August 25, 2016

I've had anxiety since I was thirteen. It's never been diagnosed. To question whether you have a disorder and to be told by someone else are two different things. I'm scared of taking that step, it's too definite. I don't want to be told that I could have this for the rest of my life. I want to think there is always the possibility I will wake up and my anxiety has disappeared. This is a thought I want to hold on to.

I've always assumed I developed anxiety due to being bullied and after reading information online, that seems to be the case. I question absolutely everything. Myself, the words I choose, the people around me and their motives. I analyse every conversation. If someone so much as looks as me the wrong way I'll think about it for the rest of the day. If I'm invited out with friends, I almost always try to find an excuse. I hate crowds of people, especially if I don't know anyone as it makes me super uncomfortable. It's almost like I have to evaluate the situation, first.

 When I was a kid, before the bullying, I was an open book. I was found to be endearing. Now, any conversation I have I'm worried they don't like me or twist my words, then it would be my fault for saying anything at all. In my mind, everyone has a motive. The torment at such a young and fragile age has left me mentally scarred where I feel it is difficult to trust anyone has good intentions. I am left to rely on my instincts which have been damaged too - it's a never ending cycle.

But I will not give up. I've seen counsellors, psychologists even hypnotherapists. It helped short-term especially to know someone was there when I needed them and who didn't judge me. For a long time I fought it but recently I have sat and listened. I know it's a daunting thought and it has been difficult but I couldn't see any other way. My anxiety is always there on some level, but each time I had a bout of severe anxiety I thought: what if this time I can't bounce back? It was a scary thought.

My close friends and family know that I'm anxious and have "over the top" thoughts. They know about all of the sessions I've attended in hope to eliminate my anxiety. However they see black and white, they don't understand mental illness. It's in between the lines. I don't feel that anyone close to me realises how difficult it really is. I don't blame them. I don't know how to explain what I feel so how could they possibly understand. I only know how it feels.

I currently speak to people online about my disorder, people who are on the same journey as me to defeat this monster, this darkness inside of us. Having had anxiety for the last ten years, all I ever wanted was someone to understand. Someone who could relate to me and tell me that I'm not strange, that I'm not ungrateful and to tell me that I'm strong. Because I am strong.

I want to spread awareness and stomp out the stigma of mental illness. I imagine a world where mental illness can be talked about positively, to strengthen the people who experience them. Where people can be heard - let's make this a reality. I want people to be understood and not be isolated.

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