling with a mental illness you're not defined by it either. We are so much more than what we struggle with.
R E S O U R C E S:
Is there anything any of you struggle with that you're willing to talk about? Or ways you cope with anxiety or other mental illnesses? I'd love to hear your stories and suggestions!