Ellie, January 13, 2020

"Being told I'm lazy, not interested or anti-social is sometimes more draining than the anxiety itself."

Since the age of 12 I have struggled with my mental health. I became anorexic between 12 and 14, and then I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 17.

Despite days of feeling fine and genuinely happy with life and the world that’s out there, there is always that part of my head where my depression and anxiety make sure they have something to say.

The stigma around mental health can be what makes it the hardest to deal with. Sometimes I don't want to do something with people, because I don't want to leave the house due to feeling too anxious - and being told I'm lazy, not interested or anti-social is sometimes more draining than the anxiety itself.

I could plan an event well in advance, get excited to go out and imagine it all in my head, but sometimes when the day comes I still can't go through with it. I want to do these things, but my anxiety stops me.

If someone is suffering with anxiety and they cancel any plans that you had, then you need to try and accept that, possibly ask them if there is something they are more comfortable doing instead or agree to go and see them soon after – check they are okay.

If you're making plans in advance with someone, you could make the plans brief, keep things flexible, and plan to do something pro-active such as cooking or going to the zoo – animals can be the most therapeutic thing to someone suffering with anxiety and depression.

Volunteering together for a couple of hours somewhere once a week or so can also be a really helpful, routine plan to make. I volunteered and it helped me think about taking care of others and made me realise how important it is to take care of ourselves too, especially if we're living with anxiety or depression.

Mental health conditions can be exhausting. What I've learned is to try and focus on the little things in the world. Dreading going to restaurants due to anxiety over what I would eat, what people would think of me, and what I looked like was not the way to go. I try to stay positive and focus on the good around me instead. I like the thought of ‘staying in my shoes’ – accepting that anxiety and my depression is part of who I am and that it has helped me grow in some way to help other people and be more accepting myself. I'm proud of what I have been through and will never ever hide my scars because they are who I am and a sign of how far I have come as a person.

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Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.