girl in front of flower wall

I sit alone in my car a lot. In the parking lot at my office, in the visitor spaces at various schools throughout the district, in my driveway and garage, outside the gym both before and after a workout. If I get to work on time, sometimes I still don’t get to work on time, because I just sit in my car by myself for a few extra minutes before forcing myself to start the day. Not finishing a song on the radio. Not trolling social media. Not ending a phone call with a friend or family member. Just basking in silence.

I read about living with anxiety, and one line screamed off the computer screen at me: “I’m not faking being sick. I’ve been faking being well.” Damn. Blow my face off with truth. I can relate to that. Because I often feel sick even though I don’t look it. And more often than that, I’m perfecting my acting skills to function in everyday life.

Let me tell you a secret. One that might shock you unless you know me really, really well, and even then, you might try to argue to the contrary. Here it is: I’m an introvert.

Yes, I possess strong opinions. Yes, I can be overly talkative. Yes, I spent eight years standing in front of classrooms teaching students. Yes, I conduct meetings with parents and professionals regularly. And yes, I am introverted. Completely and truly. And this fact, combined with diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, cause me to either pretend, or retreat. There’s not much in between.

I never played a sport. That’s actually an understatement. I quit every extracurricular activity that required group participation. Ballet and tap dancing, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball… I’m not a “joiner.” I don’t want pressure or attention. I’m a 30-year-old woman having an anxiety attack because her online graduate course requires one group assignment. But seriously, why? Group work is the worst. I digress…

I hate parties. Hate planning them. Hate hosting them. Hate attending them. Love buying gifts. Love seeing my family and friends. But hate the parties. Hate the lead-up to the parties. The drive there. Did I forget something? How long will this be? Will I see anyone I don’t know/don’t like/who doesn’t like me? Loud music and multiple conversations happening at once. Brightly colored decorations and agendas and fireworks and seating arrangements and don’t even get me started on games.

I don’t go to concerts or festivals. To be honest, I plan every visit to Disneyland down to the minute, so I have fast passes for rides and reservations for dining and I don’t have to stand around. Because crowds of strangers. So many strangers.

When I’m anxious, I often don’t know where to start. I make to-do lists, but can’t prioritize. I wander the bakery of the grocery store and can’t make a choice on what to get. Sometimes, I leave with nothing. I clean my house vigorously in an attempt to get my life under control. My chest hurts. I cry. I feel out of breath. I think about the ugliest worst case scenarios for myself and for those I love. I think about refugees I’ll never meet and mothers who lived through the Holocaust and that student I had a few years ago who didn’t have running water in his house.

When I’m depressed, all I want to do is sleep. Or eat. Or both. I can’t bring myself to tackle my to-do list because what does it matter? It seems there’s no point to anything in life. I spiral quickly. Remind myself there’s so much negativity and hurt and pain in the world and I can never fix it.

It is beyond challenging to wake up every day and go to war against your own mind. But that’s my mental illness. It’s irrationality and exhaustion and side effects of medication and isolation. It’s seeing the good days as warning signs that very bad days are ahead because you never have too many good days in a row.

Here’s another secret. If you think I’m outspoken, you might be surprised by the amount of thoughts I keep to myself. Really. I bite my tongue multiple times daily. I filter myself to spare the feelings of others and to maintain professionalism. But again, it goes deeper. Some of the things that flash through my mind when I’m at my most anxious or depressed are so horrid that I don’t dare utter them for fear I’ll bring them to life. For fear that others will want to put me in an institution. So I hold them in. All these detrimental, ugly thoughts. They swirl inside. Among the rational, wife, mother and work-related, “normal” thoughts. They interrupt. They confuse. They feed off each other. This is life. Introverted. Battling anxiety and depression.

This is sickness I can’t take a sick day for. This is real even though so many people shake their heads and cry “drama.”

Validate me. Validate us.

Because it would feel really good to spend a day as the real me, instead of living as an unpaid actress.

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

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

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

Unsplash photo via Emma Francis Logan Baker.

RELATED VIDEOS


I already had an inkling I was an anxious person, I always had a problem with worrying too much or being too caught up with the worst case scenario. But when I read the words “generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)” after feeling all kinds of awful for months, it gave me a bit of relief. It felt great to know what was happening in my head as well as my body. I finally had an explanation for my racing thoughts, my stomach pains, bodily tension, my hand tremors and my constant sadness. I thought for a while I was going truly “insane.” It was honestly like I was becoming Ophelia from “Hamlet.” While having this explanation was a relief, it didn’t dissipate the moderate level of GAD I felt. It only made the beast calm itself for a while knowing it had been made known.

This was a gigantic monster even worse than any monster I was afraid of in childhood. It was not a monster that was imaginary or even irrational, it felt like a real monster that lives in me like a parasite. It manifests itself in my personality and makes me look unrecognizable to anyone who knows and loves me. It’s like being locked up in my own head and being forced to watch an imposter control me while all I can do is watch. This didn’t stop this monster from attacking things in my life I prized. It attacked my already low self-esteem, pushing me down further and aggravating my depression by putting me in a constant feeling of nothingness and sadness. It also attacked my friends and hurt them which, in turn, hurt me. It also attacked my school performance which made me work less and made me want to participate in life less. It wasn’t until I started taking anxiety medication and made some necessary lifestyle changes –eating better, getting off of social media and practicing mindfulness, just to name a few — that I started to feel better.

Another thing that helped is the internship I work for. It involves giving people information and referring them to services in the community. The thing that helps me the most involves doing input of alerts into the system I work in. I read the presenting diagnoses and the reason for the alert and sometimes it helps me to feel better when I feel the weight of my own problems crushing on me. Putting the world into perspective when I get caught up helps me realize I’m doing better than I think I am.

The strength of my anxiety monster could grow or shrink depending on the day or even my mood. Lately it has been less than before and this is great, but I know something will set it off. I tend to judge how bad my anxiety is by how bad my hands are shaking and most days they are shaking lightly and I know I am at an “OK” level. Then there are days when my anxiety is so high that my whole body is shaking. I try not to give in and fight it and there are days where I win as well as days when I lose. I may sometimes lose the battles, but I’ll win the war. But for now, my “spidey senses” will alert me to both the existent and nonexistent danger around.

spidey sense meme

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

Photo via Spiderman Facebook page and comic via Brian Gordon.


I was brought up in your stereotypical Asian household. Anything under 95 percent was considered a failure, and that applied to every aspect of my life, not just academic. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming my parents for having high expectations, or my sister or cousins for continuing this self-imposed, self-regulated system from the time we were children. We’re all competitive and we all want to be the best. Who doesn’t?

But it’s this notion of always trying to out-do each other, striving for perfection, that’s made my anxiety skyrocket every time I got a test score back; when I was awaiting university acceptances; when I was incessantly checking my inbox for job interviews.

I’m a high achiever and I’ve always wanted to be successful – not just a winner by my own standards, but also in the eyes of everyone else. I can’t say for certain this is what has caused my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but it definitely hasn’t helped it.

I’ve always wanted to be the best and when I wasn’t perfect, it was devastating. And I mean I would be crushed. I’d beat myself up for days thinking about it. I’d lose sleep, lose my appetite and just go into a downward spiral that was nearly impossible to snap out of.

And as my anxiety and depression got worse, the feeling of helplessness – of failure – just got worse. I was trying my best and I wanted to do my best, but how could I when I couldn’t even get out of bed? How was I expected to beat everyone else when I could barely drag myself into the shower?

In all my previous experiences, the more I tried, the harder I worked, then the better the results. Put in the work and do your best so you can be the best, right? Wrong.

That’s not how real life works. It was a hard concept to come to realize: sometimes, your best isn’t good enough. How did I come to terms with this world-crushing revelation?

I learned to shift my focus. Who’s to say I’m not good enough? I’m trying my best and that’s all you can do and if all I can do is get in the shower and eat a full meal, that’s a major accomplishment. It is enough and I am enough and I learned to celebrate the small victories because it’s the small moments that string together to make the life we live.

Whether it’s calling to make my own appointments or writing a new blog post, each milestone is a mountain conquered. And on the days where I feel like I’m not good enough, I count the things I’ve done and the things I will continue to do … if I just get this one thing done. And one thing at a time might be slow, but I will get it done. It is good enough.

Next time, if you feel like your best isn’t good enough, remember this: you are. You are good enough. You are enough. And you are not alone. Ask for help. Call a friend. Breathe. Take time to remember all of the things you’ve accomplished and remember you will continue to accomplish. Your best is amazing, whether it’s getting out of bed or climbing Everest. Your best is good enough. As long as you are trying, that is enough.

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

 Thinkstock photo via LewisTsePuiLung.


I’ve lived with anxiety since as early as I can remember, and I was just diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) two years ago. However, I have yet to open up about spouts of depression to anyone, let alone a professional. Anxiety has been my loyal partner for years and years; it’s a toxic relationship, really. You can give me any situation and I will overthink it in a million different ways and drive myself into a deep depressive and anxious state where I can no longer cope. Yes, putting on a smile for all to see is a great talent of mine, but sometimes you can’t always fake it till you make it.

My GAD has greatly affected my friendships and romantic relationships. It forces me to push people away so I can stop the idea of becoming vulnerable from entering my mind. It has ruined so many precious friendships of mine that I can never get back. Essentially, my anxiety tells me it has made me a one-man band for the rest of my life. My GAD comes into play a lot during social situations. Although I love to meet new people, the thought of it makes my skin crawl with worry and my stomach churn. A big goal of mine is to maintain close relationships without overthinking and dwelling on every text exchange and face-to-face interaction. However, I think I may need to get back into therapy to help me with that.

In terms of my depression…well, I haven’t exactly been diagnosed yet, but I just can’t help feeling this hopeless, sad, lonely and physically sick and fatigued 95 percent of the time is something related to depression. This feeling of depression began my freshman year of college. I am now a senior ready to graduate (you can imagine my level of anxiety about this). I went to a community college my first two years of college because I was too anxious to be on my own at 18. Well, at this college, I was lonely, sad, and I felt sick from being so down. A lot of bad thoughts would rush through my mind, things I’m not ready to talk about yet. But long story short, I felt like I was nothing to anybody, not because of anybody, but because of my mean mind. I felt like a martian, like I didn’t belong anywhere or to anyone. I would sit in my bed and watch the clock in the dark, praying the days would end so I can go to bed and not feel so guilty about it. I would cry; that’s all I could do.

Now, I go to school at a university farther away from home. It has been fun, especially my junior year. Sure I had my terrible anxious moments, but my sad moments seemed to diminish; I thought it was over, and I was thankful and relieved. I couldn’t imagine feeling that way again. But, since my senior year started, it has all come back, and it has come back strong. I always think this time can’t be worse than the last, but somehow it finds a way. I think the fact that I’m soon entering the real world has sent me down a downward spiral at a million miles per hour, because I feel nowhere near ready, nowhere near smart enough, and nowhere near capable
enough to succeed. My anxiety has been making me so physically and mentally sick, and my depression has torn me apart in ways I cannot explain.

Although this story only captures a little of how I feel day to day, writing about it and sharing it with those who can relate is a part of the healing process for me.

This year has been a very tough year for my mental illness and me. But I pray every single day that I will become better and that I will stop being afraid to ask for help and ashamed for admitting I have issues I need to deal with to recover. If anyone deals with these problems, please know you are never alone, and that although it may not seem like it to you at times, you matter!

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

Thinkstock image by RossHelen


It’s been a long journey to get to where I am now. Over a year ago, I began to attend therapy and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Since then, I’ve become very active in speaking my truth on mental health topics and breaking the stigma on the shame that surrounds anxiety, depression and mental health.

Just because I’m in therapy and self-aware doesn’t mean I don’t have low days when I feel I’m not good enough. It can be a constant battle to remind myself of my worth, which is why the mental health community is such a blessing. With amazing artwork and visuals that can serve as a daily reminder of our worth, courage, strength, I view it as not only an expression of creativity, but a new avenue to shed light on taboo topics.

With the mental health artwork blowing up all over Instagram in the form of pins, prints, clothing and so much more, you have to set yourself apart to make a mark. That’s exactly what independent artist T. Jay Santa Ana has done – with Shrinky Dinks.

Yes, you heard me right. Through this nostalgic, 80s toy, Santa Ana has created a brand new form of art that doesn’t just express self-love, it builds people up. With his “Make A Mark” pin series, he creates visuals that inspire, motivate and empower.

Q: What was the origin of using Shrinky Dinks for your art?

A: Though I am a graphic designer by trade, anything experiential and hands on is preferable when it comes to making art. With this in mind, I started researching alternative canvasses and surfaces on which to put my illustrations. After hours of “research” (mainly double-tapping photos of other makers on Instagram), I decided Shrinky Dinks was the best contender. It eliminates handing off artwork to a vendor and crossing my fingers that they do a good job. I also love baking. Plus I’m an 80s baby and the 80s were awesome.

Q: What does this series mean to you?

A: It’s very personal to me, only because I’m a strong believer in the power of intention and the power of thought. Positive affirmation seemed to be the next logical step for inclusion into my existing artwork and even more importantly, into my practice for life. For me, this series means the way I encourage myself to pursue my purpose (through simple yet powerful phrases and affirmations) is intrinsically tied to my work as an illustrator, a doodler and a mark-maker.

Q: How do you come up with the motivational phrases on the pins?

A: In all honesty, what you’re reading — both textually and visually — is a peek into how I resolve my anxiety, a bulk of which consists of an overactive and chatty mind. It’s the last few breaths of the internal dialogue I try to meet with patience and observation. It’s about non-identification with the voices that say, “You aren’t good enough.” So I doodle and repeat patterns and create forms and shapes. Eventually I arrive with a phrase, “You are good enough.” Other times I’m just overwhelmed with inspiration, inspired by people or places, so words like “Inspiration” or “Bloom” or “Follow your path” or “Well, I feel better already” pop up.

Q: What would you like someone with mental health issues to take away from seeing one of your pins?

A: I would want them to be inspired to take action yet to be gentle and patient with their process for coping and healing. I understand everyone’s path is different and not everyone will resonate with these types of messages (though my ultimate hope is they will), but using these pins as anchors for present-moment awareness would make me feel that I helped in some way.

Q: What is your mantra?

A: My mantra(s) these days have been the following: “Thank you for my healing, thank you for my health. Thank you for my living, thank you for my life. I offer myself to Godhead, to Source, to the Universe, to be distilled into health, love, light and forgiveness.”

Q: Where can people buy the pins?

A: People can request pins on my website, artbyanto.com or by shooting me a message through my Instagram profile, @artbyanto. I’m in the process of setting up an online store, but if you shoot me a message with interest in buying and I’ll definitely respond.

Q: Do you have any new projects coming down the pipeline?

A: Yes! This summer I will begin work on an illustrative project called “Make a Mark,” exploring both the figurative and literal act of mark-making. It will still include a wide range of Shrinky Dinks pins but will expand into a suite of other pieces such as journals, prints and a digital 111 day series on Instagram called “Marks and Meditation.”

Who knew a children’s toy could bring so much empowerment for the mental health community? Whenever I find myself battling a negative thought or warding off an impending anxiety attack,  I just look down and read my pin to remind myself. I am enough.

Shrinky Dink Mental health pins

Shrinky Dink Mental health pins
You can follow TJ Santana on Instagram and on his website

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

Photo via @artbyanto Instagram.


Having panic disorder and generalized anxiety, I have struggled for years to find a way to explain how my brain works to those around me. Big, clinical words don’t always fit the scenario I’m trying to describe and sometimes make the situation seem more intense than it actually is. Other times, shrugging it off or playing down an anxiety attack is counter productive, because then people don’t realize how frequently I’m fighting with myself to stay calm and stay rational.

Enter “anxiety brain.”

When I asked my mom for the seventh time in two hours if she still loved me, I just shrugged and offered up the explanation of “Anxiety Brain.” Anxiety Brain makes me overplan and overpack for a simple trip the grocery store, making me need emergency cash, a full tank of gas and three people knowing when I expect to be back. Anxiety Brain is why I panic when I don’t hear from my boyfriend for 15 minutes and I assume something tragic has happened.

It’s a way for me to convey my anxiety is affecting my view of things, but that I’m alright and not having a serious episode. It also serves as a reminder to those around me that sometimes I see things in a different way than they do and I need that extra reassurance from them or a moment of patience while I calm down the noise inside my head.

Most importantly, referring to my disorder as “Anxiety Brain” reminds me my anxiety is not who I am. It’s a switch that gets flipped sometimes. It’s a side of my personality that takes a dominant role on occasion. However, there are moments — many moments — when my healthy brain is fully in control and I am functioning as “normal” as possible. Every time I manage to quiet my Anxiety Brain down and shove it away, is a victory. And with anxiety, any victory, no matter how big or small, is the fuel to keep fighting every day.

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

Thinkstock photo via jetFoto.

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.