Why I'm Not Ashamed of my Mental Illness
Anxiety, panic attacks and depression were something I discovered in high school. Being formally diagnosed with these issues is not something that leaves you hopeful for the future. Seeing a psychiatrist at the age of 15 was not something I was proud of. My anxiety took over my life during my freshman year; it was so bad that I was afraid to leave my house.
I live in a city where public transportation is the easiest way to commute if you don't drive. Being on public transportation was one of the first times I experienced a panic attack. I've always been nervous when it comes to public transit, and as crazy as this may sound, it was because of the strangers on the bus and because of the fear of not knowing where I was at some points. Despite feeling anxious around complete strangers, I have always been fascinated knowing that every single person has a different life story. Do any of these people suffer with issues such as mine?
The question that could be answered automatically, of course. I believe that every single person deals with anxiety, panic attacks and depression to an extent. Theirs may be more extreme than mine, or they may have had it for such a long time that they've learned to deal with it. At 15, I had absolutely no clue how to deal with my anxiety. When taking the bus home from school, I would always make sure I knew where the emergency exits were, just incase something happened. "Just in case" is a phrase I and many other people use to feel more safe or more prepared in different situations. For instance, did I print my English paper that's due tomorrow? Let me set an alarm for the morning just incase I forgot. I know, ridiculous right? But I'm not ashamed that at one point that was my life.
It's been five years since I've graduated high school. It has been a long road of ups and downs, including entering the mindset of depression once again and my anxiety building (though I thought I had it under control). I've taught myself different techniques to help calm myself when I do start to feel anxious, hoping that they work before a full blown panic attack happens.
Let's be real; even though we should not be ashamed of our mental illness, it can be a little embarrassing because not everyone understands. Feeling like you can't breathe, getting an upset stomach - those are not things that are easily explained just by telling people you felt a little anxious. Being that it is 2015, I believe more people are becoming aware of these issues and are trying to learn more about them to help accommodate friends or loved ones that suffer with these illnesses. Over the course of the five years since I have graduated, I have learned more and try to give advice to people who believe they may have anxiety, which is why I started back to college in this fall.
I'm a little bit late to getting my start into college, but guess what? I'm here now. That's what matters. I cannot even begin to describe the anxiety I felt even when applying to schools again. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I travel to my school in the city by taking public transportation. That alone was a huge milestone for me. I never would have imagined going into the city to attend a huge university, that, so far, I love.
I've always had a love for writing and giving advice. As a 23-year-old freshman in college, I've thought a lot about what I've wanted to do. Going into the medical field was my first choice, being that my whole entire family are doctors or physician assistants. But I recently changed my mind; communications/journalism is what I am aiming for. The thought of changing my mind from medicine to journalism is an extreme change, a change that, still, to this day, makes me anxious. But right now, it is what I see myself doing in the future.
I'm sharing my transition from an overly anxious teenager to a normally anxious young adult because anxiety and depression are things you can overcome, whether you believe it or not. I would go home, not leave my bedroom, not interact with my friends, and just sit and write in a journal that I've now had for four years. Even though my journal is extremely personal, there are parts that I will pick out and choose to share with you, and as the years go on, you can "see" (read) my growth.
At 23, I still have no idea who I am, which is another reason why I started so late in getting myself into school. The pressure to find who you are and who you want to be when so young is extremely nerve-wracking, which is why I believe even more young people now deal with these mental issues. You hear this phrase almost every single day; it may come from a friend, you may hear it on TV, you may hear your favorite YouTuber or blogger say, "It gets better." In every single sense of the word, life gets better; you grow and learn with time.
If you ever feel isolated because of an issue, please do not hesitate to speak up. Speak to friends. If you're not comfortable with that, speak to guidance counselors at school (or connect on this website with information about health and wellness; most, if not all, are anonymous), or talk to me (here's my Twitter and Instagram). If you feel strong enough and know that this is something that needs to be confronted, talk to your parents about seeing someone, a professional. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that you may need professional help, but that is a way to recovery. Every single person who deals with an issue in her life is brave and strong. You, reading this, are brave and strong. Life can and will throw curveballs at you when you least expect it, but remember, you will overcome this.
Keep staying strong.