I’ve lived with anxiety my whole life. I didn’t realize all of my fears and hesitations since I was a child were a result of anxiety until I was in my early 20s and learned what exactly anxiety is and how it can manifest itself.
When I was young, I was always scared to try new things and activities, worried I would fail or things would go wrong. I was so worried about how others saw me, I always just wore jeans and a hoodie or T-shirt, despite wanting to wear “cuter” clothes. I almost never spoke out in class unless specifically called on. I successfully became invisible in school, and didn’t have any close friends. Some people just deemed me as shy, and while to a point that may have been true, it went way beyond that. I was constantly worried about everything, and the social pressures of childhood/teenhood just made it worse. I fell on and off into depression.
My anxiety also manifested in more debilitating ways, like semi-severe phobias, hypochondria and insomnia. I was always scared I had serious diseases. I would constantly worry about my loved ones dying to the point of not being able to sleep and crying all night long.
Because I had depression for so long, I’ve found ways to deal with it. But, I’m tired of just dealing with it — I can’t keep half-living. My anxiety keeps me from fully enjoying life, and I’m tired of being hindered by it.
At my age, you start thinking about settling down and getting your life grounded, but I literally can’t settle down — I am constantly on edge. With the “help” of some previous bad working experiences at previous jobs, I am constantly worried about not being good enough at work. The thought of dating and getting married causes me so much anxiety I get physically sick at the prospect. But the idea of being alone the rest of my life sends me into depression, which has its own toll on my body. Some people don’t realize your mental health can affect your physical health, but they are intricately linked. There is a mind-body connection that exists in all people. This is why how you take care of your body can affect your energy and mood. So, it only makes sense that your mental health can adversely affect your physical wellbeing as well.
As an adult, I know there are better ways to address my anxiety, but here is where I run into a problem: I have anxiety about getting help for anxiety. I know I have anxiety and depression. I know there are things people can do to get help, like talk to counselors or take medications, but it’s hard for me to do these things. Going to see doctors in general puts me in a panic, but there are other factors that add to my hesitation.
The stigma our culture places on counseling and medications has been ingrained in me. I worry about what people will think of me if I started to see a psychiatrist. Only “crazy” people need mental help, right? That’s the way our culture has portrayed it — seeking help is for people who can’t get it together on their own. Often, people with depression or anxiety are just told that they just need to change their outlook, it’s all a “choice.” Additionally, I worry about taking and becoming reliant on medications, and the side effects they might have; it’s not “natural” to mess with the chemicals in your body, right?
While it’s hard to tell a person with anxiety to stop worrying about these things — though many still try — it’s important to try overcome these thoughts. An article from Bradley University points out reasons to overcome counseling stigma, and the one that hit me the most was “recognizing that you are not crazy.” While I often feel crazy, especially when my more irrational fears come into play, I have to know I’m not. Reasons beyond my control seem to dictate how I feel about things, and needing help to overcome those feelings is not crazy.
That article also mentions “knowing you’re not alone,” which is actually what has helped me come to terms with the idea of medication. Several of my friends I’ve made recently have helped me to realize many people rely on medication, whether it was them or someone they know. Their non-reaction to me mentioning I think I need to be on something wasn’t met by an uncomfortable attitude and an unhelpful comment, but by encouraging statements of “that really helped me, too!” and “that’s awesome, I hope it’s helpful!”
With the encouragement of my friends, and after finally realizing that if I’m ever going to feel better I need the help, I’ve taken steps towards wellbeing. Three weeks ago, I went to a doctor. She prescribed me a medication. After two and a half weeks of being too anxious to start, I have finally taken the first pill. I hope it helps.