You're in Malibu with your sister on a flawless day in January, and you're on the verge of tears the whole time.
All your friends throw you a birthday dinner and all you can think about is how you have no friends.
At a fancy restaurant for a date your boyfriend meticulously plans for your anniversary, you can hardly smile because you can't help but wonder if he loves you anymore.
You've flown home for the holidays to be with your family, but on Christmas Day you can't even eat the food your mother slaved over for hours because the knot in your stomach makes the smell nauseating.
That's anxiety. That's depression.
And the worst part? You can see the perfection of every moment.
You can feel the sun and hear the ocean and realize what a beautiful day it is. And you can't feel the warmth.
You can look around the table and run out of fingers to count how many people are there to celebrate you. And you can't feel the love.
You can see the look he gives you when he says he loves you. And you can't comprehend why he does.
You can see how happy everyone is to see you when you come home for the holidays. And you aren't able to share in their happiness.
You can see the perfection of every moment, but the bliss this should give you is absent. The should-be-joy has somehow escaped your grasp, and you want to kick yourself for not being able to find it.
You know where all these wonderful sentiments should be, but they aren't there.
It's a hopeless feeling.
When I was 17 years old I was clinically diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, which induces depression. As I would later find out this mild depression, too, has a name: dysthymia, AKA persistent depressive disorder.
Being diagnosed is one of the most painful things to hear, because you don't want to be the girl with depression. You don't want to be the girl on “meds." You don't want people to come to you asking if they can buy “bars" from you because they know you have a prescription for Xanax.
Yet, there you are, all those things at once.
And it's all because of this stigma, this unbearable shame that mental illness means there's something wrong with you.
And you know what? It doesn't mean shit.
I have blonde hair. I have blue eyes. I have a tendency to switch my words around. I have a love for reading books. I have a test next week. I have anxiety.
Enough said. It means nothing more than anything else I “have." Having anxiety simply means there is a chemical imbalance in my brain, which, for some is easily corrected with mental exercises, and, for others is easily corrected with a single capsule each day.
Just as I take a birth control pill each night to prevent pregnancy, I take a 20mg pill of fluoxetine to prevent this chronic worry. Just as I take two Advil when I have a headache, I take 0.5 mg of Xanax when I'm having a panic attack. No, I'm not a “bar queen," and no, you cannot have some.
Fuck anxiety. Fuck depression. Any mental illness sucks, but it doesn't define you.
And for those of you who don't understand it: stop acting like mental illness is something that shouldn't be talked about. Stop feeling uncomfortable when people want to talk to you about it. Stop acting so shocked when someone brings it up casually like its nothing.
Because mental illness is nothing. It's a thing, no different than you telling me for the thirtieth time the story of your shin splints.
A broken arm is treatable and so is a mental illness.
So why is it that people shy away from its mention? Superstitiously, as if the acknowledgment of its name will leave you also stricken with anxiety, with bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
The less we are willing to talk about mental illness, the more taboo it becomes. The fewer people hear of it, the more ignorant they are.
So don't be ashamed. It's okay to have a mental illness, and it's okay if it beats you down some days, some weeks, some months. There is nothing wrong with you.
Just because I have anxiety doesn't mean I don't also possess happiness.
Some days, I see the sun and hear the ocean and I feel sublime.
I see my friends and realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by such warm hearts and beautiful souls.
I hear him say “I love you, Izzy," and I still get butterflies.
I hop off the plane in Denver and see my mom's smiling face and recognize what a wonderful family I have.
Like the saying goes: “It's just a bad day, not a bad life."