When someone says they “literally had an anxiety attack” when something stressful happens, try thinking about this next time. An anxiety attack is two words I would love to never say again, never have again, and it hurts when you hear someone use a term that is utterly devastating to you as a joking phrase. This is what my anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder is like. Next time you are stressed out and you say you had a panic attack or anxiety attack, reevaluate your phrasing. Please, on behalf of everyone with a mental illness, just think before you speak.

It’s being worried, actually petrified, for no reason at all.
It’s your brain telling you anything and everything is wrong and you have no idea why.
It’s a fog inside your mind that you can’t clear no matter what you do.
It’s your heart racing and palpitating when you aren’t doing anything more than watching TV.
It’s thoughts racing in your mind faster than you can possibly keep up with and an overwhelming feeling to the point you have to give up and zone out of reality.
It’s not being able to fall asleep because you keep replaying the day in your head and what you should have done differently.
It’s not being able to relax because you keep thinking about a mistake you made five years ago that only you remember happening.
It’s getting to an appointment an hour early to make sure you don’t disappoint whomever you’re meeting since there’s always a chance of being late.
It’s checking on your little brother three times in the middle of the night because every noise you hear is him being kidnapped.
It’s texting your dad when he’s alone downstairs and you hear a thump so you can make sure he’s okay and isn’t having a heart attack with no one around to help.
It’s walking into a room and feeling that every single person is staring at you and judging you for everything you’re wearing, everything you do, and everything you say.
It’s not being able to make a phone call because there’s a chance that they will ask you a question you don’t have the answer to and you will make an idiot out of yourself.
It’s locking yourself in your room because being around anybody would take too much energy.
It’s washing your hands a literal hundred times a day with the fear there could still be a germ left.
It’s sanitizing before and after you are in every room, every store, and even your own house.
It’s washing your hands after you get out of the shower.
It’s having to eat food in even numbers.
It’s eating food in certain color orders or matching sizes if they are in multiples.
It’s noticing things that are out of order or out of place and if you don’t tell someone or fix, it will continue to nag you in the back of your mind for the rest of the day.
It’s having to scratch your left leg because you scratched an itch on your right one and it would be uneven if you didn’t.

It’s telling your parents and your doctor.
It’s trying medicine that changes chemical balances in your brain.
It’s researching, learning, and understanding what you are living with.
It’s being diagnosed with a mental illness for over two years, but living with it for twenty-one.
It’s fighting.
It’s surviving.

It’s my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
It’s my Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Brooke Bowie is a twenty-one year old senior at James Madison University graduating in May 2017. She has been living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder for her whole life and has been diagnosed for over two years now. Hearing others talk about their mental illness is what drove her to finally open up and get help, so she strives to be that for someone else. She believes it’s time to end the stigma around mental illness and to begin this fight is to speak up. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Mental illnesses are illnesses, not choices.