My journey with anxiety has been going on since I can remember. Looking back now, I realize many of the behaviours I had as a kid were actually anxiety manifesting itself into different aspects of my life. I think my parents just thought I was quirky, but I thought there had to be something wrong with me. As I grew older and went through high school, I learned different ways to cope with my anxiety and how to suppress it, making sure no one knew it was there.
It was not until I began working in a homeless shelter that my anxiety started taking over my life. Throughout the summer of 2020, I experienced the worst mental burnout I had ever had (as I am sure many of us did). By the end of the summer, I was permanently exhausted, not eating, always anxious and stressed. The worst part was that I did not understand how my anxiety was manifesting itself in those areas of my life, making it all worse.
I thought the solution to my problem was moving back to my university town and away from my home town to start my third year of university. Although this did somewhat help, as I have learned, mental health is a lot like physical health, and if you do not heal something when it needs to be healed, it will usually come back to bother you later. Throughout my first month of third year I found my anxiety being the worst it had ever been, I was in a mental fog and just not myself. It was then that I began speaking to my doctor about medication, and signed myself up for counselling at my university.
To say counselling changed my life would be an understatement. Not only did counselling completely change my perspective on anxiety and mental health, my counsellor was also able to help me see my self-worth. I was able to see my anxiety and mental health not as something to be afraid of, but rather something that can honestly be a superpower in some ways. Although my anxiety is difficult, stressful and can knock me off my path sometimes, it can also alert me to bad situations, makes me hyper-aware of how others feel and makes sure I get assignments done on time. Now, not everyone’s anxiety will affect them the same way mine does me, but I really hope that everyone with anxiety one day is able to understand how this mental illness is in many ways, positive.
Today, I still struggle, but the biggest gift I have given myself is the ability to be OPEN about my mental health. I have found that, although it may be daunting, being the first one to speak up about how you feel lets others feel comfortable to do the same. I have had amazing conversations about mental health with my friends this year, and I encourage others to do the same.