A man on a diving board

People with anxiety are often told to be brave. And strong. They hear slogans like, “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” or “Success lies outside your comfort zone.”

I disagree.

Decades ago, I recovered from severe agoraphobia the fear of being away from the safety of my home. I later went on to have a successful career and log over one million air miles. Today I am a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders

And I am probably one of the least brave people in the world.

I’m the guy who wades into the shallow end of the pool, not the person who jumps off the high diving board. While my friends are going to see scary thrillers at the movies, I’m watching cartoons. And when we visited St. Louis and my wife wanted to ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, I was more than happy to wave at her from the ground.

Which leads me to an important point I want to make for people who struggle with anxiety: bravery isn’t always your friend.

Take my agoraphobia, for example. For several years of my young adult life, I lived in a narrow world circumscribed by a radius of a few blocks. Outside that zone, my fear of having a panic attack and falling apart too often became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once in a great, great while, I would sum up the courage to go outside of my comfort zone; I’d ride in the car to somewhere that was an hour away, or grit my teeth and go to some social event. And then I’d wonder why I was no less phobic the next day.

Finally, I started working with a very creative therapist who had a brilliant idea – don’t go too far outside your comfort zone. Instead, do lots of structured practice, be fully present wherever I am, and see how things go from week to week. I’ll never forget her literally yelling at me the first week of exposure practice, “You aren’t listening to me! You went too far and got anxious again. Don’t do that next time!”

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

It felt really lame at first. My wife would follow me in her car as I drove down an unfamiliar road, a quarter-mile at a time. Soon I could go a half-mile. Then three-quarters of a mile. Big whoop.

But then one day, it was like a switch had flipped. After comfortably going two miles, I felt like going five. And then, to the nearest big city, 70 miles away. And soon, I was booking plane tickets to visit my parents, who by then, had moved across the country to Arizona — which at first, could have well been the moon. That trip went surprisingly well, and before long I was in a suit, on a jet, flying by myself to the west coast for a job interview. After just a few months of therapy I was free, and have been free ever since.

Nowadays, as a therapist, I see the same thing over and over again. People try to get rid of their fears on their own and can’t. But when we slow down the pace, and they learn to be fully present with small doses of the situations they fear, two amazing things happen. First, they never get too uncomfortable, and second, they eventually lose their fears. No bravery required.

Now, I have nothing against people who feel that learning to be brave, or getting used to strong exposures, is the way to go. It does work for some people. But it also goes sideways sometimes. In my belief, it is probably not the right strategy for a real, live chicken such as myself.

There is some precedent for my approach. For example, Nik Wallenda, the guy who walks on a tightrope across places like the Grand Canyon, will practice over and over on a tightrope that is just a few feet of the ground, learning his skills in a safe and comfortable environment.

So are you one of those people who feels like “aren’t brave enough” to change your life? Perhaps you just need to take smaller steps. Be OK with who you are, and try my prescription for a good life: feel the fear and don’t do it anyway.

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

Thinkstock image via IPGGutenbergUKLtd

RELATED VIDEOS


Mornings are a fresh start, an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the day. Whether you wake up with a pounding heart and overwhelming thoughts or rise with a sense of calm — for people with anxiety, starting your day on the right foot can be especially important. When you’re overwhelmed or nervous about everyday tasks, mornings can either be a chance to create a plan of attack or struggle with the anticipation. You probably experience a mix of both — you can’t wake up every day completely ready to tackle anxiety, after all. And that’s OK.

We were curious to see what people with anxiety do first thing in the morning, so we asked people in our community to paint us a picture of what happens when they wake up. Their insight offers tips that might help you in the morning as well or, at the very least, provide something you can relate to.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “When I first wake up, my previous day smacks me in the face. I’m reminded of every single problem or struggle I had. I overthink everything, which almost always results in a panic attack. I try to focus on my breathing for a few minutes. I also remind myself that this is another day and I will get through it.” — Anne J.

2. “I have a wall of pictures that comfort me: family, friends, colors and accomplishments. When I find new things, I add it to the wall. I wake up and the wall is the first thing I see. It’s a great reminder of who I am and helps keep me grounded.” — Marissa R.

3.Anxiety hits me right away. My mind wanders to my bills, dog food and medication, fixing my car… I usually shed a few tears… and I know I have to get up. It’s really, really hard, but you must continue to try.” — Heather M.

4. “I get myself out of bed and take care of my animals because I know no matter how much anxiety I have, I can’t let it affect them. They do not understand and it wouldn’t be fair to them. Waking up and seeing them every morning is a sweet reminder I’m still here and I’m still OK.” — Shayna D.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

5. “A shower. The shower is one of my safe places at home, and when I take a shower I feel like I can think clearer… And I am less foggy. Makes me ready for the day. I can’t leave the house unless I shower.” — Kortney F.

6. “Slow, deep breaths and waking up slowly help me stay calm. If I jump out of bed and start rushing around, my brain goes into overdrive and I start to panic that I’ll forget something or I start having vivid pictures of horrible things happening in my head. If I take it slow and talk myself through my morning I’m usually OK.” — Melissa W.

7. “A cup of coffee. Every day. Even if I’m staying in a hotel. It helps to have something I can control. How much coffee I put in the cup. The amount of creamer. How many cups I have all help me stay calm in the morning.” — Joseph C.

8. “I wake up and feel a moment without anxiety. I think, hey I don’t feel anxious! It feels good. For about three seconds. Once my brain ‘wakes up,’ it realizes it is time to feel anxious again. Weight on your chest. Uneasy feelings in your chest. Paranoia that you aren’t good enough. Not even for yourself. That no one can stand you. That you screwed up bad… It’s pressure to be perfect. It tells you that’s impossible, but demands it. It’s demanding the un-demandable.” — Vince F.

9. “My anxiety is usually the thing that wakes me — pounding heart, racing thoughts, clammy hands. So I immediately take my medicine. I know it will help, and if I can get from now to when it kicks in, I will be OK. I wish exercise or meditation helped, but if I’m panicking upon waking, I’m not able to even do those things! Medicine first, deep breathing, then coffee and my journal. Routine helps too.” — Amanda E.

10. “I keep a composition book right by my bed in my nightstand. I keep a pen there too. That way I can write down all the things I’m thinking, that rush into my head right when I wake up so I don’t carry them around with me all day. I need that outlet of thought-expulsion or I go into a panic or I let my brain convince me not to get out of bed. I don’t even think about what I’m writing, I just need a few minutes to wrestle with the million thoughts that punch me in the face.” — April D.

11.‘It’s OK. Everything’s OK. Even if things seem like they aren’t.’ Sometime back, I would repeat this to myself over and over again whenever I began to feel my heart hurt, my breathing shallow…  After doing this for quite a while, I find myself conditioned enough so that if I ever find myself needing to repeat these three phrases, it would make me feel tons better; as if I might just carpé the diem after all.” — Arsh K.

12. “I give myself 20 to 30 minutes every morning to stare at the ceiling and carefully plan out my day. My anxiety makes me feel as if I’m out of control of my life, of my surroundings, of everything. So if I thoroughly talk out my plans with myself, it makes me feel like I have it together (even though I know I don’t). There’s no more secure of a feeling than me feeling like I have my life together. Even if it’s only for 20 to 30 minutes.” — Dynasty L.

13. “I always set my alarm for a half hour before I have to actually be up. (I have two alarms set for this reason.) Sometimes I will turn off the first alarm and get a few more minutes of sleep, other times I will use that time for some me time before getting ready to face the day. Usually I’ll turn on Hulu or Netflix with a favorite show and listen to an episode while catching up on Facebook and snuggling with my kitty. It helps me to relax a little before having to face the day. Also, taking my meds first thing in the morning helps as well.” — Jessica E.

14. “Count to 10. Put one leg out. Do it again. Other leg. Seems to work. Write down a list of what you are going to achieve today.” — Ross J.

15. “I meditate. It’s a new practice. I’m finding it very beneficial. And while my mind and body are still when the meditation is ending, I move into a prayer so that I can stay one with my spirituality and let go of the issues from the day before. It keeps me from overthinking things that are already done. It’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than it was a month ago.” — Kiersten A.

16. “I wake up as slowly as possible. I allow myself time to read at least a chapter of a book before I get up — entering someone else’s world so I can slowly slip into my own one breath at a time. I’ll typically keep an art project I’m working on nearby as well, so I keep my mind focused on creating beauty in the moment instead of fighting to see it.” — Arielle B.

17. “I wake up and my mind starts going a 1000 mph. What I need to do today. What I didn’t do yesterday. I lay there and try to focus… then I get up and get my son up. He helps my mind slow down some… he’s 7 and the best thing in my life ever” — Michelle W.

18. “On good day, I’ve slept right through till my alarm wakes me up, and I get up and turn my alarm off. Then I wash my face with super cold water. On a bad day, wake up way before my alarm, and lie there planning out my entire day from memory –from my clothes and makeup, to my parking spot or which checkout I should use the supermarket that evening.” — Sami N.

19. “Find my comfort object (in my case, a pillow I’ve had since I was a baby), clutch it close, and think of a reason I need to get out of bed. An appointment, a meeting with a friend, a nice lunch waiting in the fridge.” — Skylar W.

20. “Breathe and ground myself with my senses. Pointing out a few things I see in the room. Whether or not sunlight is streaming in. What am I smelling? Drinking a glass of water always helps too. I feel it allows my heart ease its work in my body, allowing the positive endorphins to flow through my system better.” — Dylan H.

21. “I get moving. If I lay in bed, it gives my mind the chance to go off the rails. If I can get out of bed and take a walk or focus on taking care of my dogs or keep my mind in the moment, I can keep it together.” — Susan T.

22. “I write down everything that’s going to probably happen that day so I can prepare myself for it. I also write that I can get through the day and get through my anxiety.” — Mackenzie G.


22 Things People With Anxiety Do First Thing in the Morning

As children, we wait in anticipation for summer vacation — a break from the days and weeks we spend confined to the four walls of our school. As adults, the warmer weather signals it’s time to take a vacation and break from the monotony of our daily lives.

New surroundings, new food, new people, and new places can be exciting. But for those who struggle with anxiety, newness and change can often cause symptoms to worsen. That is why we asked our mental health community to share some tips for alleviating anxiety for anyone who is nervous about going on vacation this summer.

 

Here is what they had to say:

1. “Take a comfort item! I know my comfort item would be one of my dad’s t-shirts. It’s something so simple but reminds me of home, where I feel most safe and secure. So if I have an anxiety attack I can hold on to the shirt or smell it and it calms me down.” — Elizabeth C.

2. “Find local parks or walking trails before hand so you can take a “nature break,” if you become overwhelmed. I leave with enough time to take frequent breaks if the driving becomes too much.” — Caley K.

3. “Seeing there’s so much more in this world than the fears you face! Schedule time to get away and be by yourself. It can get overwhelming if you are with a group, but don’t be ashamed to get alone time if you need it.” — Samantha S.

4. “Google and research. What I do before going somewhere new for vacation is look up the things I’m going to want to do, then MapQuest it to look at satellite images of the area to get a feel for things before I even leave home. I’ll go as far as looking up the layout of a place.” — Charne S.

5. “I’m working through SAD that occurs during the summer, and what I do is think about ‘why?’ Why do I need to push through? I think about how my anxiety can prevent me from so many experiences with my three children. Why would I want to take that time away from them? My kids help me work through the summer time sadness so we can go on vacation.” — Christina P.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

6. “Let the people you’re going with know you’re going to be dealing with anxiety so they can better support you when it does happen and you won’t have the additional concern of what they are thinking when those feelings do come up. Also to just know that you always have the right to say no to anything that makes you uncomfortable and there is no obligation to be a certain way or do certain things just because you’re on holiday. The vacation should be about what’s going to make you happiest and most comfortable” — Taysia S.

7. “What I would do is plan out my whole trip from day one to the last day, and everything in between. From sun up to sun down. As much as you possibly can. This way you are in total control of everything. This can easily lower stress and anxiety. I get anxiety when I feel like I’m not in control of the situation, but if you plan everything out, you’re in much more control and it might let you have a better vacation.” — Crystal D.

8. “My tips to someone who’s nervous about vacation is to make a list of all the things you’re excited for on your trip. This can help you stay positive and free your mind. Also, do not let anxiety dictate your decisions, [which can sometimes be] much easier said than done. Push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit.” — Kayla G.

9. “If you’re flying, talk to the people at the gate before boarding. If you explain your anxiety to them, they’ll often let you board the plane in the very first group before the plane gets overly crowded.” — Amanda R.

10. “Start small. Don’t worry if you can’t do all the things. Just get started. If you find yourself panicking in a strange place, focus on something until you feel better, even pretending you are messaging on your phone can help.” — Sheila P.

11. “Take your iPod; music helps calm your heightened senses. [Take] a book; get lost in someone else’s head for a while. [Bring] a comfort from home; a teddy or blanket that has the smell of home on it. If things get too much, take yourself away from people or things, go somewhere quiet, like your hotel room or something and just take a little time out for yourself to regain your senses.” — Becky U.

12. “Breathe. If you’re worried about security, breathe yourself through. Once you’re done with that, sit for a minute and tackle the next thing. Find your gate and ground yourself until you’re ready to board. Once on the plane, make yourself comfortable with music, books, or puzzle games. If you aren’t flying somewhere, still breathe. Tap the steering wheel if your driving, it’s something you can feel. Open a window if the weather is nice, it’s something you can smell. Look at landmarks around you, it’s something you can see. And it’s OK to rest, wherever your vacation is! Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to do everything, it’s OK to have limits.” — Tasha T

 

13. “I have travel anxiety and the best thing I’ve done is pushed myself to keep going even when I’ve wanted to turn around. I’ve never once regretted pushing through. It helps for me to bring my pillow from home — something that has a familiar smell that way I can at least sleep through my anxiousness.” — Rachel M.

14. “Find what calms you on the way to wherever you’re going. Music is what helps me. Make a playlist, visualize yourself having fun at your destination. Let yourself get carried away in the lyrics and remember that you deserve to be happy and care free.” — Kelcie J.

15. “Don’t force fun. No matter what happens, enjoy every moment of the trip! If I felt anxious on a trip I would take time to enjoy the moment; counting the things in that moment that are priceless, enjoyable, or relaxing. It’s kind of like a grounding exercise.” — Brooke H,

16. “Make sure you have everything you will need, and double check before you leave. Pack a small bag that is easy to get to and keep things that will help you when you get anxious in that bag; it could be some gum, or a stuffed animal or a fidget cube.” — Wendy J.

17. “Make your self little goals. Something like; I want to try every cake at every restaurant we go to, or I want to collect 20 shells of this color for a Pinterest project, or I want to take pictures of every steeple or animal I see. Little fun things that will trick your anxieties into thinking you are in control of the whole thing.” — Brittany H.

18. “One thing that helped me was creating safe places. Wherever we went, I would create a safe place where, if I felt overwhelmed by people or my surroundings, I could get away for five minutes. It helped tremendously.” — Ashley G.

19. “I was taught in therapy to ‘act as if,’ meaning act as you want to feel. So, I kind of fake it and tell myself I’m cool, calm and collected. Then I start to feel it. I have to use a lot of strength to turn off the work mind!”— Tanya S.

20. “Go with the flow. I had to leave our first camp trip early because of my anxiety. Make sure you’re warm and well fed.” — Kayla C.

21. “I don’t plan, I just go, because planning makes my anxiety worse and when I’m in the car I make sure I have bottled water, a pillow from home, a good playlist of songs and I make sure phone is fully charged. And no ‘junk food,’ just fruits and water.” — Mandy A.

22. “Ask yourself why you’re going. If the reasons are important to you, they will fuel your determination to cope with stressors as you move forward.” — Sarah M.

23. “Email the airport. I have Asperger’s and social anxiety disorder and I emailed the airport explaining my problems about going to the airport and going through security and they let me go through the faster business security lane so I would be less anxious and worried.” — Carina M.

24. “Go with someone you love and trust who really knows you and is prepared to be patient and will help with anxieties.” — Lou W.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Thinkstock image via Pixland.

24 Travel Tips for Going on Vacation With Anxiety

I might glare at you. I might pretend that nothing you say interests me. I might stare off into the distance while you are talking to me. I might disappear into the bathroom for 10 minutes and return with reddened eyes. But don’t worry, it’s not you.

It’s me, or rather, my anxiety.

When most people have a bad day, it is because they are tired or they are fighting with someone they love or they have too much work to do and not enough time. And while some of my bad days are caused by events, most of the time it’s my anxiety that gives me a run for my money.

It might seem to you like everything is perfect. And everything might be perfect. I might have gotten great grades on all my tests and homework and I could be hanging out with friends and having fun, but I’m also terrified of the future. I could be so happy that I can’t stop smiling, but that doesn’t mean my mind isn’t overflowing with fear and worries.

Sure, I can be anxious and have a good day. Sure, I can not be anxious and have a bad day. Just because my head is chock full of worries doesn’t mean that I can’t act like a “normal” human being. And just because you can’t tell I’m drowning in my own thoughts doesn’t mean I am by any means OK.

Don’t ever assume that I am perfectly fine. Don’t ever assume that I am completely in control of the creature in my head called my anxiety. And please don’t ever think that my silence, my glaring or my lack of interest are anything to do with you. Because sometimes, my anxiety ruins my day and there is nothing I can do about it.

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

Thinkstock photo via fcscafeine 


Every few years, my dad and stepmom get all of their family together for Thanksgiving. For our first gathering, we stayed in Tahoe. I remember taking a really long and wonderful walk with my stepmom and sitting in the hot tub under the stars with my niece. The second time, we went to Santa Barbara. It was warm and beautiful, even though one of my stepmom’s sons and his family couldn’t be there. It was also my first holiday season dealing with anxiety. This past year, we visited Ojai. We stayed in a big, old mansion that was built in the 1920s. Everyone was there. I got to see two of my friends and go on a beautiful hike with my partner, niece and nephew. I even got spit on by a miniature alpaca.

There are a lot of things about getting together with my family that are awesome. This year, some of us volunteered to paint at Habitat for Humanity, and I got to spend time wearing a pair of coveralls that made me feel like I was about to land on the moon. But there are also some things that are hard. It can be difficult to realize what you need before something happens when you’re struggling with anxiety, and it can also be a scary or difficult conversation to voice those needs to loved ones.

Part of why mental health is so stigmatized is that it’s treated as though the person who is dealing with symptoms is doing so purposefully, and thus, their bad mood, sleeping in late or struggle to enjoy themselves is taken personally. For those of you who have experienced it, you may know the fear of judgment that comes when you have to talk about your mental health. It can be so hard to speak up when you need to.

One of the things that is particularly hard for me is creating opportunities for myself to be alone and articulating what I need. I struggle to have conversations with my family about how the physical environment, or the feeling that I need to be present with everyone at all times, has a severe impact on my mental health. I also struggle with thinking things out ahead of time. In retrospect, if I had spent some time preparing myself and thinking about what it could, or would be like, during each part of the trip, I could have done certain things differently or not done them at all. I love being with my family, but this past family gathering, I wish that I had been more proactive both before and during the trip.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

I learned a lot of lessons during that trip about what does and does not work for me, why it’s so important to think ahead, and the ways anxiety influences me even when I’m not conscious of it. Sometimes the combination of anxiety and my natural tendencies leads me to make what I consider to be bad choices, or to be a not-so-great partner, sister or daughter. After those moments, I realize I have to learn from, and think about, the little ways in which anxiety works within me so that I can continue to grow in all of the roles I fill. Managing anxiety is a part of how I take responsibility for my own actions, good or bad, because it’s not the anxiety itself that leads to a choice, it’s the way I react to those feelings of anxiety and my thought processes around it.

The next time I have a big gathering, I plan to use the following six tips as a guide to make sure that I don’t end up in tears, feel overwhelmed or miss sleep because of anxiety.

1. Be proactive and think ahead.

Set aside some time beforehand to really think about all aspects of a gathering or a trip.

What things have the potential to make you feel anxious?

What’s the best case response to that feeling of anxiety?

What do you think is your most likely response?

How can you arrange things to minimize triggers?

What strategies can you use to help feel less anxious both before and during the gathering?

As I mentioned before, I wish I had been proactive and thought ahead during my last trip, not only because it would have been a better experience for me, but for my partner and my family as well.

2. Schedule quiet time.

If you’re a person like me who is sensitive to light and sound, 15 people at the same dinner table or in the same living room as you is overwhelming. I can handle the chaos once, but not multiple times a day for three to four days in a row. The cumulative effect of constant overstimulation is difficult. During my last trip, I became so overwhelmed by the volume and amount of conversations, I spent the whole week taking a steady stream of Advil to manage the headache. I should have purposefully set aside some quiet time for myself, not just a minute here and there whenever I could find it, because that didn’t seem to cut it. So, in the future, I’m going to make sure I carve out time for myself each day to be in a quiet space and away from others.

3. Remember to practice your positive coping strategies.

I didn’t bring my yoga gear this past trip because I had no idea what my schedule would be like, and I really regretted it. We went for a hike, which was awesome and gave me a boost of endorphins, but I was basically sedentary for the next four days. Not only was I physically feeling the lack of movement, but my emotional shields became depleted by the time we left because I hadn’t had much time to myself to recharge and work through the things that were bothering me and causing anxiety. And in the future, when I remember to bring my yoga gear but I’m not able to practice, I want to remember to meditate in order to have more consistency and provide myself with an intentional, quiet space every day.

4. Plan an escape route.

I’m not advocating suddenly leaving or cutting your trip short, although there is nothing wrong with that if that is what you need. Since it is hard for me to tell my family in the moment that I need space, next time I plan on setting aside some time before the trip to talk to them about my needs and make a plan for some breathing room so that we can all have the expectation of not being together at all times.

5. Speak up.

A lesson I am continually learning is how important it is to communicate and set expectations with others. In overwhelming moments, I wish I could say something, but I normally end up waiting until things are pretty bad, like crying in our bedroom each afternoon “bad,” before I say anything — and my crying starts speaking for me at that point. But even then, this past trip, I didn’t say anything to my family. The only ones who really knew what was going on were my partner and my sister. I talk to both of them a lot about how it’s easier, better and less stressful to speak up before you’re at your breaking point; and every time, they’re right. So I’m working on it.

6. Give yourself a break.

My partner is always so good at helping me put anxiety into perspective and to not equate anxiety-driven decision with who I am as a person. I’m really hard on myself, and I often don’t look at the whole picture before I start feeling guilty or having regrets and ruminating on those unhealthy feelings. My partner helps me balance taking ownership of my behavior while giving myself permission to make mistakes and move on. He holds me accountable and gives me the space to reflect and make better choices next time. I’m learning how to do this for myself, but it’s hard work. I just keep thinking about what my sister said to me, “Take all of the compassion you feel for [other anxious people] and turn it toward yourself when you are feeling anxious.” She is totally right. When I’m feeling anxious, I have a tendency to be even harder on myself than normal. While I don’t want to let myself off the hook when I do make a mistake or a bad decision, I want to be able to learn and move forward. I have to remember to give myself a break and that I’m not perfect. I have to allow myself to do whatever I need to feel better, even if that means temporarily disappointing some people, or myself.

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

Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages


We live in a time when people tend to think they know almost everything about people. Through constant Snapchats, Instagram posts, tweets, etc., individuals are able to portray themselves however they please. I have fallen victim to this social media trap of portrayal. When posting a selfie, I make sure it’s the best of the best. It has to be the right angle, I ask my friends for approval, think of a suitable caption and then boom. Not that the photo is edited or fake, but I came to the realization that I only post “good” or what I deem as “good” photos of myself.

I am in my first year of university at Ryerson, studying professional communications. When I look at my Instagram, I see an abundance of fun times, posed up pictures, big smiles, bright colors and everything in between. I tried to look at my Instagram as if I didn’t know myself and I thought, “Wow, this girl looks so put together, fun and artsy.” However, I am so far from put together. My first year at university has been an absolute mess. Although I can be fun, upbeat and artsy, I spend a lot of my days struggling to get out of my bed. I felt like I was hiding this whole other part of me from my online presence. I needed to acknowledge my mental illness to free myself and to help free others from the stigma and shame associated with mental illness.

I posted this photo of myself on Instagram with the caption:

contributor selfie

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

“Amidst all the fun and amazing memories first year has brought me, there has been an equal amount of pain to go with it. I took this photo after staying up all night to finish an assignment. At this time in my life, I was barely eating, I was experiencing multiple panic attacks a day, and I was convinced I wasn’t capable of being in university because I couldn’t function like everyone else. I became so absorbed in my sadness, I felt so lifeless. I didn’t want to be here. On this day, I decided I was so down I couldn’t deal with it on my own and I’m grateful for that decision. And no, I’m not “cured.” I still deal with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, I still stay in bed all day some days, and I still can’t function like everyone else. However, I know I have support. I know I’m not alone. Whenever I need to call someone, I have a list of people who have my back and honestly, I’m so appreciative for all the love from my friends and family. I’m posting this for all the people who have been struggling, who still struggle but continue to try because that’s all you can ever do. Try and keep trying. It’s nothing to be ashamed of — at least I’m not ashamed. It’s just a part of who I am and I thought y’all should know I’m not as put together as I appear on Insta (I don’t think anyone is). It’s really important especially in a society that glorifies perfection, to understand that being a work in progress isn’t anything less. #spreadlove”

As soon as I posted the picture, my heart immediately started racing and I became jittery. I was so nervous and I felt so vulnerable because I wasn’t sure how people would react. After a minute, I caught my breath and realized a weight was lifted off my shoulder. Suddenly, I didn’t even care how people would react. I felt free. Several people commented and/or messaged me on the side telling me how much my post inspired them. A lot of people said they had no idea I was going through all of this and that I hid it so well.

So, no more hiding. My mental illness makes me who I am. Although it makes little tasks much more difficult and makes some days seem impossible to survive, my mental illness makes me strong. I will continue to try, I will continue to battle, for I am invincible. Please don’t feel obligated to post “perfect” pictures all the time. I encourage you to use your social media as your genuine self: use it to reflect, and use it to grow. (And of course use it to post those fire selfies!)

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

Photo via contributor. 

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.