So I just found out that today is actually World Mental Health Day (or was it yesterday?). Now if you’ve been following me for a while, you would know why it is absolutely impossible for me to let today go by without acknowledging it.
When I was 12, I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). When I was 14, I went through about a year and a half of what I could only describe as depression. Undiagnosed because no one cared to see through my facade but depression nonetheless.
This year, my biggest challenge was managing my anxiety. I have always been an anxious person. When it comes to dealing with people outside my family, I immediately retreat. When it comes to events, meeting new people, going to new places, I freak out. That has been a constant my whole life. This year though, I feel like I got a lot worst. I started getting more anxiety attacks, I started feeling trapped, I started having to isolate myself in school to calm down and that began a fear of rejoining my school mates because I felt like I had pushed myself too far away from them.
Not many people know that I struggle with anxiety and anxiety attacks because I try not to tell people. I brush lightly on it on this blog sometimes but I’ve never really told anyone about how more often then not, I spend my nights tossing in bed and thinking about something. I slowly find myself going off tangent and obsessing over one sentence I said that day or one thing I didn’t do right. Very quickly the thoughts will build up and will begin to stifle me. I will start to struggle to breathe, I’ll feel like throwing up and I have to start screaming at myself to let go so that I can just take a breath. Just. One. Breath. Because that first breath is always the first step you take to calm yourself down.
This year it became more then just having anxiety attacks at night in my room. I started panicking in school. I’ve actually had to call my mom a few times so that she can talk me through an anxiety attack. I’ve had to leave class sometimes and calm myself down in the bathroom. I’ve had to isolate myself so much so that I spent the whole of last semester by myself. And people don’t understand that. They look at someone like me and they think that I’m being arrogant because I hide in a corner when I have lunch. Because I don’t sit with anyone in the lecture hall. Because I’m always by myself. They just don’t get how much effort it is for me to hold a conversation. How much I will torture myself after each conversation. “Why did you say that?”, “They don’t care about what you have to say.”, “They probably think you’re retarded.”, “You’re just so so stupid. Why can’t you get anything right?”.
This year has not been the easiest. I have experienced a lot of things, been to places and done new things and not everything was good. Of course. There were some horrible experiences. But my biggest accomplishment was that I survived. I survived the death of my grandpa. It was so hard. No one thought about how hard it would be for me and I had so many anxiety attacks remembering his funeral and his cremation. But I survived. I went to a very big conference and I had to interview people. I nearly cried but I did it. I was the editor of a magazine and I was working with a team of people that I barely knew but I did it. Even though I would sometimes cry myself to sleep and doubt myself, I did it. I can look back over the last 10 months and be proud of myself because I pushed myself to say yes to opportunities and even though I broke down many times, I got back up and I did it.
I still struggle a lot with my anxiety. In fact, I’m going back to school in a week and I don’t know what that’s going to be like. I don’t know if I’m looking at another semester of eating lunch alone every single day. I don’t know if I’m looking at months of being the only person that sits alone during lectures again. I really don’t know and that scares me a lot. But I can take comfort in the fact that I am working on myself and that I’m getting better.
You have no idea how much writing this took from me. You have no idea how hard it was for me press the publish button. You don’t know how much I deleted before putting this up. I actually only wrote this because to me, my blog is a safe place. I don’t ever want people in my life thinking of me differently but sometimes it gets too much and I need to talk. And I usually don’t have any anyone to talk to but my little community of readers. To me, my community is safe and that is the only reason why I’m talking about it.
I wrote this not because I want to gain any sympathy. Instead I’m writing this because I want to help someone with my experience. I have read a lot of blog posts, comments and articles on anxiety and it’s just so comforting to know that I’m not alone. Unless you struggle with something like this, you will never know how wonderful it is to know that you are not alone. You aren’t crazy. It’s not just you. It’s such a strange but lovely feeling.
So I’m writing this because living with any mental illness, no matter how small, is difficult. It’s not as easy as a physical illness. It takes years and years to be able to accept yourself and to get better. It’s not as easy as taking a pill or getting surgery done. Mental illness is something that is so hard to handle. It’s hidden. No one can see that you have it and because of that, no one really knows that you might need help or that you need them to be patient with you.
So happy World Mental Health Day to anyone struggling with a mental illness and to the beautiful people that love us regardless. To the special people we call to talk us down, to the loving people that see through our facades. Happy World Mental Health Day. You’re so special.