Many people think that people like me, with anxiety or depression can wake up one day and decide to ‘get better’. That I can wake up one day and decide to ‘smile, drink coffee and deal with it’. But anxiety isn’t something that I can just ‘turn off’.
Anxiety isn’t something that I choose to have on a Monday and choose to not have on a Sunday. Anxiety isn’t a decision. It isn’t a voluntary thing that I want in my life day in and day out. I can’t just ‘choose to be happy’.
I always knew I was different. From as young as I can possibly remember I knew I wasn’t like other children. I felt things way more intensely and came across as dramatic when I tried to express myself.
My mother, like many people her age, saw mental illness as something to be embarrassed about. When I started to have emotional outbursts at school or I’d cry and beg her not to fall asleep during the day because the anxiety I felt was unbearable I was just labelled a child with behavioural problems. I was always made to feel like I chose to be this way.
I'm a 23 year old man, and I've struggled with my mental health for about a decade. What began as having low moods turned into suicidal thoughts, psychosis, addiction, anxieties and depression. At one point I tried to take my own life.
Growing up with these emotions resulted in me feeling very isolated.
I hid my true emotions as best I could growing up because the few occasions when I mentioned I was feeling low, not even depressed, I was told to ‘man up’ or ‘get over it’.
Mental illness has been a constant struggle throughout my life. I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalised anxiety disorder and depression. For many years, I kept this a closely guarded secret, because I was too afraid to open up to those around me, for fear of rejection, stigma and discrimination.