There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable subject – you don’t just strike up a conversation and say, “Hey! Nice to meet you. I have general anxiety disorder with OCD tendencies!” Mental illness isn’t a fun topic and some people are afraid of what others will say if they tell how it affects them. It’s like if we don’t talk about it, mental illness doesn’t happen, I’m fine, you’re fine, everything is fine. But it happens, and now is the time to start talking about it.
Anxiety affects around 18% of United States adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. These people are your neighbors, your classmates, your family, your sisters. I am one of these people; I have anxiety. I discovered it the fall of my sophomore year, when I would lie awake until 5, 6, or 7 in the morning with multiple panic attacks a night. I cannot tell you what triggered it; I can only tell you that it was a personal nightmare. The next six months was a rollercoaster where I got put on antidepressants, took myself off, gained weight, felt severe side affects, lost my temper, became depressed, and couldn’t control my emotions. However, in those months I learned a lot about misconceptions about mental illness.
Anxiety affects us all differently. How we react is up to our own selves. It has taken me quite some time, but I have accepted that I will never be “normal” (I probably never was in the first place) and I do not blame myself for my anxiety. I have come to terms with the fact that I must start medication again and stop skipping my counseling appointments. It is time to stop thinking that just changing your attitude can fix mental illness. There are so many factors that go into it. We need to get comfortable talking about mental illness and we need to be vocal about what resources are available. No one has to suffer alone. There is always help. There is always a way to make things better, even in the smallest way.