This is Gabby's Story.
The CDC says that 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental illness in a given year. 1 in 5 children currently have or will experience mental illness and 1 in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness. What I’ve learned from this is I am a part of that group. I was diagnosed with anxiety towards the end of grade 9 in 2016. Although, now that I look back, I had been living with my anxiety for much longer than that. I’d say that grade 9 was my peak though. I would go to school and my chest would feel so tight I couldn’t breathe. My stomach would hurt. I felt shaky all the time. As any completely mature 15 year old, I assumed I had some sickness and that something was horribly wrong. After a major panic attack when I was home by myself after school one day, my dad decided it was time to see a doctor and this wasn’t just typical school stress. After many appointments and tests, my doctor had an official diagnosis for me: anxiety.
While for most of my high school life my anxiety was pretty manageable, it wasn’t until COVID that my anxiety started to feel like it did in grade 9. I felt consumed by it. COVID brought so many unknowns. When would we go back to school in person? When would I be able to see my friends and family safely again? When would life go back to normal? COVID was the first time in a long time I felt alone. I felt like no one understood. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone. I started to cut off friends and I wouldn’t talk to them for weeks. I was worried about bothering my friends or being a burden to them.
It wasn’t until the start of my second year of university that I finally started to reach out to my friends. I opened up and talked about what I had been struggling with over the summer. To my surprise, a lot of my friends could relate. They had the same fears I had. I had forced myself to cut them off out of fear of being judged when in reality they understood exactly what I was going through.
I finally learned to open up to the people who loved and cared about me. My friends and family wouldn’t judge me because they just wanted the best for me. I learned to talk to my friends when I was struggling and not to cut myself off from them. Being vulnerable is scary, trust me I get it. The people who love you will always support you. If COVID and anxiety have taught me anything it’s that you don’t have to struggle alone. 9 times out of 10 the people around you are feeling the same way. Reach out to the people around you. If you still aren’t comfortable there are so many anonymous resources that you can reach out to. The people there will listen and support you. Do not suffer alone.