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I hate the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

I hate it because it means when people actually need help, they may not seek it for fear of judgment.

I hate it because people may ignore their own feelings when the world is telling them to just “deal with it.”

I hate it because people may be ashamed to admit they need medication to get through a period in their life – or forever.

I hate it because people who are brave enough to get help may be mocked or ridiculed by some.

I hate it because, for most of my life, that person living in fear of judgment has been me.

Until today.

This afternoon I found myself in tears on a doctor’s office table, explaining how I’ve struggled with anxiety for pretty much my entire life. How I was told I was just shy. How I was told to take this vitamin or eat this food. How nothing I’ve ever tried has worked.

I talked about my anxiety in crowds. My anxiety in small groups. The irrational thoughts that overwhelm my mind, always thinking about the worst-case scenario. Replaying conversations obsessively. Trying to convince myself I’m being irrational but my brain doesn’t listen.

It shouldn’t have taken me as long as it did to take this step, but now I have, I feel lighter.

I walked away today with a prescription and a referral for therapy — something that up until recently I would have been ashamed to admit. But 2017 is about taking care of me and taking control of my life, no matter what anyone thinks.

I don’t know if I’ll need treatment for a season or for a lifetime, but I am so excited about being healthy and happy. A better mom. A better wife. A better friend. A better person.

Today I learned it’s OK not to be OK. I learned it’s OK to get help if you need it. I learned taking care of your whole self is nothing to be ashamed of.

And I’ll be better for it.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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I’ve always been a people pleaser. From a young age, I had a lot of anxiety when it came to any kind of confrontation, having to disagree or say no to someone or something. Since beginning therapy, my therapist told me something that has continued to stick with me. She said, “Erica, you’re an adult. You do not have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable or anxious, regardless of the circumstances.”

Therapy has taught me many things, but one of the most inspirational lessons has been the art of saying no. I’ve learned not only is it OK to say no, sometimes it’s the right choice for you.

Here are some new mantras I’ve learned in the art of saying no:

1. Stick up for yourself.

This is something I’ve always had trouble with. When you’re a people pleaser, sticking up for yourself becomes difficult. You come across the anxiety of making others angry and for me, having others not like me. I’ve always had a good deal of anxiety when it comes to how others see me and the act of sticking up for myself directly affects that. It’s so important to know when you’re being disrespected and protect yourself, rather than let a situation build and build until it either explodes or ruins a relationship. Yes, sticking up for yourself could ultimately ruin a relationship anyway, but if someone has a problem with you protecting yourself, they weren’t a good friend to begin with.

2. Know your worth.

Please understand you do not have to put up with anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Anxiety affects everyone differently and people who have more serious bouts can feel anxious for smaller things and that can be hard to understand for people who aren’t in the same mind frame. If you find yourself becoming anxious or uncomfortable more often than not, it’s time to assess the situation and know you deserve better and more understanding.

3. It’s OK to move on.

This is probably the toughest lesson I’ve had to learn. More recently, I’ve found it easier to stick up for myself or remove certain people from my life who aren’t treating me respectfully, but the tricky part is moving on from it. With my anxiety, it becomes a struggle to fully move on once I’ve made the decision to say no to a relationship. However, with therapy I’m learning healthier ways to remove myself from uncomfortable situations. I would rather have fewer friends and a more positive outlook on life, than be surrounded by negative people who don’t treat me with compassion and understanding.

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We all know what’s supposed to help us with anxiety: meditating, deep breathing, counting down from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

But just because something is supposed to make us less anxious, doesn’t mean it always does. Everybody who struggles with anxiety is different — so not everyone is going to respond to “typical” anxiety-reducing methods in the same way.

And that’s totally OK.

To find out different things that don’t help people face their anxiety, we asked our mental health community to share one thing that’s supposed to help anxiety but doesn’t work for them. But consider this your anti-anxiety reducing list… at least you’ll know that if you can relate, you’re not alone.

By the way: If any of the techniques below do help you — that’s awesome. This is a judgment-free zone!

Here’s what they told us:

1. “Coloring! The adult color books make me stressed out with all of the small pieces. I’m also afraid I will color outside the lines.” — Elise W.

2. “Talking to a friend. I feel like instead of listening to you they try to say their anxiety is worse or everyone goes through that, etc.” — Whitney P.

3. “When someone tries to ‘sooth’ me by touching me or holding me. It’s sensory overload. And then they get mad at me for freaking out over it or not letting them touch me.” — Shelby S.

4. “‘Take time for you.’ One of my main issues with anxiety is that I don’t physically have enough time even to make sure I wash my hair every week. Being forced to stop working/studying to sit and do nothing is the least relaxing thing possible.” — Lauren W.

5. “Talking it out. I start to feel more anxious that I’m being whiney or a burden. And then other things come up I wasn’t anxious about before, but now I am, and the more I talk the worse it can get. I wish friends would understand sometimes me shutting down and not talking isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually helping me.” — Jennifer D.

6. “Deep breathing. Everyone says breath in through your nose, hold your breath and then release through your mouth. All it does is makes me feel worse. And when I tell people it does not work for me, they are always like, ‘Well just try it again, maybe you are not doing it right.’ I think I know my body best and I know what works for me and what does not. And deep breathing is not one of them.” — Liz J.

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7. “Going to the gym — I compare myself to others. Plus, I get worked up about how much I should be exercising, what kind of exercises I should do and I never get a routine down. I’m all over the place.” — Mary K.

8. “Not thinking about the future. If I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, I get even more stressed, to the point that my anxiety is higher than when I was thinking about the future.” — Serena C.

9. “Yoga and mindfulness! I think if that works for a person, that’s great, but for me all it does is make my anxiety worse because it’s so quiet and I’m not focused on anything that takes my mind off my anxiety. The anxious thoughts keep piling up until I’m on the verge of panic. I’m much better taking an aerobics class or doing something that takes complete and total focus off the anxious thoughts. A quiet environment and letting the anxious thoughts just ‘pass through’ my mind — it gives me anxiety just thinking about it!” — Jennifer S.

10. “Breathing exercises, counting and grounding techniques that require close attention to the body/physical sensations. They trigger flashbacks and more panic every. single. time.” — Jessa L.

11. “Listening to guided imagery/meditation tracks. The usual talk about, ‘You can release the worries of the day’ and the fact that it’s supposed to make me fall asleep but doesn’t, makes me feel inadequate and like I can’t even go to bed correctly. I resent the idea that my concrete worries are not legitimate, which is what I always feel like guided meditations are saying.” — Jennifer K.

12. “Counting. It doesn’t work because I count so fast, I get no benefit from it. If I can make myself count slowly (sometimes, I can, sometimes, I can’t), then that might help, but usually I’m counting at such a ridiculous speed that it can’t possibly help anything. Also, prayer. If I try to pray with an anxious mind, I often end up spiraling into anxious thoughts concerning what I should/shouldn’t believe, and all the what ifs of religion.” — Johnna R.

13. “Getting some alone time. I always wind up thinking about things that happened or could happen or might be happening right now.” — Park A.

14. “Art therapy. I love the idea of art. Painting, drawing, crafts. I’m such a perfectionist, I can never finish a project because I give up in frustration.” — Alea D.

15. “Taking a hot bath — I usually love a nice hot bath, but if I’m having a high anxiety day, it makes me feel even more like I can’t breathe, and I panic that I’m going to drown.” — Sarah B.

16. “Going to my therapist. I know I’m supposed to feel free to say anything and discuss my issues week to week. But I always feel like he’s going to say the same things my anxiety already tells me: my problems aren’t that bad, I’m right that no one likes me and everyone thinks I’m a burden.” — Jeffrey C.

17. “Exercise. I know there are a ton of benefits to it, but getting my heart rate up often tricks my body into thinking I’m having a panic attack so I stop. It’s a shame, since I know the long term effects would help me a lot.” — Caroline T.

18. “I recently had a full body massage thinking it would be relaxing and help calm my panic and anxiety… if anything it made it worse. The quiet and stillness gave my anxiety ammunition to throw even more unwanted thoughts at me.” — Danielle B.

19. “Yoga. The entire time I’m thinking about if I’m doing it right, comparing my stance to everyone in the room or instructor on YouTube, annoyed that I don’t bend that way, falling all over the place… ” — Amber T.

20. “Writing down my thoughts. This allows for me to re-read what I wrote and it also allows me to dwell on my thoughts which is not always a good thing as that can bring me more anxiety.” — Kaila G.

21. “Relaxing. Everyone says I need to relax more, but it stresses me out because I could be doing so many other things with my time.” — Cyndal M.

22. “DBT [dialectical behavior therapy] work including all those damn acronyms! First I gotta remember the acronyms , then what they stand for, then do what they stand for! Those things bug the crap outta me!” — Debbie S.

23. “Music. We have music playing at work and when a song comes on that I don’t like I’m instantly on edge and can’t focus on anything but the song.” — Angie H.

24. “Putting on headphones and listening to music sometimes makes it worse. I get anxious that people are talking about me when I can’t hear what they’re saying.” — Isaac F.

25. “Fucking fidget cubes.” — Cecily F.

26. “Turning your electronics to silent… then you’re wondering, what if something has happened? You won’t know until morning. Then you sit on your phone until your eyes can’t stay opened. And fall into a panic-free sleep. Wake up tired, drained… but do it all over again. The fear of not knowing.” — Chevon P.

27. “Cleaning! You always have people say they clean when anxious, but it just upsets me more because I either see an endless supply of what needs to be done or what I clean is dirtied up again in a day.” — Courtney H.

28. “Sleeping. I’m often told to just take a nap when I’m feeling anxious but it only adds to my anxiety because my work gets even more delayed.” — अभिषेक .

29. “‘Focusing on the positives.’ I’m positive I’m anxious.” — Nerris N.


I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 12, which seems like a young age to most but for someone with dyspraxia isn’t all that uncommon. My parents took me to see a child psychologist who quickly diagnosed me and tried to treat me. It was a disaster, to say the least. I didn’t feel comfortable with him, I dreaded going to see him and found his treatment strange. I used to beg out of going to see him, but my parents, desperate for anything to help me, kept taking me. Eventually they realized that despite receiving a diagnosis it was clear the treatment wasn’t going to work and maybe I needed medication.

The following year I was put on medication. The results were almost immediate, and my parents could see the difference with me. While the medication helped, I still experienced anxiety attacks, and I was hard on myself because I felt the medication should’ve taken them away from me.

I ended up seeing the high school counselor every couple of weeks just so I could talk through the upcoming challenges I was facing and how I felt but never focusing on any coping strategies. I also started to subconsciously avoid any situations that would set my anxiety off. This meant as time went on I kept my anxiety/panic attacks to a minimum and they became nonexistent.

Fast forward to after school finished: I had completed a six-month business administration course (despite some minor anxiety-related setbacks and an increase in my medication) and had just landed my first job.

The first day I was nervous, as to be expected, but I was fine and managed to get through the day, but the second day I had a major anxiety attack, I couldn’t breathe and I felt helpless. In an open-plan office there was nowhere to hide, and I ended up leaving the job after just two days.

I raced back to my doctor, the same person who had been treating me ever since my initial diagnosis, in tears and feeling like a complete failure. He sat me down and told me I maybe I need to see a psychologist and that medication alone often isn’t just enough. He referred me to psychologist who he felt would be a good fit for me despite my prior experiences with one. I realized that no matter which way I looked I needed more help and maybe, just maybe, a psychologist would be the answer.

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My mum insisted on driving me to the appointment because she too felt I needed additional help that she and my dad couldn’t give me. I walked in to the office unsure of what to expect and met someone whom I connected with immediately. We were both on the same page and she helped me realize that the anxiety and panic attacks weren’t my fault. She has given me strategies to help and encouraged me to challenge myself. She has helped me understand my limits and that it’s OK to say no. She has celebrated my victories and helps me through the times when I feel like a failure. She has helped me understand how my mind works and how past experiences have shaped my future. When my life was falling apart last year she was there for me and helped me realzee my job situation wasn’t right for me. Then she helped pick up the pieces when I had no idea what I should do next. She has been a huge support through this period of unemployment and I know no matter what else my life (and anxiety!) throws and me she will be there.

Sometimes medication isn’t enough to treat your mental illness, and that’s OK! All that matters is you find the right treatment that works for you. Everyone’s mental illness journey is different, and we need to acknowledge that sometimes you may need a mix of treatments to help you live to be your very best. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it’s OK to not be OK, and there is no shame in needing extra help.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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Thinkstock photo by milkal


This piece was written by Melissa Rose, a Thought Catalog contributor.

Anxiety is difficult on a few levels for the individual who has the disorder, but when it’s your partner, it can be challenging to help them get back to being themselves after having a panic attack. It’s scary, it’s confusing and to some people it can feel incredibly isolating. Let me iterate here that it is never your responsibility to “fix” what is going on — but sometimes it can be useful to know how to help your partner feel better. Here are a few things you can do to help your partner when they are having a panic attack.

If it’s possible, help them get to a quiet place.

Noisy, over-populated areas are distracting and can make anxiety in someone worse. Removing them from the current situation can be ideal, so that if and when you talk to them, you can both hear each other well without having to raise your voice. Also, this privacy can help your partner from feeling embarrassed about it later.

Validate. Validate!

Don’t try to undermine their feelings by saying there isn’t anything to worry about. It might seem that way to you, but to them it sounds like, “Stop being a baby.” Tell them you are there for them, and are willing to listen. The way you say things can make the biggest difference. Also, please don’t tell them to calm down or get over it. That is the worst way to help, simply because if they could “get over it” on command, then they would have already.

Remind them they are safe.

Tell them they are safe, and remind them that this is temporary. Assure them they are going to be OK, because chances are they aren’t able to rationalize what’s going on at that moment. Anxiety can make a normally safe situation feel dangerous. Encourage them to take their medication (in a polite way) or help them engage in coping skills if they are able to.

Sometimes the person might take medication to help them feel better during an attack, and encouraging them to take it might be a great solution. Remember to be kind when you say it, because a suggestion like that, if said incorrectly, can come off as condescending. If you know that they like to take walks, try to get them to walk with you; if they have an object that makes them feel better, like a blanket they curl up in or something like that, try to get it for them if it’s available, but remember it’s only if they want it.

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Talk with them.

Try to engage them in conversation, to help them think of other things. Bring up things with caution, as you don’t want to re-trigger anything, but bring up that their favorite team is playing this weekend, or that you watched that funny video they sent you. Keep an eye on how they react though; read their body language. If it isn’t helping, then don’t continue with that topic.

Encourage them to breathe.

Have you ever noticed when you were nervous or scared that you forgot to breathe? When people panic, they have short shallow breathes usually. Try to have them breathe deeply. Do it with them and try to have them keep a breathing rhythm with you.

Be there for them.

It may be tempting to leave because it can get uncomfortable, but stay there with them. Remind them that they are loved. Stay by their side until they are able to calm down. They will be so appreciative of it when it’s over.

Having a panic attack is difficult on both parties but hopefully, with these strategies, it is easier to help your partner to a better state. Always remember that a panic attack can be complicated, and if you feel that you aren’t sure of what to do, just stay with the person, at minimum.

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

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Thinkstock photo via stsmhn

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