Aanchal Chopra

@aanchal-chopra | contributor
Aanchal Chopra is 22 and has severe debilitating chronic and mental illnesses, including chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders and so on. She shares her chronic illness journey on her Instagram account, along with the aim of raising awareness and helping others.
Community Voices

Why I sometimes wish my illness weren't invisible.

Look at this picture.

Do you see anything ‘abnormal’ about it? No?

I get it. I don’t either. If you showed me a similar picture of someone else without any context, I wouldn’t see anything unusual either.

Just a girl, dressed up and smiling.

That is why my illness is called invisible.

Invisible #Disability or illness means that you are sick but it doesn’t show on the outside.

If someone were to judge you on the basis of your looks, they would say you are completely healthy.

Now if I tell you the back story of this picture, things wouldn’t quite be the same.

Can you tell that I took 10+ medicines apart from my usual ones a day before and that I had to increase the dosage of my usual medicines and add a few new medicines to my list a couple of weeks before?

That I took anti histamines, painkillers, anti #Anxiety, nausea/dizziness medicines and a load more, all so that I could gather up strength and hold together for a few hours?

And that I prepared for months in advance just so I could go out for a while on my birthday?

Can you tell that I slathered myself in heat absorbing spray before leaving the house so as to not pass out in the Sun?

Or that I was crying my eyes out for 3 continuous hours the night before? And I didn’t sleep until 6 am that day because I was in so much pain?

No?

Well, makeup is powerful. Isn’t it?

Just dab some concealer on your dark circles, hide the allergy marks, make your eyes look bigger by eye liner, put on some lipstick and voila you are a new and a ‘healthy’ person altogether!

Also, smile a lot even if it’s hurting and talk about fun things (which doesn’t include your illness obviously) and noone can tell there’s anything wrong with you.

It takes practice though, to become skilled at pretending to be fine.

But it always works.

And that is why I’m judged by almost everyone I know. Just because I look healthy.

But in reality, I sometimes don’t look this healthy. I have huge bags and dark circles under my eyes.

My hands are almost always dry and flaky, sometimes bleeding due to dryness.

My temperature fluctuates so much that I either have a bright flush on my face or my feet and nails go bluish.

My back is always swollen up and tender and my stomach is always bloated. I have allergy scars and bruises everywhere.

And dry patches or allergy induced pimples.

So much more.

I have been judged so many times in my life for how I look. People say that I’m doing fine just because I am walking, talking and smiling.

I remember someone visited me a couple of years back and when they went away, they said something behind my back (which obviously came back to me) that really stung.

They said this – “No no she was looking perfectly fine. She came outside,sat with us and chatted for a long time. She has gained so much weight, she looks perfectly healthy. She isn’t as ill as she pretends to be.”

And let me tell you, they did not use polite words when they said this ; it was the words they used that hurt even more.

I was heartbroken that this person whom I had loved, respected and looked upto all my life, would say something like this behind my back.

It was like I had to fall and faint in front of others to prove my illness because if they saw me smiling and talking, I was instantly either

a) a liar and attention seeker

b) Completely cured (oh how I wish this was true).

I do look healthy most times but I also look sick and malnourished at other times.

Sometimes I might look weak but I’m feeling quite good or might look ‘fine’ when I am struggling with pain.

So, don’t judge me based on my looks.

Don’t say that “Wow, you look so much better” when you see me.

If you really think I’m looking good and want to give a compliment, say something along the lines of, “Wow you look pretty” but please please don’t link that to my health.

I understand you might not have bad intentions at all and you might just want to make me feel better but these words hurt. Because I am judged everyday of my life for this.

Just don’t say I look healthy.

It hurts when such a severe and debilitating illness is not validated just because of how I look.

And trust me as much as I am grateful that I can be this sick but still look good most of the times, there have been times in the past when I have wished for my illness to be visible just so I wouldn’t be forced to prove my illness at every step of my life.

Because if I really looked like I feel on the inside, I’m sure I would have been taken seriously by all the medical professionals who ‘saw’ nothing wrong with me. I would have received the treatment I deserved.

I wouldn’t have to leave my college because then my teachers and classmates would have cooperated with me and I would be graduated today.

I wouldn’t have to fight for my basic rights.

I would have got maintainance from my father in the court without having to constantly prove that I am unfit to work and provide for myself.

I wouldn’t be mocked by my relatives and judged by my friends because I didn’t visit them even though I was just fine yesterday.

And all of this is not limited just to me.

There are millions of people all over the globe who are fighting invisible illnesses but aren’t able to get the support and health they deserve because they look ‘fine’.

All you need to do is not judge, not pass comments, not be rude when you see a ‘healthy’ person sitting in a wheelchair or parking at the disability spot.

You cannot tell what is actually going on with a person just by looking at them.

Please try to be a little kind and understanding when you encounter someone with a #ChronicIllness or invisible disability.

It would mean the world to us.

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Aanchal Chopra

Why Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is More Than 'Just Tiredness'

When you have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), you don’t just feel “tired.” The fatigue I experience hits me like a solid brick wall and quickly spreads over my entire body, leaving me with no energy at all. When I tell someone that I have chronic fatigue, they think I’m tired. I am often advised that I’ll feel better after a good sleep. But there are two things wrong with this statement. First, I cannot sleep. One of the symptoms of my CFS is insomnia or inability to fall asleep. And I spend almost every night literally wriggling in pain and trying to sleep just for some time. Sometimes I don’t sleep at all, lying in the bed and clutching my body tightly because I cannot bear the pain. While other times, when I do fall asleep, it’s usually broken and disturbed. Secondly, no matter how much I sleep (and I’m counting those rare good days when I get up to 12 hours of undisturbed sleep) or rest, I don’t feel better. The fatigue and exhaustion just never go. They cling to my body like my own skin and no matter what I do or how I do it, nothing seems to help. I feel like my limbs have heavy weights attached because when I try to move them, I can’t. Many times, my body just goes numb.Crushing fatigue and pain shoots up my body and flows through my veins from morning to night. It becomes difficult to even perform tasks like brushing my teeth and changing clothes. But I force myself. I force myself beyond my capacity to at least manage to wash myself up every day. It’s a strenuous task and it leaves me gasping for breath, extremely dizzy and in a lot of pain. Right now, I’m lying in bed, crying as I write this because I am in so much pain and I’m just tired. My arms hurt badly as I hold my phone in my hand and I cannot even use the speech-to-text option for typing because speaking makes me much more unwell. It’s difficult to imagine how someone looking so well can be this sick. But this is the truth. The reality of living with chronic fatigue syndrome is not a sleeping beauty spending a luxurious life in her comfortable bed. It’s this — a normal girl with an ill body. A girl who is determined to live in spite of the challenges that come her way but, who is too sick to do it. I spend 95 percent of my time lying in the bed because I am too tired to get up. And when people see this, they tell me to “just get up and get moving.” How much I wish that was possible. Because if it were, I’d get up in a heartbeat. I always force myself to do stuff. If I just listened to my illness, I’d be bedbound forever. And the very thought frightens me to bits. So I get up — no matter how painful it is. But what happens after that? I have to pay back, sometimes for days, sometimes weeks.And the payback often includes even more fatigue and pain. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex, multifactorial illness. It just doesn’t affect one part of the body. For me, its effects are worse on the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system. So, fatigue and pain aren’t the only symptoms I have. They are just the ones I choose to talk about in this post. For different people, this illness can mean different things and it’s not necessary that if I have extreme pain, the other person with CFS has it, too. This is one of those illnesses that are often overlooked and not taken into serious consideration. But behind closed doors, there are people — like me — probably like the one reading this — who struggle with the devastating effects of this illness. And we are all trying to fight, with all the strength we can gather. One day at a time. One second at a time. And we hope and wish for everyone to be kind and understanding and not dismiss our illness as “just tiredness.” Find me @its_little_ayra on Instagram where I share the ups and downs of my chronic illness journey. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Aanchal Chopra

When Anxiety Consumes Your Life

It’s 4:16 a.m., and I’m lying here, unable to sleep. I’ve dealt with anxiety disorders for over six years now. You’d think after all this time, I’d have gotten used to it. But no. I still feel the same fear entering my heart whenever the fluttering feeling sets in. Sometimes it’s just that – butterflies in the stomach. But even then I fear. Why? Because apart from multiple chronic illnesses, I have also been diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety, to name a few. And needless to say, anxiety affects every aspect of my life. Not a day goes when I don’t get panic attacks. Sometimes they are mild and pass quickly, and even then they leave me so restless, so frightened that the mere thought of it makes me shudder. And when they are severe, I’m left breathless, extremely dizzy with pain in my chest until I eventually pass out. The fear that the world is going to end and that I’m going to die, the feeling that nothing will ever be all right, and the unexplained, unnatural and scary thought of an impending doom makes me feel sick to the point I actually start believing this attack could kill me. I often compare my depression to an ocean, the black waters of which continuously torture me, giving me only two options – drown or spend my entire life caught in its rusty, dreary shadows. While my depression is like an ocean, with anxiety I feel like I am falling off a cliff. It’s all beautiful and green surrounding me, and then all of a sudden, I see my life slipping away. I feel like I’m in a free fall, going down and down and down — fast enough that I cannot make sense of what is happening, and slow enough to make sure I experience every single moment with full intensity. I keep falling and falling. My chest becomes too heavy and too tight, as if something strong and heavy is sitting on it, pulling breaths out of me — one by one. I get this horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, constantly making me feel like I want to throw up. The nausea, the fear, the chest pain, the trembling, the tightness a panic attack brings is something you cannot imagine. It’s so terrible, so frightening that it haunts you long after the original attack has passed. I feel anxious every day. Sometimes all day. And it is dreary — to not be able to breathe and to feel like you’ll pass out — and then the actual passing out. Living with anxiety is a nightmare. A nightmare that becomes reality and tortures me day in and day out, consuming my life in all of its entirety, making breathing the most difficult task ever. If you are struggling tonight, please know I am here for you. The whole purpose of writing this is to let you know that no matter what happens and no matter how hard things get, you are never alone. There’s always someone somewhere going through something similar, if not the exactly the same thing. You need to know that no matter how horrible and how powerful anxiety feels like, we are always stronger. I have so many things I like to do to distract myself in case of a panic attack or when I feel the first signs setting in. They don’t always help. But they don’t always fail either. Sometimes just listening to an audio book (which is by far my favorite and most helpful technique when it comes to anxiety) or taking random pictures on my phone helps prevent an attack that would have occurred if I had kept still. I have noticed that just living in the moment and taking things one at a time, I feel more grounded and relaxed. You could also have something that might help you. I’d really love if even one person feels less alone reading this. Because I know how it feels. And because I never want anyone else to feel the same. Also, if you want someone to talk to or just vent to, I’m always here.You can message me on my Instagram @its_little_ayra, my chronic illness recovery account) anytime. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . 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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “START” to 741-741 .

Aanchal Chopra

Why People Shouldn't Judge My Illness Based on Social Media Photos

The most common situation I come across being chronically ill is that people don’t believe me, mostly because I am always smiling and laughing when I’m around people. Seeing me smile, people automatically assume that I’m “doing better.” A few days back, I posted a picture of myself I took when I went out last month and people started messaging me, telling me how happy they were to know that I’m finally getting better. Now, while I know they mean well and are probably just ignorant, it comes off as rude and breaks whatever positivity I built up that day. It’s so easy to judge someone based on their appearance, but when you know someone is chronically ill, please try to be a little polite while making comments like these. Whenever I post pictures of myself going out, all loaded with makeup and smiling, I get messages like “I’m so happy to know that you are finally getting better,” but when I disappear off Facebook for a long time or share something about my illness, the same people tend to ignore it. I get that some people are uncomfortable talking about illness and sad things, but if those people really care, I would ask them to please take out a little time to ask me how I am actually feeling, rather than being silent for months only to comment “you look so happy” on one of my pictures. I have been dealing with severe chronic illnesses from more than six years now and I have spent much of that time on my bed. I’m almost always housebound and bedbound so when I get to go out, even if it’s for a doctor’s appointment, I like to dress up and do my makeup so that I look somewhat presentable. And because I absolutely love to take pictures, I will give my phone to my mother as soon as I step out of the hospital and ask her to click my pictures, which I then post online because let’s be honest, that really makes me happy. In fact, one of my greatest stress busters is taking pictures and getting mine clicked, so I don’t leave any opportunity in fear of not getting another for God knows how long. But because people see those pictures, they immediately assume that I’m getting better and when I tell them that I took it just outside the hospital, they look at me as if I’m lying. Because who would get all dolled up just for a doctor’s appointment? And if I’m really as sick as I pretend to be, how do I get the energy to dress up? This is when I want to tell them that I have gone to the hospital in the middle of the night, unable to breathe, in my pajamas and with my hair tossing up in different directions. I have spent and still spend days not combing my hair and just using my energy on things that are more important, like brushing my teeth and going to the washroom. I want to tell them that I go to a hundred hospital appointments a year but I don’t post a hundred pictures because most of the time I’m not even in a condition to make sense of my surroundings. But there are days when I can afford putting some energy in dressing up and getting a few pictures. There are days when I like to walk into the cafe right next to my hospital. And when I post my “check in” to the cafe, people immediately message me saying that I never go out with them. I’m sorry but I don’t feel like mentioning my illness all the time. It already takes up a huge part of my life. Sometimes I want to pretend that I am not ill. I don’t always want to write that I went to the cafe after a dreadful appointment or after crying my eyes out at the doctors’. Because that’s not important. I personally like to focus more on the positive things of life, so even though I have accepted my illness, I try not to let it poke its ugly head in everything. I like to post my picture in the cafe, laughing at something and then leave it at that. No explanations. Why should I feel the need to explain? When you have a chronic illness, it’s just about managing. Some days you can’t get out of bed while other days you can go for a little walk or even run. And that’s completely normal. Living with a chronic illness, we all have both good and bad days. We have limited spoons (energy) which we distribute into tasks that are more important. And everyone’s priorities can be different. That’s what makes us human. I am always up for raising awareness and I really love when people take out time to ask something about my illness (even though it rarely happens). I’m always open to questions because that’s the best way to raise awareness about all the rare invisible diseases that affect millions of people every day. But when people automatically assume things and fight with me because I went out yesterday but when they asked today I refused, it hurts. It really hurts. It takes me a lot of time and effort to plan for an outing and even then it’s almost always cancelled because my body decides to give me last minute surprises. There’s one thing I want to tell people – please, please try to understand because all we chronically ill people need is understanding, support and kindness. Please know that we are doing our best to live this life, irrespective of what it brings us. And never ever judge someone on the basis of how they look. You never know what hides behind that smile. Find me @its_little_ayra on Instagram where I share my chronic illness journey and the ups and downs that come with it. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Aanchal Chopra

A Night Inside the Head of a Person With Painsomnia

It’s 5:45 a.m. as I’m beginning to write this. While my mom’s phone is buzzing with alarms and I can hear the frantic noises coming from my neighbors who are probably getting up to go to school or work, I’m lying here, wrapped up in my blanket and thinking of ways to manage this terrible pain. I have had insomnia from ever since I fell ill, almost six years back and over time, it turned into painsomnia, a condition where you are unable to sleep because of physical pain. This is nothing new for me because I spend nearly every night like this, waiting for the pain to pass, waiting for sleep to come. Last night was the same. I lay in bed on time and have since been shifting and turning, changing positions in hope for the one that finally makes me fall asleep. Some nights it’s just insomnia without much pain, yet most of the nights from past few months have been spent literally wriggling in pain, sometimes groaning and crying and praying for Lord to grant me at least some sleep. This night was no different. I lay in bed, burning pain travelling up and down my spine and radiating into my shoulders, arms and hands. You must be wondering why I just don’t take some medicine? You see, because I also have severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), taking almost all medicines causes side effects (and before you suggest, let me tell you that I have tried everything I could to help me fall asleep already). And because I can absolutely not bear anything related to my IBS, I prefer to stay in pain most of the time. But there are days and nights (because we are talking about nights here) when I give up and take medication for my pain. It hurts in other ways but at least I get a couple of hours of sleep. Today, however, I am not doing it. I’m going to bear this pain because I’m not well enough to handle the side effects just to be free of pain for a few hours. It’s always a choice for me: to bear the symptoms or the side effects. It just depends on what I choose that day. It’s difficult to be chronically ill in general, to be in immense pain and to have your body behave in a way you never thought was possible. But it’s even worse at night, when everyone’s asleep and you are curled up into a tight ball, clutching yourself hard as if trying to shove away the pain and other horrible symptoms. As I lie here, I can’t help thinking about how different it would be if I was well; if I didn’t have to go through this; if I could just lie on bed and fall asleep instantly without my illness interrupting every few minutes to make sure I didn’t forget it. Sometimes I feel like talking to my illness, like to practically seize it up and tell it that it has been living inside me for almost six years and it’s time now to go away forever and never once show its ugly face again. I wish that was possible and that I didn’t have to spend tonight; every night struggling to stay sane, forcing breaths into me and trying to be quiet as I sob tearlessly into my pillow fearful of waking up my family and causing them unnecessary worry. Even though they are the most caring people one could come across, I feel like I should let them take some rest given how they spend every minute, day after day taking best possible care of me. The sun is beginning to come out and outside the window, sky is a mix of bright yellow and very dull blue. The constant chirping of birds and chattering of people is enough to let me know that another long night has passed without the tiniest hint of sleep. It’s 6:14 a.m. now and I know this sounds like a diary entry more than an article, but I wanted to give a true account of how I struggle through endless nights wishing for sleep and peace. I wanted to let you all know that you are not alone. If you are reading this while struggling in pain and wishing for a peaceful night, know that many others are, too. By sharing this little account of my pain-filled night, I aim to let people know that millions of us are together. We are together in our pain, together in our nausea, together in our dizziness, together in our fights. While it may seem like you are alone when you lie on your bed fighting painsomnia/insomnia, it is certainly not the truth. We are all together. With this, I would like to leave (well, because my pain is beginning to increase and so is my brain fog which has begun to clog up my head now, blocking any coherent flow of words). I hope my little experience makes someone realize that there is someone out there, struggling just like them. And I hope you know that you are never alone; that you will get through this; we will get through this. Until then, one day at a time. Oops. One night at a time. Find me @its_little_ayra on Instagram where I share my chronic illness journey and the ups and downs that come with it.

Aanchal Chopra

Tricks and Things I Do to Manage My Anxiety

When you have an anxiety disorder, everything feels upside down, like the world has turned into a whirlwind which is going to pull you inside it. You feel like the world is going to end and that you are about to die. Having a panic attack has symptoms similar to heart attack, and sometimes the pain and tightness in your chest is so intense that you are convinced everything is going to end and there is no future ahead. It feels like something dreadful is waiting to happen, and the darkness keeps pulling you towards itself. I have experienced anxiety almost all my life, but five and a half years back, it took a drastic turn. After struggling in silence for a few months, I was finally diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder. Through the years, I have struggled with bad panic attacks which often left me feeling depressed. But I have also been able to practice a few things to lessen my anxiety, and I decided that I’d share them with you all. Although, these can help you manage your anxiety to a certain extent, they definitely don’t substitute any doctor. If you struggle with any anxiety-like symptoms, please talk to your loved ones and a medical professional. Below are some of my top tips for those struggling with anxiety disorders: 1) Deep breathing. You might have heard this a thousand times, but you know what, it’s actually true! Whenever I start feeling anxious or feel like a panic attack is going to come, I close my eyes and start taking deep breaths. Doing this calms my body and may lessen my anxiety’s impact. 2) Drink water. This is also something you get to hear often, but whenever I start feeling anxious, I slowly drink a few sips of water, and it really calms me down. 3) Distraction. This is probably the greatest comfort when it comes to anxiety. Distraction can come in a lot of different forms depending on your environment and personal interests. I have suggested a few down below, but you can really do anything that helps you and reduces your anxiety. a) Watching something, whether it’s a video on YouTube or your favorite TV show, as long as it keeps you interested, can calm down your nerves because your brain may then focus on the TV instead of increasing your anxiety. I don’t know about others, but personally for me, watching cartoons is a great stress buster. No matter how anxious or depressed I’m, some “Tom and Jerry” or “Shinchan” always lifts me up! b) Most of the times when I experience anxiety, I like to move around because sitting actually makes things worse. But moving without thinking will only cause me to focus more on my anxiety. Instead, I think of something. I focus on some good aspect of my life or some upcoming event I’m excited about. I think of someone I love: family, friends, neighbors, or even my favorite celebrity. Really, anyone! It can help take your thoughts away from anxiety and as a result, you may feel better. c) Going out for a little walk is always refreshing and is good for your mental health. Whenever I get a panic attack, I feel suffocated and just want to run away somewhere. So I go for a little stroll down the road and just looking at the sky and the trees helps me calm down and makes me feel so much better. Also, if you have really bad panic attacks, it’s better and safe to take someone along with you. 4) Positive environment. Try to make sure the environment you’re in has only those things that make you feel good about yourself. If there’s any color, artifact or picture that triggers you, remove it. Keep only those things that lift you up in your visible reach. Choose soothing colors for your house, and keep some light music playing in the background to calm your nerves. 5) Learn to say no. I know it’s much easier said than done, but once you actually learn how to say no to things you don’t want to do or people who give you negative vibes, your life will become much much happier. 6) Pamper yourself. A hot bath with some scented candles lit around and positive music is an easy way to relax and soothe your nerves. Take out some time for yourself, and do things that make you feel happy and fulfilled, that motivate you to keep going. 7) Routines. For many people, not being able to complete a task is often a big cause of anxiety. I have learned from my experience that when I plan everything and stick to my routines, I feel more in control of myself and it ultimately helps my mental health. Using planners and making lists help me stay organized and hence reduces unnecessary anxiety. 8) Do what you love. When you sense a panic attack coming, do not try to keep it inside. If spending some time alone helps you, do that. If sitting with your family helps you, don’t stop yourself from going to them and letting them know how you feel. Do whatever you feel is the best for you that time (unless it involves hurting anyone, including you). 9) Create a happy journal. Make a list of things you love, things you have achieved or want to achieve. Paste pictures of your favorite places, food, TV stars, anything. Write inspirational quotes. Draw. Paste your pictures. Make this journal something which, when you look at it, makes you feel good. Make it your happy place. 10) Diary writing. If it helps, write down your feelings in a diary. Burn it or keep it, however you like. But let everything out on those papers. It is a great way to instantly feel lighter and happier. 11) Music therapy. Make a playlist of inspirational songs or songs that make you feel happy, and start playing it as soon as you feel the first signs of a panic attack. Dance to your favorite songs. Sing along. Act as if you are the star in the album. If this can make you feel better, why not? 12) Aromatherapy. Nowadays, there are so many products available at reasonable prices which help you lessen your anxiety by just inhaling their fragrance. Essential oils are great for this. Talk to your doctor before using any of these products, but if it suits you, you may find out they are indeed amazing. 13) Observe. If you have a lawn or garden, or any kind of plant, just sit down near it and observe it. Observe the patterns and colors of the flowers. Take in the fragrance and pay attention to the intricate details of the plant. After a few moments, you’ll notice you may actually start to feel better because your brain cannot focus on anxiety and attention-requiring activities at the same time. So, involving yourself in any activity that requires the use of your brain, and undiluted attention can really prove helpful when it comes to combating anxiety. 14) Read/Paint/Get creative. For me, nothing helps as much as books. Reading makes me transport myself into a different world, and every time I pick up a new book, I have the option of choosing my own world. Painting, drawing and getting involved in different types of crafts can be a very peaceful way to reduce your anxiety. 15) Meditation. While it may seem daunting to practice meditation, it is always helpful. Meditation is a great way to heal your body inside out. Even if you do not have a diagnosis, it can help to keep stay healthy, and when you do have some kind of physical or mental illness, meditation may be a savior. In the beginning, it might feel like you are not able to focus, but as you keep practicing, you’ll notice the difference. YouTube has some great meditation and relaxing videos. One example of simple meditation is to quietly lie down and listen to some nature sounds like chirping of birds or the sound of waves. It really helps in calming down my brain and in turn, reduces anxiety. 16) Awareness. Make yourself aware. This step is actually not for when you get an attack but rather when you are calm and in a state of understanding. Read good books on anxiety, talk to your doctor, talk to other people who are going through the same thing, join online forums, read medical books related to anxiety and make yourself aware about what anxiety is and what actually happens when you get an attack. Once you come to know the physical and mental process and the causes, you’ll be able to control your body better. And you might not get frightened the next time you have a racing heart or tightening of chest. 17) Get help. This is the most important step of all. Anxiety disorders are serious mental illnesses and can lead to dangerous situations if not controlled at the right time. Talk to someone you love and who you think will understand. It would be great if it’s some adult, especially your parents but if not, talk to anyone whom you completely trust. That being said, do not take all the suggestions and advice you hear. Many people are unaware of how severe anxiety can be and might not be able to guide you properly. Some might even give advice that could be potentially harmful. So instead of blindly following what others say, use your intellect, research and talk to a professional. Therapy may feel like a sign of weakness in many societies, but it is actually one of the strongest and wisest things you’ll ever do if you have any kind of mental illness. Medical professionals are trained, and they can help you so much. Never take medicines or supplements without consulting a doctor. Always look for suggestions, but take only those which have the potential to help you without causing any kind of harm. Last but not the least, please remember you are never alone. There are millions of people around the world who have the same issues as you. You might not know that because, just like you, they are also struggling in silence. Mental illness can be debilitating and life-threatening, and it’s time we put a stop to all the stigma. For that, we need to come out and join hands. We need to be together and be one voice. For all those struggling behind closed doors, you are brave and you can get through this. If you want someone to talk to, I’m always here for you no matter what. I have my Instagram account @its_little_ayra especially for the purpose of helping others because once I was also one of those lost voices who was afraid to come out, but now that I have finally begun to speak, I have found some amazing people and a wonderful community where we understand and lift each other up. It might feel difficult and even impossible to think things will ever get better, but trust me, they do because change is the only constant thing in this world. Keep your head up. Good things are coming! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Stock image by Transfuchsian

Aanchal Chopra

Tips for What to Do on Bad Flare-Up Days of Illness

Living with a chronic illness is hard. I have been chronically sick for more than five-and-a-half years. There are a few things I have found helpful when I’m under bad flare-ups. Now, every individual is different and doesn’t mean what helps one would help others, too, but I thought of sharing some of my tips to manage your symptoms on those days when you just can’t get up from bed. 1. Rest Rest is often underrated, especially because we are pressured into working like a healthy person. Sometimes other people make us feel like we shouldn’t be resting. Yet sometimes it’s us who feel guilty about resting so much and force ourselves to be active. There’s something I want to tell you. No matter what happens, if you feel like taking rest, please leave all work and do so. Your bodies are already fighting. They need energy to work and resting at proper intervals is important for well functioning of your body. 2. Water Unless there is a medical reason that you have to drink a limited amount of water, be sure to keep yourself hydrated. Well-hydrated bodies work well. Water also helps me fight pain and other infections. 3. Distract yourself. If your health allows, you can read books. Simple novels or children’s books are good for days when brain fog is high. Or you can delve into fantasy, horror or anything that helps take your mind off the symptoms. It’s totally up to what you enjoy reading! 4.  Audiobooks For days when reading can be intimidating, audiobooks are life savers. You can just lie down in a comfortable position and listen to your heart’s content. Plus who doesn’t like listening to stories? 5. Inspiration There are days when we feel stuck in this life and want to get well at any cost. A little inspiration can be really helpful to keep us motivated. The internet is full of inspiring quotes and pictures. You can also follow people on social media who post positive and encouraging stuff. You can always use #inspiration on Instagram and you’ll see a number of people living through this hard life, inspiring others on the way. Or you can read some inspirational stories on Google. 6. YouTube/TV My illness causes me to lie on the bed 90 percent of the time, so if you are one of those who feel stuck in your room and long to go out and have exciting experiences, I feel you. But for me, watching TV shows, movies and YouTube videos is like forgetting this world and this illness for a while. Travel vlogs are great if you love traveling! I personally love BookTube and beauty-related videos. Plus, there are always cute and funny animal videos! A little laugh is good for your health! 7. Arts and crafts If you are well enough, you can always go for some mindful coloring or any fun craft. Personally, I’m not well enough for that, so YouTube still remains my biggest savior! 8. Music I don’t think I need to explain this one but focus on listening to music that uplifts you and makes you feel good. Avoid music or any other thing that brings back bad memories. 9. Pamper yourself Girls know how much painting nails and simple face masks help improve their mood. And you don’t have to do that on your own. If you have a caretaker, you can always ask him or her to do little pampering for you. It’s crazy how much these little things make you feel better! 10. Simply observe This is something I do most of the time. I just lie on my bed and observe my family doing chores and talking around the house. It’s very soothing because you don’t have to spend your energy and yet you feel like you are a part of the activity. My family loves to sit with me and tell me everything about their day and hilarious conversations with their friends. I don’t even have to speak. I just nod because they know the intensity of my illness. It’s very enjoyable because you get to listen to so many things about the outside world without having to fear any payback. And if you are well enough, you could talk to your family or friends and even indulge in some video game or board games with them. 11. Pet therapy If you have pets, you know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing better than pet therapy and you get to strengthen your bond with your fur baby on these bad days! I want to tell you that while we struggle with severe illnesses, it’s not necessary to not be happy. Even if you cannot leave the house or bed (like me), I think you can always find little things to make you happy. And if nothing works, just pull up your comforter and have a good sleep. Take as much rest as you want to and do all that gives you joy, but always remember that not all days are same. Change is constant. You might be traveling to your favorite city the same time next year! You never know! Until then, just keep holding on and never lose hope.

Aanchal Chopra

Advice for Parents of a Child With Mental Illness

1. Believe them. The most important thing for someone with a mental illness is for someone to believe them. Often, we face disbelief and it shatters us the most. Your children want you to believe them. When they say they are not getting up because they are tired, please do not judge them as being lazy. Trust them. It will honestly help them a lot. When they see their parents trust them, they will be more open to sharing their thoughts with you. 2. Understand and support them. They need you. No matter how old they get, they’ll always need your support. There’s a lot going on in your child’s mind. They may feel shattered and broken. Their mind may be a dark and dreary place full of unimaginable fears and constant worry. They may not know what’s going on with them (in case they are still undiagnosed), which is why your support matters the most. 3. Getting out of the house won’t “cure” them. Yes, you heard it right. Going out of the house and getting fresh air will not make them perfectly well. Yes, it may be a good distraction, but sometimes it may prove disastrous. A person dealing with depression wouldn’t like going out of the house. Being in a room full of people won’t make their loneliness go away. It might make them feel more lonely. 4. Your child with social anxiety cannot just go out and “make friends.” One of the most common myths surrounding social anxiety is making friends and socializing helps in improving a person’s health. Social anxiety is a disease, which means people who deal with it are unable to socialize. Any sort of interaction, especially in big crowds, can cause panic attacks. Do not force your child to go out and meet new people. Try to understand it may not be possible for them at this stage. They feel much better in the security of their homes. 5. They are not just “freaking out.” Panic attacks are real. I remember getting a really bad panic attack when I was around 9 or 10. I clearly remember a family member saying, “C’mon, stop acting.” The attack was so severe I couldn’t breathe properly while everyone around me laughed and made fun of my “acting.” Your child is not freaking out. Your child is not throwing tantrums. They are going through a phase where nothing makes sense and they don’t know how to control their thoughts. Support them. 6. They are not doing it for attention. Your child would probably rather start dancing in the middle of a lecture or eat 60 tacos at that taco truck in front of hundreds of people than pretend to be sick with a serious illness just for the sake of attention. 7. Don’t tell them to simply “try harder.” Don’t put the blame on them. They have a serious mental illness and they are probably already trying much harder than you think. 8. They might engage in self harm and suicidal thoughts. Do not condemn them. Instead, work with them. Get professional help. Encourage and help them involve themselves in healthy ways of coping. 9. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness. Please, realize your child is ill and he/she needs help. You should be the first one to offer all kinds of help your child needs, but if it requires going to a professional, do not hesitate. Do not think of what your relatives, neighbors or friends will say. Your child might himself/herself be reluctant to ask for help. Please, encourage them. Take them to the doctor and hold their hand. They might find it traumatic to go through it on their own. 10. Last but not the least, be there for them. Even though they live with a disease, they are still your children. They need you now more than ever before. They are already going through a difficult time. Your support and understanding can make their journey easier. Listen to them. Motivate them. Talk to them. Make them feel protected and provide a safe environment in which they can share all their thoughts without any fear of judgement. Remember, believe them. Understand them. Support them. 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.

Aanchal Chopra

Letter for Depressed People Thinking About Suicide

Have you ever had to get through the day, smiling and talking to people, as if everything were all right, while all the time, you felt your heart crushing inside your chest, feeling like it would come out and fall on the floor even if you took just one more step? Like the roof over your head would collapse just like everything inside you does? Like the big bag of unhappiness deep in your soul would burst at any time? If yes, then I understand. Because walking through different phases of life, I’ve experienced that crushing pain, that invisible pain that resides in you, spreading, gradually reaching every part of your soul and slowly killing you from inside. That pain, dark and dreary and ready to hollow your insides. And if today you are going through this pain, I’m here for you. I understand. I care. You are not alone, and you never will be. Because someone somewhere feels exactly like you do. I have been through it. I have been at a point when I just stood there, blankly looking at myself in the mirror, debating if I should take my life. There was a time, not so long ago, when all I did was lie in the dark and cry for hours on end, when I couldn’t even force myself to speak a single word.   And today, here I am, writing this and telling you that you are not alone, that things do get better, no matter how much time it takes. I did not imagine I would ever cross the age of 18. Yet here I am, at 22, sharing my story with the world, telling them to never stop believing. Depression, in contrast to what most people think, is not something you can just snap out of. It’s not in your head. It’s a disease. A mental illness. As real as any other physical illness. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have a mental illness. I was “inside the closet” for a long time because faking a smile was always easier than explaining the reason behind my sadness. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid to express my feelings. Then, one day, as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I saw something related to depression, and I decided to create an account aimed at helping others going through the same thing. That one small decision completely changed my life. Until up to then, I was caught in my own misery. But when, one by one, I started interacting with people, I learned there were so many out there who were going through the same struggles. From that day, my mindset began to change. I started sharing my journey along with listening to other people and helping them as much as I could. That day, and today, I am a completely different person. I now keep sharing my thoughts and my journey with a view of raising awareness and letting the world know many people still struggle behind closed doors. That being said, there’s something I want you all to know. Today, let go of what you cannot change, and just breathe. Relax. Take a deep breath and drink some water. It can help. I know it seems like you will never come out of it and nothing will ever be all right. But that’s not the truth. I’m a living proof. And so are many others. I am not 100 percent better yet, but now I can laugh. I can enjoy. I can be happy, and I no longer cry all the time. Things do change. Just like happiness doesn’t last forever, neither do difficulties. You can be happy again. You can smile and laugh from your heart. But till that day, remind yourself it’s OK to break down, it’s OK to fall. It’s OK to get upset and cry. The important thing is to get back up. You are special in your own way. Love yourself, take care of yourself and get through one day at a time. I want to remind you all it’s OK if the only thing you did today was breathe. It’s OK if you couldn’t accomplish what you had planned. Don’t be harsh on yourself. You are a human, and it’s normal to not be able to do everything. Trust yourself, and when you feel you can’t go on, place your hand on your chest. Felt something? That’s your purpose. Your life. Always remember you are still alive. And as long as you are alive, there are endless opportunities in front of you. The road to healing is always open. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, the cloud of darkness always lifts up. If anyone wants to talk to me about their depression and other illnesses, I’m always available on my Instagram. And I would absolutely love to help! 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 .

Aanchal Chopra

Response to People Who Define Me By My Illness

Throughout my chronic illness journey, I have met different kinds of people. Some leave me because they couldn’t handle my problems, some think I’m faking it, some pity me because I’m sick and some (a very small part actually) are there with me through everything. I’m sure everyone who is sick meets such people at some point in their journeys. The worst of these, for me, are the ones who leave because they don’t believe us, but I’m not going to talk about them today. I’m going to talk about those people who pity us, those who don’t see past our illnesses. To everyone in my life who associates me “only” with my illness, I want to tell you that I’m not my illness. Sure (and obviously), my illness is a huge part of my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m nothing more than it. I’m a human. A young girl with dreams, hopes, imagination, thoughts and feelings. I have my hobbies. I love to sing, dance and write. I love to travel (however I haven’t ever been able to). I love being active and indulging in different activities. I love learning about new things. There’s so much I want to do and so much I still do in spite of my illnesses. But no one ever sees that. Once you are diagnosed with a lifelong illness, you get that “tag” and some people suddenly forget that you have your own unique personality. They do not look beyond the illness. But I want to tell you that I’m a lot more than my illness. I’m a daughter, a sister, a “furbaby” mom, a friend. I have ideas and emotions. I’m not just a sick girl. I have a life to live and I’m living it with all my strength. I may have obstacles and hardships in my life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get over them. If I have problems, I also have the courage and determination to get through it, and while things may not be in my control, I still have the option of living and loving life no matter how hard it is. And that is what I’m doing. Every day. Every minute. Every second. I’m taking my illness positively and I’m getting through it, 10 seconds at a time.