I have anxiety.

Those three words will always be one of the most difficult for me to say out loud. It’s not easy to talk about your mental health struggles with others, especially people who have never experienced anything like it before. It can be dark and hazy, the whole world can all of a sudden feel like it is collapsing in on you. A crowded room can be the loneliest place all the while an empty room in a quiet home can feel so comforting. Anxiety can be so deafening.

It’s hard for me to write this, so bear with me please. The most real kind of writing and the archives I am most proud of are the ones that are raw. Mental health is one of the only subjects that I can write about for hours and not because I find it fascinating but because I live with the struggles of anxiety every day. It’s a constant balancing act for me to try to work through my emotions and anxiety attacks but I have no choice but to otherwise I would end up sitting in my bedroom 24/7 wishing I didn’t have to deal with anxiety attacks in public. It’s rare but it does happen. And in those moments there’s nothing more I want to do than scream and run away from everything going on inside. Anxiety doesn’t just go away like I wish it would.

I’ve had anxiety for about six years now, and man it was not what I had imagined for my early twenties. Not wanting to go to parties or meeting new people? That was never me. Have you ever been too anxious to go to a movie or even a mall alone? I’ve been there..way too many times. Just thinking about the idea of going to a mall completely alone would make my heart fall into my stomach and slowly it would feel as if I couldn’t breathe. I could try to deny it all that I wanted, but I had anxiety. I was officially someone I never thought I would be. And I’m not saying that because I’m ashamed to not have perfect mental health, I’m saying that because I could have never predicted all the struggles that would come with anxiety.

My anxiety started casually I guess you could say. It would creep up whenever I was in a large group and would last until I tossed back a couple drinks. I was always stuck comparing myself to others and worrying about their perception of me. Silly, I know, but at twenty one I didn’t have much self-confidence. Anxiety completely took over. Some days I felt almost numb. It was exhausting to constantly have worries and fears running through my mind.

Slowly, a couple drinks weren’t enough to mask the anxiety. It was almost as if my anxieties had their own anxieties. It doubled overnight.  In reality, it didn’t grow overnight; I just tried so hard to hide it. And eventually, I couldn’t. I was left trying to navigate a truth that I didn’t want to accept.

If it weren’t for my faith I’m not sure how I would ever push through on the days where there is nothing more I want than to lay in bed all day. And as much as my anxiety would love that, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t thrive. I wouldn’t grow and I wouldn’t learn the coping mechanisms needed to navigate something as complex as anxiety.

Indifferent to what I used to think, anxiety isn’t something that is black and white. It’s not as simple as you either have it or you don’t. It’s so vastly different for each person; something I won’t attempt to explain. I have anxiety but I may not have all the symptoms someone else does or maybe I can relate to some issues but not all. It’s complex. It’s the same for mental health, it’s not an easy answer for anyone but I do believe it is something that we all need to talk about more frequently and more openly. There should never be a stigma around mental health and we should never make someone feel smaller for struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD or many other different mental illnesses.

Mental health will always be something I am passionate about because I would not be the person I am today have I not experienced the challenges that come with anxiety. It has changed my life greatly and I can only hope that through talking about it we can start a larger conversation and feel a little less alone in a world where it is so easy to.