I have had diagnosed anxiety since I was seven years old. Since then I've been in and out of therapy, have tried medication, have cried myself to sleep countless nights, have had panic attacks about things as simple as not getting a text back, and have made my parents sick with worry.
One day in particular though stands out to me. I was a junior in high school and was sitting in my third period English class. I'd just bought a new glass Starbucks cup the night before and had it sitting on my desk. The cup started to slip off of my desk, fell on the ground, and shattered. Everyone was watching me at this point, and I excused myself to go to the bathroom and get some paper towels to clean my mess. I walked back to the classroom, humiliation filling me and paper towels clenched in hand. I could feel myself losing breath and getting anxious, but I managed to calm myself. By the end of the period, everything was cleaned up. Fourth period comes along and I walk to my speech class. I sit at my desk, the period starts, and my teacher puts on a film. I reach out my phone to send a text to my dad about how I broke my new cup. I hear my name called in a stern tone, and am told to put my phone away. I reach in my bag and grab my planner, I start to write in it to keep my mind distracted. I hear my name called in the same stern tone once again. I am told to pay attention and that I am being disrespectful. At this point, the whole class is looking at me. I feel humiliated once again and can feel tears start to come out of my eyes. I need an excuse to leave the classroom, so I ask to go to the nurse.
As I walk down the hall to the nurse's office my vision starts getting blurry and I start getting sick to my stomach. I make a run for the bathroom. I sit in the stall struggling for breath, heart rate spiked, sweat dripping from my palms, and tears dripping from my eyes. I know that I am having a panic attack. I think of everything bad that happened to me on that day and how embarrassed I was. I walk back to the classroom and am asked why I took so long. I'm too scared to give a valid answer and make up a fake one. My teacher called the nurse and finds out that I never went into her office. I'm pulled into the hallway and told that I was a liar, disrespectful, and have lost all of my teacher's trust. This conversation brought the feelings I just had in the bathroom stall back on, but there was nothing I could do. I felt helpless and had to call my dad to pick me up.
This is what anxiety is. Anxiety is not a beautiful girl needing to be saved by some prince charming. Anxiety is not feeling a tiny bit nervous before an exam. Anxiety is not a word to be put in cursive on a necklace or on a hoodie. Anxiety is feeling like you're helpless and trapped. Anxiety is having a breakdown over something as simple as not getting a text from your dad. Anxiety is feeling so scared and anxious that you can't eat or don't have the motivation to get up for class. Anxiety is canceling plans that you've looked forward to all week because you wake up and feel like all of your friends hate you.
Mental illnesses are not something to be seen as trendy to be put on clothing. There is nothing cute about mental illness. A few days ago I heard about a YouTuber named Corinna Kopf experiencing backlash for her new merchandise. I decided to look up a picture of her merchandise and see a hoodie with the definition of the word "anxiety" printed on the back.
Looking further, I find necklaces on a site called ban.do. These necklaces are gold nameplates that spell out "anxiety" "depression" and "bipolar." These necklaces are sold out. Urban Outfitters even sold a crop top with the word "depression" printed all over it and a t-shirt with the words "Eat Less."
The problem with making mental illness "pretty" is that it's so out-of-kilter with reality. Anxiety and other mental illnesses are almost suggested as a desirable character trait for women to have. Speaking from personal experience, anxiety is frustrating and demanding for partners. Anxiety isn't pretty and definitely isn't fun. Anxiety is painful and a daily struggle for some.
My anxiety isn't beautiful and sure as hell shouldn't be used as your next fashion statement.