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.

Inner beauty

Beauty isn’t defined by the clothes that you wear, a number of followers you have on social media or the colour of your hair. What makes you gorgeous is much greater than what is on the surface. What is beautiful is the passion in your voice when you talk about your greatest love or the dreams you have.

For a few years, I would struggle with the idea of beauty and what beauty really was. I’ll be the first to admit that when I was younger I thought outward appearances were what made someone beautiful. Even all throughout my childhood, my parents told me numerous times, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Boy, were they right! It didn’t matter if I felt I looked beautiful, if I was speaking unkind words and acting in an ungrateful manner, I wasn’t presenting myself beautifully. The truth of it all is, beauty comes from within, and I know everyone has heard that saying time and time again, but it holds a lot of worth behind it.

Growing up in today’s world with social media at our fingertips and magazines at every grocery store checkout, the idea of what makes someone beautiful is splattered every which direction you look. It’s so easy to cave into the hype of purchasing a product that claims to make you look younger overnight or feeling validated by how many likes you get on a picture you posted. I’ve been there and let me tell you, it was lonely. I’d like to share a little bit about my experience with the definition of beauty and how it has evolved.

Ever since I was a little girl I was fascinated by all things beauty related, whether that be painting my nails, the current hair trends or the newest makeup brand. I was constantly changing my hair colour and cut (if I felt brave enough, long hair has always been my go to) and what skincare products I was using. I easily became reliant on products to help me feel secure within myself. This was mostly from when I was 15 on to 21. I was incredibly self-conscious of how others might perceive me if I didn’t appear “flawless.” I use quotations there because throughout the last four years I have learned to embrace my flaws and celebrate my imperfections; I realize now that wearing makeup doesn’t make someone more beautiful than someone who doesn’t. But until I was 21 I was so insecure if I didn’t have a full face of makeup on, which looking back was so silly because I had gorgeous healthy skin.

I slowly began buying makeup and skincare products almost weekly. I treated as a hobby and I was obsessed with all the newest brands and trends. By this point, it wasn’t that I relied on makeup to allow me to feel good about myself, I was genuinely interested and started collecting it. Makeup to me became my safe haven, I could explore new techniques and learn so many different ways to use just one product. I have to thank youtube for making my passion for makeup so accessible and allowing me to really expand my knowledge. My mom never wore too much makeup so for me this was all new and so exciting; I really had to teach myself.

I was still on the hunt for what true beauty really was and I wanted nothing more than to feel that for myself. I made a vow to myself when I was 21 that I would wear less makeup for the everyday look and try to let my personality shine. To be honest, it really wasn’t until I was 22 that I became comfortable with myself and really loved how I looked with and without makeup. I used to try to cover up every single imperfection on my body whereas now I see that my little flaws are what make me, me.

All throughout my teenage years and early twenties I wanted to look a certain way and if there was something I didn’t like about myself I wanted to change it immediately. And trust me, there are a few things that I’m still learning to love about myself but that’s the amazing part of this journey, it’s never ending. The things I disliked about myself five years ago are some of the things now that I love. I feel the most beautiful now when I am surrounded by people I love and smiling for minutes on end. Smiles really are one, if not the, most beautiful accessory you can have.

My perception of beauty has evolved tremendously and I am truly grateful it has because it has opened my eyes to so many different kinds of beauty I wasn’t aware of before. I believe that a person’s personality can light up an entire room and be so inviting. In the last few years, I have made an effort to become more kind, patient and accepting. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and to be accepted no matter which walks of life they come from. Just like my mom told me when I was younger, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and true beauty comes from within. Kindness is one of the most beautiful traits a person can have along with a forgiving heart.  My hope for myself is that I continue to grow and become a greater version of myself every day.