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What YouTube Star Zoella Helped Me Realize About My Anxiety

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It was October of 2014 when I had my first panic attack. Well, the first panic attack I remember labeling as one. Truly, it was quite embarrassing at the time and really caught me off guard. Two kids from my school were arguing, and I was less than a foot away, literally caught in between their screaming, red faces. I remember my throat closing up and feeling like I needed fresh air, even though I was already outside.

Then, I started sobbing. Everyone abandoned the fight and immediately asked me what was wrong and I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t know. At the time, I didn’t know how to explain what had happened. I was scared, confused and was stuck in my thoughts all day, wondering what had gone wrong.

Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella to the online world, is an online blogger and a world famous YouTube sensation with over 10 million subscribers and counting. Zoe also suffers from severe anxiety. She works to normalize her illness and occasionally even films herself post-panic attack. She does this in order to inform viewers anxiety isn’t a thing to romanticize. It’s real and it’s scary.

As time went on, I found myself greatly identifying with Zoe’s videos and blog posts on her mental illness. After having my first anxiety attack, more of them followed. Getting called on in class caused me to start crying and being alone in my room for too long made me panic for no reason. I panicked over small things. My heart rate was at a constant abnormal speed, and I would get this blank feeling and tunnel vision whenever I felt an attack coming.

With time, I realized those were all things I had been normalizing about myself. They were things that had been happening to me for so long, I thought they happened to everyone. When I realized they weren’t, it was like putting glasses on for the first time when you have poor vision. You realize how you were seeing wasn’t how everyone else was seeing.

After reading one of Zoe’s most popular blog posts on her anxiety, I realized it was time for me to stop ignoring things and to start helping myself. I met with my doctor, who confirmed an imbalance in my serotonin levels was causing me to have anxiety and depression. It was all like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I wasn’t imagining things. It wasn’t all in my head. There were steps I could take to start to be happy again.

I was so nervous, at first, to go to my doctor at all because I was afraid there would be nothing wrong with me or my doctor would say my feelings were unimportant or invalid. I felt like people were comparing their mental illnesses to mine, as if how out of balance your serotonin levels are is a competition and somehow I was losing.

Zoe helped me realize everyone experiences anxiety and depression differently and the way you experience it will never make your mental illness invalid. They don’t teach you what mental illness looks like in high school. They don’t teach you what a panic attack is or how to stop a friend from dying by suicide when his depression gets the best of him.

If it wasn’t for Zoe and the positive and open platform she created, I’m not sure I ever would have realized this about myself or taken the necessary steps toward saving myself. Too often, people have negative opinions about internet celebrities, claiming they find their way to fame through fake personalities and dumb videos. Zoe eliminates that stigma and uses her platform to speak out and help people who may need her words, like I did.

I saw that an Internet sensation had problems a lot like mine. She gave me the confidence to realize if she could talk about her anxiety, so could I. Zoella helped me recognize my mental illness and someday, I hope to thank her for helping me before I knew how to help myself. But, until the day I can thank her, all I can do is try and help others by sharing my story and telling you that your mental illness is valid. You are not weak for taking steps to save yourself.

A woman shares on her video blog about her anxiety.
“I have learned that I might be a bit braver than I thought.” Zoe Sugg

Photos via YouTube.

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


Originally published: July 13, 2016
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