At the age of 10, I developed (what most would consider) abnormal phobias.
This made doing simple tasks like going to extracurricular activities, leaving for vacations, visiting the doctor, meeting new people or even going to school incredibly challenging. When I first developed a fear of school, I really questioned what was going on- especially since I have wanted to be a teacher since I was six-years-old.
But I was confused and incredibly insecure, so I just tried my best to bottle up all my obsessive thoughts and emotions.
Here's the issue. I was completely unaware of how serious this problem was. It was only the start of my struggle with mental health.
It wasn't until I entered my freshman year of high school that I could actually comprehend what was going on inside my body and mind. I began to realize maybe the random episodes of obsessive thoughts, pounding heart rate, sleepless nights, inability to eat, and dizziness were not normal, let alone healthy.
Eventually, this reached the point where I knew I needed to seek out help.
And I was lucky enough to have the most caring patience of family, friends and a psychologist who truly changed my life. Through these support systems, I eventually found out I had been coping with a combination of anxiety disorder, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder for the past four years of my life.
From the outside, it's really easy to believe someone has it all figured out.
Our pains are not always visible to the eye and our emotions can be internally consuming us, which is why we can put on a mask until we reach our breaking point. Having a mental illness is challenging. I am consciously aware of my disorders every single day.
It makes everything more difficult. The inconsistency is terrifying. But what it has done is pushed me to become stronger.
Mental illness has taught me how to become more accepting, empathetic, compassionate, considerate, open-minded and strategic. Despite times where those have doubted my capabilities, I have accepted that I am strong, not weak, and despite the disorders that I have, I will never be held back from achieving whatever I set my mind to.
As a sophomore student in college, I know I would not be where I am today without the support I have received through therapists, teachers, counselors, neighbors, family, friends and sorority sisters.
And if you are reading this, I can't thank you enough for the consistent support and love you have provided me.
The impact others words can have on your life is remarkable. Despite whatever you are struggling with, you are not alone. Your strength does not go unnoticed and your emotions are always valid. Always remind yourself- reaching out for help is one of the bravest choices you can make. You are worthy and capable.
Don't let others doubts and opinions of you shape the perception you have of yourself.