I have an anxiety disorder. I’m not afraid to say that. I used to be, but I’m not anymore. And I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people who feel the same way, but are too afraid to speak up because of this pathetic stigma that surrounds mental health. I know that so many people out there at this very moment are too scared to turn to someone and say: “I need help. I’m stuck inside my head and my own thoughts are scaring me. I don’t know what to do.” And what happens to the majority of people who do speak up? They get called attention seekers. Get told to stop worrying, stop thinking about the thing that makes them anxious. If it were that simple, 1 in 6 Britons wouldn’t suffer with this issue every single day.
I started becoming aware of my anxiety symptoms a long time ago, although I didn’t know what they were at the time. I did the standard Google search, and got told it was most likely stress. But… I didn’t feel stressed. I had nothing to be stressed about. I was stressed about the fact that I had stress symptoms even though I wasn’t stressed. It’s a vicious cycle. And progressively, over the years, it got worse. I ended up having panic attacks for no real reason, feeling like everyone and everything was against me. And I didn’t say a word, because no one would understand. I’d get told to snap out of it, because even I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know why I was feeling like this, I just knew that I was.
But then something happened to kick me into gear. Something happened to our family that made me realise that life is too short to not be enjoying it. So, I went to see a doctor. And I can’t pretend that everything has been okay since then, because it hasn’t. But it’s been so much better. I can’t pretend that my family understand what’s wrong with me, but it’s okay, because I can. I know that I’m not okay, but that’s all right. I’m getting the help I need, and I’m not letting my mental health define me, because that’s no way to live.
Okay, I know this wasn’t university related, but it needed to be said. If you ever feel anxious for no real reason, you get heart palpations, you feel short of breath, you feel like your life is just out of control; tell someone. I know it’s hard, because I’ve been there. But what’s harder is to let yourself suffer, especially in silence. I’d like to believe that one day, everyone on this planet will be educated enough on mental health and this stigma won’t exist, and people won’t be ashamed to say they have an anxiety disorder. I’m certainly not anymore. I’m not saying it’s quick or easy, but there is help there. You can start to feel safe in your own mind again, if you speak up. I have an anxiety disorder, and I’m never going to let it define me.