Awareness of Anxiety and Depression is an Important Step

At a young age, I would come home from school and walk my mom through my day – I would tell her all of the things I had done wrong, all the events that could have gone wrong, and all the fears I had encountered throughout the day. This started when I was in kindergarten. Then, when I was 10 years old, my grandpa passed away suddenly. After weeks of being extremely sick with something we later discovered was “abdominal migraines,” I was diagnosed with severe anxiety. Who knew a fourth grader could have severe anxiety? I started taking anti-anxiety medication and saw my first counselor.

Medication and counseling helped, the irrational fears and doubts in myself lessoned, but as I grew up a new problem arose – depression. Those of you that suffer from any kind of mental illness know that anxiety often is accompanied by depression. Depression can make you feel numb, but experience every emotion at the same time. I know this sounds completely bizarre, but until you have experienced it firsthand, it is very difficult to understand.

I had other outlets throughout high school. I was very involved in sports, other extracurricular activities such as dance, and I had a wide social network. I have always been an outgoing, somewhat loud individual who loves meeting new people and making new friends. Sports and dance not only kept me in great shape, but they provided positive endorphins – chemicals in the body that act as natural painkillers and help lower stress levels (Exercise for Stress and Anxiety.).

It wasn’t until college that I had a terrible issue with my mental illnesses again. I lost the structure of my life, the everyday support from my family, school was more difficult, and even though many of my close friends also came to the U of M, I didn’t see them every day anymore. I wasn’t as active and I felt my world start to come crashing down around me and I felt I had nowhere to turn. I got through my freshman year with the help of a counselor and speaking out about my issues to my close, trusted friends and family.

Now, as a graduate student in my last semester at the University, I feel my anxiety and depression worsening once more. I do not know if it is the fear of everything changing again, friends moving on, having to live the life of an adult (ugh!), or that sometimes life is just hard. Grad school is not the easiest thing I have ever done, but I am very blessed to have the opportunities and support that I have in life.

I feel the constant need to control the outcome of situations in my life, which we all know is literally impossible to do. I know I am loved and cared for by so many people, but every once in a while, I feel completely alone. The number of irrational fears and thoughts I have on a day to day basis is ridiculous. I always feel tired. I have discussed this with my doctor and I’m trying a new medication. I must force myself to reconnect with my counselor – and I finally decided it was time I spoke out about my issues because I know I am not alone or the only one suffering.

I grew up in a family that openly discussed mental illness – I knew I had no reason to be embarrassed of it, as it is a disease. But society made me feel different. It took a long time for me to acknowledge to my close friends that I suffer from anxiety and depression. It took even longer for me to be able to discuss this with acquaintances – and deciding to put this out here in a blog was extremely difficult. I realize if I don’t talk about it, then society is winning. The attitude that mental illness is something we should be ashamed is so unbelievably WRONG! Total BS! We as individuals need to empower each other and realize that nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness (Conley, M.). It doesn’t make us different, or weird, it makes us unique and badass.

I compiled some quotes that those with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety can relate to – and that will help those of you who do not suffer understand and be empathetic for those who do. It is important to know that getting help is essential – but that takes effort and time – which is not easy. Never feel ashamed to reach out and ask for help – and make the effort – it really does make a difference. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illness can be lifelong struggles – awareness, medication, and counseling are so important. This is my contribution toward awareness. I hope at least one of these quotes speaks to you.




Work Cited:

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By: Bailey Harper