woman opens windows and enjoys the landscape

I’m coming out. You might think I am referring to my sexuality, but I’m not. I am referring to the fact that every single day, I wake up and make the decision to put on a brave face and fight what is going on in my mind. I’m coming out as someone who struggles with mental illness, or more specifically, anxiety.

Mental illness began affecting my life when I was 11 years old. When I first started the long battle that comes with my illness, even my immediate family did not know. When I was 11, I had no idea what mental illness was. I convinced myself I was not “normal” and what was going on in my mind deserved to remain a secret. Even my sister, who was and is my best friend, had no idea for over three years how I was struggling. For a long time, I used every excuse I could think of to conceal the secret I thought of my illness as.

Three years after I first started therapy, I spontaneously came out to my best friends. I remember how, when and where I told them. I remember the tears that streamed down their faces and receiving the tightest hugs they had ever given me. This was the first time I realized how amazing it actually can be to open up. I had this big grey area in my life that no one knew about for so long. When I opened up, it was like that grey area had gained some color.

Even though it feels amazing to be honest and open with the important people in my life, I’ve learned it isn’t an easy thing to do.

I will always struggle with anxiety. Even on my good days, one small thing will happen and I lose sleep over it, rather than remembering the other million good things that happened that day. Being honest about the biggest secret I’ve ever kept came along with, understandably, a lot of anxiety. The questioning about whether people will still like me, if they will look at me differently, if they will underestimate me, etc. overwhelmed me on some days. But the reason why I decided to finally be honest is because I realized there are too many people, too many 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds who struggle in silence and may not realize their mental illness does not define who they are.

So today, I’m coming out. I’m coming out to the world, and I’m coming out to the people who will judge me for my decision to be open. Most importantly, I’m coming out to the important people in my life who have had no idea for years that I’ve been struggling. I’m coming out as someone who has dealt with depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, social anxiety and panic attacks. I’m coming out as someone who has seen a therapist for years and has been on medication for almost as long — and is totally OK with that.

To the person reading this, I leave you with one thought: Whether you support or judge me or anyone who lives with a mental illness, know that any battle we fight does not define who we are or who we are going to be. And to the person with mental illness reading this, I leave you with three words — anything is possible. Even learning to manage your illness is possible. Oh, and by the way, it is never too late or too early to come out. It’s OK to acknowledge what you are facing, because I promise you it is powerful.

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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Hello, I am the girl in

the dorm next to you.

I don’t really know how

to say this, so I am going to just speak.

Hello, I am the girl

down the hall.

I don’t know what you’ve

been told about me, so I am just going to speak.

Hello, I am your roommate.

I don’t know what I did

to offend you, so I am just going to speak.

Hello, I am your

classmate.

I don’t want to bother

you, so I am just going to speak.

Hello, I am your

employee.

I don’t want to let you

down, so I am just going to speak.

Hello!

I am a person.

Last semester I almost died by

suicide.

I am a person.

Last summer I lost people I

thought were my best friends.

I am a person.

Last year I was bullied.

I am a person.

Last year I made

mistakes.

I am a person.

Last year I hurt some

people.

I am a person.

Last year I hurt myself,

more.

Hello!

I am a person who

is afraid.

Hello!

I am a person who

is crying out.

Hello!

I am a person who

is sorry.

Hello!

I am a person who

needs a friend.

Hello!

I am a person who

is terrified.

Hello!

I am a person who

needs help.

Hello!

I am a person who

wants to please you.

Hello!

I am a person.

Hello! I am a person.

I don’t

want your pity.

I don’t want your stares.

I don’t want your false friendliness.

I don’t want your

acceptance.

I don’t want anything

from you.

Hello! I am a person. I don’t

want your pity.

I want your friendship.

I want to be invited.

I want to laugh with you.

I want to watch Netflix

until one in the morning with you.

I want to eat in the dining

room with you.

I want to talk to you.

I want to study with you.

I want to work with you.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship.

I need it.

I need tissues.

I need hugs.

I need companionship.

I need help.

I need to listen.

I need to laugh.

I need to forget.

I need comfort.

Hello, I am a person. I don’t

want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it.

I have something.

I have your back.

I have the notes.

I have a shoulder

I have an ear.

I have a smile.

I have an open door.

I have a bed.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it. I have something.

You

can’t see it.

You can’t see my

thoughts.

You can’t see my tears.

You can’t see my longing.

You can’t see my muscles

tense up.

You can’t see my hands

sweat.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it. I have something. You

can’t see it.

I don’t want to explain it.

I don’t want to blame my

fears on it.

I don’t want to blame

you.

I don’t want it.

I don’t know how it

affects me.

I don’t want it to affect

you.

I don’t want to broadcast

it.

I don’t want the world to

know my secrets.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it. I have something. You

can’t see it. I don’t want to explain it. I want to be more than it.

I want to be happy.

I want to be wanted.

I want to be social.

I want to be loved.

I want to be me.

I want to be able to

party.

I want to be able to

drink coffee.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it. I have something. You

can’t see it. I don’t want to explain it. I want to be more than it. Sadly, I

can’t.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t shop.

I can’t drive.

I can’t live.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it. I have something. You

can’t see it. I don’t want to explain it. I want to be more than it. Sadly, I

can’t. I have generalized anxiety disorder.

I have nightmares.

I have medications.

I have panic attacks.

I have irritability.

I have irrational thoughts.

I have coping skills.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it. I have something. You

can’t see it. I don’t want to explain it. I want to be more than it. Sadly, I

can’t. I have generalized anxiety disorder. I am learning to accept and live with it.

I am breathing.

I am meditating.

I am using essential oils.

I am doing puzzles.

I am coloring.

I am journaling.

I am informing myself.

I am sharing my journey.

Hello, I am a person. I

don’t want your pity. I want your friendship. I need it. I have something. You

can’t see it. I don’t want to explain it. I want to be more than it. Sadly, I

can’t. I have generalized anxiety disorder. I am learning to accept and live

with it.

I need something from you:

support.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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I hide my anxiety and depression every day, sometimes without realizing it.

During my career, I’ve been described as “laid back,” “calm during crises” and “always happy.” More often than not, I smile and make jokes even though I feel like I’m about to explode with nervous energy. Sometimes even my parents or husband don’t know I’m not feeling well.

I don’t necessarily mean to keep anything from my loved ones; it’s more that my focus turns inward as my anxiety and depression increase. Bottling up all that negative energy intensifies my symptoms and drains me. Hiding it has also caused me to be misunderstood and relationships to be strained.

Early in my marriage, I learned to be upfront with my husband. This could mean the first thing I say when I walk in the door is “I don’t feel good mentally.” I get an immediate sense of relief when I say those words out loud. It helps him understand the source of my actions and to not take anything personally. We talk about what’s going on (if there were any triggers) and what we need to do to help me in my current state.

Ever since I began writing my first novel, I became much more forthcoming to friends and family about my struggles with anxiety and depression. I’ve found sharing with others is the most therapeutic action I can take! It still astounds me how many people I know who can relate, either from their own experience or a loved one’s. Not only does this help me realize I’m not alone but it allows me the opportunity to help someone.

Especially at work, I still use caution in sharing what I experience. Not everybody understands, and some may even say something insensitive, which no one needs when dealing with mental illness. Call it instinct, but you can usually tell quickly if someone just won’t ‘get it.’ It’s not worth sharing with those people. Simply say, ‘I don’t feel well,’ and leave it at that.

Even though I’ve opened up tremendously over the years about my struggles with anxiety and depression, I’m still working on being more honest about it. I feel being open will only help me to cope, and it might even help someone else!

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Thinkstock photo by Discha-AS


Imagine sitting on a train when suddenly, you feel it crashing. This is real. This is happening. Only it is not. It is happening to you, thus it is your reality. In no way, shape, or form is it unreal, fake, or made up. You look next to you in pain. You see that the train has not crashed for the person sitting beside you. Her train is riding smoothly along the tracks. You grab her arm and ask her for help. She sees you bleeding but does not see the wound. She tries to help, but it comes in the form of useless gestures. She’s unintentionally only made matters worse by drawing attention to the wound.

On the other side of you towards the front of the train, a young boy grasps a teddy bear, which looks to be loved to pieces. The boy’s eyes dart from tree to tree, cloud to cloud as the train whips by each object. His thoughts swirl so obviously and mix in his brownish-green eyes. He worries life will pass him by. He worries he will be forgotten just as he forgets each and every tree. He worries he is only a pine needle on a twig on a stick on a branch on a tree. After being in therapy for years and being told that worrying is senseless, he knows he should not worry. But knowing not to worry does not make it any easier not to worry. He hides his worries well. Others on the train do not seem to notice his worries. But you do. Perhaps it is a bond between worriers.

The lady on your other side, trying desperately assist you, goes to get more help. You know she means well, but help will only draw attention to the problem. Help comes, and to no surprise, doesn’t help. They stop the train at the nearest station, and you and the boy exchange horrified looks. The only thing worse than being mentally pained is people knowing you are mentally pained. Quickly you try to erase all evidence of any mental instability. But trying to hide the problem only causes an even bigger problem, thus drawing more attention to your situation. You are carried off the train on a gurney. All of your senses are heightened. Everything is bigger, brighter, and more real — even the unreal.

This is anxiety. This is how it feels to be worried about things relentlessly for no reason. This is how it feels to have a reality where even when there is no danger, you see every possible dangerous outcome. Your train crashes. Your plane plummets. Your life stops. Everyone is built with anxiety. Everyone is built to worry about some things. But anxiety disorders can be debilitating.

I think one of the hardest things about having a mental condition (severe or not) is explaining it to others so they know you work differently than they probably do. You aren’t defected. You aren’t superior. You work just as efficiently as anyone else. Also, after explaining your condition(s), people tend to treat you with delicacy like they would a porcelain doll. Feeling only more different, your anxiety spirals until it finally gets to the point where you keep all of your feelings inside to stop the poking and prodding.

Finally you wake up in the hospital. You are familiar with this scene. It appears after every few train crashes. Within a few hours you are being wheeled out to your car in a wheelchair. You don’t own a car, so they wheel you to the train station and board you on a train. This time you try to hide your crash.

Follow this journey on KatherynGreenberg.wordpress.com.

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Thinkstock photo by murengstockphoto


This piece was written by Holly Riordan, a Thought Catalog contributor.

1. I eat to fill the silence. When I’m at a party, I migrate to the snack table. When I have chips in my mouth, no one questions why I’m not talking. They just assume I’m hungry.

2. I prep beforehand. If I have to make a phone call or approach a store counter, I’ll rehearse what I have to say before I actually say it. I’ll repeat the words over and over in my head until I have them memorized. Until I’m ready to take on my role as “functional human being.”

3. I act like I’m busy. When I’m sitting in class or riding on a bus, I either shove my face in a book or pop my headphones in. That way, no one will talk to me. That way, I can remain alone.

4. I tone down my emotions. Before I start a new job or go on a first date, I casually text my friends to mention how nervous I am. I try to make it seem like I’m an average person who’s slightly shaken with nerves. I don’t let anyone know how hard my heart is beating and how badly I’ve been shaking.

5. I rely on alcohol. I’m always anxious around other people — unless I have a few sips of beer. Then I actually feel relaxed for once. I know it’s unhealthy, but whenever I go to a party, I head straight for the cooler.

6. I lie through my teeth. My anxiety can make everyday activities feel unbearable. That’s why I’m the queen of canceling plans. I tell my friends I’m sick. Or that I’m swamped with work. But I never let them know I’m staying inside because I can’t imagine stepping outside.

7. I hide my symptoms. If my hands are shaking, I’ll fidget with my jewelry. If my face gets red, I’ll comment on how hot the room is. I’ll make excuses for my physical symptoms so they don’t seem unusual.

8. I dress well. In the morning, I work hard to make my make-up and hair look cute. It’s a little easier to survive social situations when I feel attractive. I figure that, if I look good on the outside, it’ll be harder for everyone to see how much I’m struggling inside.

9. I’ll consider every scenario. Before an interview, I’ll think about every single question I could possibly be asked. That way, when I answer them, it’ll seem like I’m calm and collected, but really, I spent hours stressing over the possibilities the night before.

10. I freak out before big events. I don’t get out of the car as soon as you reach my location. I take a few minutes to obsess over all of the things that could go wrong, and then I force myself to stop hyperventilating and leave. And, when I enter the public eye, no one notices what my anxiety has done to me.

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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Love of my life,

I envy your ability to socialize. I am jealous of how you can walk into a crowded room and immediately make a friend. I’m jealous of how you are able to walk up to a random person and start a conversation. Or how you can walk up and confidently shake a stranger’s hand. I am amazed by the countless amount of friends you have and how you know someone everywhere we go. You are like a social magnet, someone who everyone likes on their first meeting.

I wish I had your ability to work nine hours a day and still want to go out at the end of it and get a drink or two. Or your ability not to need any time to relax or reflect on your day. I am jealous of how you can run on so little sleep and still function throughout your day. I wish I could act like a “normal” young adult like you do, but I can’t.

I wish you understood the pit in my stomach every time I go out with you. I wish you would understand why I am quiet when we are around your friends. It’s not because I don’t like them, it’s just my fear of being judged for saying something wrong. I wish you understood why I broke down when you told me I might have to walk into a wedding by myself. I wish you understood why the smallest thing can spike a panic attack or why one minute I’m smiling and the next I’m fidgeting and biting my nails.

I wish you wouldn’t ask me why I woke up anxious, because I don’t know the answer to this question. I wish you understood there is no reason why I woke up with my heart racing and the empty nauseous feeling in my stomach. I wish you realized the smallest comment can cause a panic attack after a hard week of holding my anxiety in. I wish I enjoyed going out, making new friends and staying out late, but I don’t. I wish you wouldn’t tell me to “just close your eyes” when I can’t fall asleep. I wish you understood that one-on-one conversations with strangers horrify me. I wish you could understand these things but I know you try your best.

I don’t know why I sit at my own family events nervous about where I am. I wish I knew why I can’t eat much at a restaurant or eat in front of your family. Or how the simplest days can make me exhausted. I wish I didn’t think every person we meet is secretly judging me, when I know they actually aren’t. I wish I knew why I can’t eat before we go anywhere. I wish I could give you the answers to these questions.

It’s hard for me to keep up with the few friends I have and I know you secretly think I need more friends. But I am happier this way with the few friends I call my second family. I know it seems like I’m overreacting over my nervousness of presenting a project when it haunts me for days. I know you get annoyed when I tell you I passed with flying colors when you say, “You worry too much.” I know it seems crazy when I worry about a new job for a week straight, but it is just the way I am. I know it is hard for you to understand.

I know you tell me every day there isn’t anything wrong with me. You tell me I’m not crazy, but there are days I don’t believe that.

I hope you don’t find me clingy. I hope it isn’t too much when I miss you the second I leave your side. I hope you don’t find it annoying when I can’t go places without you. I hope it doesn’t seem crazy when I cry after being apart for only one day. But I have never had someone like you before, someone who can make me feel so safe.

I know life won’t be easy together. I know my life will always involve overthinking and stressing over the little things. I know when I graduate college and start working full-time, it won’t be an easy process. I realize many achievements in our lives will be scary for me, but I am thankful I will have you by my side.

I am sorry for the nights I do not speak. I know you think I am mad at you when I’m not talking to you. But I promise I am not mad at you. It is my way of processing my day. I am sorry for the times I randomly start crying while watching television. I tell you I’m overthinking but you always blame yourself. It is never your fault, just my anxiety.

I hope I do not cause you worry. I know how much you care about me, but I don’t always want to be a concern on your mind. I hope you never find me to be a burden, I know I can be a lot to handle. You tell me to stop worrying about your problems, but this is not possible. Your problems are my problems.

Thank you for being my shoulder to cry on. Thank you for holding me through my panic attacks. I know it scares you when I’m lying helpless, unable to breathe. Thank you for missing out on things for me because I know it bothers you. Thank you for trying your best to understand me. Thank you for trying to help me, instead of trying to change me. Thank you for pushing me forward because you know my full potential. Thank you for realizing how hard I work. Thank you for being the one person I’m truly comfortable with. I know I can always act like myself around you. Thank you for always believing in me. Thank you for being my best friend and most importantly thank you for loving me for who I am.

Sincerely,

The love of your life with anxiety

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