Whenever I tell people I’m an advocate for mental health, the first question I get is “why?”. I could answer this by rambling off statistics, talking about stigma or telling them about all of my family members/friends who have struggled with their mental health and sometimes I do just this. However, I always talk about my true personal connection; the real reason I advocate for mental health. I have an anxiety disorder.
I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I even had my first panic attack at 6 years old (and yes, this is completely possible). My life has been one big roller coaster of anxiety and I am in the front seat.
Now the problem with anxiety, and with any other mental health issue, is that it is complicated. Some days/weeks/months are good… great even. And others, not so much. I can go weeks without really dealing with any serious anxiety (outside of the normal, healthy variation of it). Other times, I can become so overwhelmed that I go into a complete nervous breakdown.
Now a question that I think about often is this: “if I could go back in my life and get rid of my anxiety, would I?” And the answer: no
No, life was never easy. I had to push myself more to do the things that others did so easily. I couldn’t just call someone on the phone or go into big crowds. I had to deal with panic attacks in public and anxiety that was sometimes so crippling that I lost a lot of amazing opportunities. But I learned perseverance, determination and empathy. I learned so many different ways to cope and deal with my struggles. And I learned that you can do anything, no matter what life throws at you.
There is a saying that everyone is given a “cross to bear” so to say. I feel as though this is what I was given in life to challenge me and help me grow. The best part about it is now I have this passion to help others who struggle like I do. I am able to be a voice to speak out, an ear to listen and a hand to reach out and help others up. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
So now I want to encourage you. Speak out! Everyone struggles and everyone has their own story. Don’t be afraid to tell yours!