Like all other mental illnesses, anxiety gets downplayed and overlooked quite a lot. Many people seem to think that anxiety is synonymous to fear and therefore they understand your situation. Having people tell you that  they get sad too, in relation to depression, and that they feel scared sometimes, in relation to your anxiety, has got to be one of the most frustrating things ever. Especially since you’re already putting yourself in a position, talking about your mental health, that can be super uncomfortable. But when they relate a mental disorder to a feeling, you know that they don’t understand you or the mental illness you have to deal with on a daily basis. They don’t get how intense and real anxiety gets in the moment. Your fear becomes real, in your mind, whatever you’re having anxiety about becomes reality. Your thoughts overwhelm you and convince you that your fear is happening right now. It moves way past something that simply scares you. It begins to play out like a true and intense nightmare in your mind, unless you catch it and stop it.

I didn’t know that last part would ever be possible. For several years I’ve dealt with having anxiety attacks on a daily/weekly basis, depending on what was occurring in my life. Although they played a major role in my life and affected many part of my day to day activities, I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it. I wasn’t even aware that it was a mental illness I could address. I was definitely aware of my depression but I believed that my anxiety and social anxiety were just a part of my personality or who I was. I didn’t really think that they were issues that I could address. After a few years I came to the realisation that the anxiety attacks I was having were not a norm and just a couple months ago I realised that the awkwardness and irrational thoughts I had in regards to social interaction is in fact social anxiety. I can’t tell you how big of a relief it was to have a doctor tell me that there is a real reason for the panic I have around speaking in class or the heart-racing, nervous feelings I get when I’m placed in certain social interactions. And it feels even better to sit down with a counsellor every few weeks and address these issues head on, finding techniques that help me move past anxiety. Although I don’t personally believe in using medication to address my mental health, I definitely think that receiving a proper diagnosis from a physician was the best thing I could’ve done for myself and my wellbeing. It’s so difficult to prioritise this first step and actual make yourself go through with addressing your mental health with someone, but if you feel unsure, confused, or like somethings just not right, I highly suggest speaking to a doctor about it. You’ll have so many more options come your way and can finally find ways to cope with that annoying force that constantly seems to be weighing you down. Just remember, that first step is the hardest. From there, things will get better.

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