I am a 20-year-old college student.
I'm taking a full class load and making pretty good grades. I'm involved in extracurricular activities, I have two jobs that I love very much, I am actively involved in my church and constantly in pursuit of my spiritual well-being, and I have great friends. So why does it still feel like something is missing?
Because I live with the thief of self-confidence, desire and joy.
I am a 20-year-old college student. And I battle daily depression and anxiety.
Every morning I wake up, make some coffee so I can function, and then I walk to the bathroom. That's where it all begins. The thoughts begin to creep in and take over.
Looking in the mirror -- especially under a fluorescent light that does nothing for your features -- is a terrible idea. Immediately I pick out one facial flaw after another.
My eyebrows are crazy. My skin is awful. My upper lip is too skinny. And don't even get me started on my hair ...
Then I walk to the closet. Here it starts all over. My pants are too tight. This shirt makes me look like a potato sack. None of my clothes fit right. Why can't I look like so-and-so? From there I proceed to put on an oversized T-shirt and get started with my day.
Those are just some areas where the depression kicks in.
I go to class. Get a quiz back that is sub-par, hear the teacher say we have another test coming up, and the panic sets in. Now my anxiety is also working against me. For the next week, my mind will be overwhelmed with things I need to do. I have to maintain my GPA to keep my scholarship, so I must get an A on the test. I also have to go to work, prioritize my friends, exercise, answer phone calls from my family, do my homework, go to all five of my other classes, and find time to eat and sleep.
But with depression and anxiety, what I feel like doing is... nothing. I'm always tired, probably hungry -- and if I'm not hungry, I eat anyways trying to fill a void. I'm moody and sad, and my level of motivation for anything other than Netflix is probably a zero.
Since I began dealing with the struggle that is anxiety and depression, I have felt my life -- the one that I once had total control of -- slip right through my grasp. It is a scary feeling when I can't go out in public alone because I feel like everyone is staring or talking about me. I can't drive at night because I'm fearful that something terrible is going to happen. I can't focus on homework because my brain is so concerned about making a good grade and accomplish the other 100 or so things on my to-do list.
Throughout my day, I have constant fear of messing up, having a panic attack, crying in public, or being snippy to someone who is undeserving.
Talk to someone and they might say:
"You're probably being dramatic. You didn't do that bad on the test."
"It could be worse."
"Have you prayed about it?"
"Did you take your meds today?"
"Could you be pregnant?"
"Is it your time of the month?"
All this advice comes from people who love me so much, but it's not helping. It actually makes me want to hide from it more. It makes me want to keep all my feelings inside because I know what people will say.
For a little over two years, this has been my disease. Some days are definitely better than others, but I never know what will make me extremely frustrated or when I will burst into tears. I never know what day will be a "good day" and what day I won't even feel like getting out of the bed.
That's the thing with mental illness. You never know.
I've seen doctors and counselors and taken medicine of different kinds, and have seen good days with lots of positives. But that doesn't mean there won't be bad days. But who knows?
For those reading this, struggling with anxiety and depression themselves, It's time for us to take back our life. It's time to start talking about our anxiety and depression and stop being scared of the society we live in. It's time to speak up about how we feel and walk alongside our brothers and sisters who are in similar situations and stand up for mental illness.
If we don't talk about how we are feeling, the people asking the questions or tip-toeing on egg shells around us won't know that we are just regular people and want to be treated like such. They won't know that their questions make us feel different, and isolated, and they won't know that their comments actually hurt our feelings.
If you are scared of your illness and scared of what people will think, it's time to speak up. It's time to talk about how you're feeling and stop being afraid to be bold because of the society we live in. How beautiful would it be for people living with mental illness to be able to speak as openly about their feelings and lives as those without? It just takes one person to bring confidence to others.
You are loved. You are enough. Your story is worth telling.