I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was fifteen and before that, my mom had mentioned me speaking with a therapist about my thoughts. But I wouldn't. Why would I choose to do something when the stigmatism around it is so negative? And when that anxiety diagnosis came- I was crushed. I was scared. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed.

All because as a sophomore in high school, everyone judged mental disorders. I was afraid to tell my friends at the time. I was afraid to share my mental disorders with teachers who would have helped me in fear that a peer may find out. I was afraid to take care of my own mental health because of what others would think.

Those feelings did nothing but worsen my thoughts and bring me down. I'll admit it, some of these judgments may have been enhanced by my anxiety, but a majority of them stemmed from the people I was surrounding myself with and how they talked about mental disorders. When I finally began to surround myself with the proper supportive people I deserved, I learned so much. It doesn't matter if you think it's stupid, or a "made up problem" because to me it's real. I will never again be ashamed because of one's view of my mental health.

Why would I be ashamed of something that has played and will continue to play such an important part of who I am?

My anxiety makes me stronger. Through my daily struggles, I have worn a mask. This mask, the brave face I put on has made me stronger. My strength does not always show, but it is within me. I have grown through every thought and every experience. Every panic attack has strengthened me.

My anxiety makes me empathetic. Okay, okay, I think empathy is something I may just have already had, but my anxiety magnifies it. As someone who spent so much in their own head, I always think of how other's will feel and react to my words and actions.

My anxiety is a part of me. I'll be honest, sometimes I struggle to order at a restaurant. Or I worry as I walk through the dining hall with food that everyone is judging me. But these thoughts are part of what pushed me to work at bettering myself. I work hard to combat these negative feelings, but no matter what I will always have my anxiety and it will always be in me.

My anxiety has changed my life.

Today, I am eighteen, just finished my first semester in college and I am proud of my anxiety.