Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Those three words changed the course of my life forever. Now, I know that I have always been a bit “different” in respects to my peers. No other students double and triple checked about the due date of an assignment. They didn’t go into an anxious panic because the plan was changed. Oh, and my favorite, they didn’t throw up every night before bed because they got so worried that they wouldn’t sleep. None of them had anxiety to the extent that I did.
I am officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety, PTSD, and Depression. So many different titles to the witch’s brew that is my mind. I was diagnosed with these conditions when I was just 14 years old, but have long suffered and have been blamed for them since early childhood. Mental Illness is a tricky thing. Today, there are many resources, commercials, and overall awareness about it. When I was a kid in the early 2000s, it was severely lacking. I was written off as extremely shy, weird, clingy, and perfectionist freak. What nobody saw and what I couldn’t express, was that I was being forced to be this way.
Beginning treatment was the hardest thing I ever did. Being desperate for help, yet having your mind fighting you the entire time made for a difficult time. I wish all the time that I had the resources back then that I do now. I was told that I need to retrain my brain in order to get better. How the heck do you train your brain, let alone retrain it? On and off so many different medicines, going through different therapies, and having several deaths in the family made for a steep slope of decline. Not to mention being a teenager and truly realizing for the first time how different you are from everyone else. That you are not “normal”.
Those years were the roughest of my life. However, I chose to fight, I fought against all those demons in my head. When they screamed at me, I cowered, but spit out a quiet no back. I was beginning to see that there is no “fixing” anxiety. There is no fixing me. For a long time that devastated me. I saw myself as someone who was broken and unworthy. I felt that I wasn’t worth the space I took up.
Little did I know, that these intrusive thoughts were not my own. I began to learn that my brain likes to lie to me. It enjoys being conniving and evil. My mind would do anything to destroy me. In fact, your brain actually gets a high from the adrenaline rush. Weird, right? My mind was basically ruining my entire existence for its own satisfaction. If that is not pure evil, then I do not know what is.
Mental illness is tough in the aspect that no one can help you progress, except you. Doctors and therapists can give you all the right tools and medicines, but none of it will matter unless you decide to step into the fight. I chose to become an active part of my treatment because I realized that it was my only chance to change my life. I went through years of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, dream analyzing, deep breathing, meditation, you name it.
With modern medicine today, there is a big conception out there that anything can be treated with medicine. You can get better, healed, fixed, whatever. Mental Illness is a loophole to this type of thinking. I can never get rid of my anxiety. It will always share the same headspace as I, but I can choose to embrace it. Anxiety has become part of me, but it does not define me. It has shaped who I am, given me empathy, and made my personality. Anxiety is a huge part of what makes me a unique individual.
I will always have anxiety and other co-morbid conditions. There is nothing I can do to change that. However, I can use my resources and the “good” place that I am at in my head to help someone else. I have always wished that someone who knew what I was going through was there to help me out all those years ago. Yet, it seems like I get to be this person for other people. I have been given the opportunity to help my friends online and in person to get help for their anxiety before it became a serious problem.
As I see it, my situation in life has given me two choices. I can sit and wallow in self-pity or I can be proactive and be an advocate for others like me. There is still a stigma about even the phrase “mental illness”, despite the amount of awareness gained in twenty years. We are still criticized, ostracized, and left out. People still are unaware that having a mental illness does not mean that I am going to murder you on the spot.
I want to be part of changing this thought process. I want to end the stigma for myself and all of the other warriors out there. We are all individuals who have individual needs. We all like different types of music, do our hair in different ways, and like to talk to friends. This is because we are people. Human beings. Not human weirdos to be scared of because they deal with a mental health condition. You don’t see me freaking out because someone has a cast on their arm? Or cancer? I didn’t decide that they are suddenly less than, because they deal with something. So why cant others do that for us?
I want you to be encouraged by reading this article. You will get to a better place if you choose to. Be active in your treatment and be kind to yourself. I mean think about it, the only thing tough enough to fight you is you. You can progress and you can choose to embrace the cards you’ve been dealt. Know that you are not alone in your journey. There are millions of fellow warriors fighting by your side. I believe in you.