You are not defined by your mental illness; you are more than just your anxiety and depression, and it is not what you are limited to or known as.
Disclaimer: This article does not intend to invalidate any type of mental illness; the point is to bring more light and awareness toward the more severe types of anxiety and/or depression.
Anxiety and depression are two separate words that are often thrown around together and very carelessly. A person who is feeling a little blue or panicky about something automatically assumes that it is depression and anxiety that they’re suffering from when, most of the time, that’s not the case.
Anxiety and depression are serious mental health issues that are not talked about frequently and openly enough. In the kind of society that we live in, a person suffering from any kind of mental illness is told to “get over it” or to “move past it.” It is all very hush hush, and more times than not, the person’s family does not understand what it’s like to have any kind of mental illness.
The reason I say this is because when I was first diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), my family did not understand it either. I was asked questions like, “So why do you feel it?” and, “What exactly are you afraid of?” It frustrated me beyond anything, and, I won’t lie, I am definitely guilty snapping at them more than once.
However, while we — the people who advocate so strongly for mental health and its issues — are all for opening up and talking about what mental health is and what it stands for, we also need to open up and educate those who are closest to us.
I recently graduated from university, and let me tell you, as a person who was diagnosed with GAD halfway through my final semester, it was not easy. I knew what I felt was a mix of both anxiety and depression, but I’d never had the proper diagnosis for me to be exactly sure about it.
As someone who has suffered from crippling anxiety for years before my actual diagnosis, I always tried my hardest to convince myself that it was nothing, that I was just being plain ridiculous. I spent all that time invalidating my own feelings. Nobody else needed to do it to me; I was doing it to myself.
Throughout my four years at university, both my anxiety and my depression grew and grew. It got to the point where, right at the end, as I reached my final semester, I simply gave in, and I gave up. I remember every day extremely vividly. I knew in my head that I was supposed to be working on my final year project (I graduated with a BA in Interior Design), and yet I did utterly nothing about it. I laid in my bed, stared out the window, and wondered, “What the hell am I doing with my life?”
Every morning as I commuted to university, I sat there with a huge, tangled up ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, and the sense of doom and gloom was always looming over me. There was never a second in all these past four years where I felt truly free of that feeling. Every single day I lived with the fear that I was wasting away my life and that I was going to die any second without having done enough to leave my mark behind in the world.
Of course, looking back and saying these things out loud now seems very silly and over-dramatic; yet, to me, it was never silly or over-dramatic. The world was never ending. I was getting my education, I was doing projects every semester, and I was building up my name and reputation throughout the university through my work itself.
I was doing a lot all the time — a lot more than most people get the chance to do in their life — and yet I made myself feel useless because I constantly put myself down.
As someone who has gotten through all that pressure and constant tension, as someone who now stands as a certified member of society and the professional arena, I stand before you to tell you that you are more than your mental illness. You are not your anxiety nor your depression, and you are more than you give yourself credit for. You are strong and brave, and you can do anything you put your mind to.
Finishing a chapter in your life is never the end; it is always the beginning of something new, filled with a renewed sense of hope. I always wanted to be a published writer, and I never got the chance to be one; yet, here I am, putting up my first article for all of the world to see. When they say your resilience will get you places, they aren’t wrong.