By Victoria Gordon
My earliest memory of having anxiety and depression was at six or seven years old.
I was late for school that day, and as soon as I reached the door to my class, I broke down crying. I couldn’t open it. I was so overwhelmed with fear of everyone turning to watch me to see that I was late. I can’t quite remember if the teacher eventually opened the door or if I opened it, but I stood there for forever. I remember never wanting to go through the anxiety of that situation again, and, so, I was never late again.
Similar experiences kept on happening to me over and over in my life. Going to school gave me severe anxiety, in no small part because of the bullying I faced. Giving presentations or reading out loud in class would give me severe anxiety, both because of the way I would be made fun of because of my dyslexia and my stutter, and because of the idea of everyone in the class looking at me and judging me. Every time it was announced that we would have to give a presentation, my heart would drop. I wouldn’t be able to think about anything else but the presentation until the day came. I couldn’t enjoy anything. I would just be so worried about being able to read the words properly, about what I was going to say.
The first day of school was also always very hard for me. It made my anxiety so bad. I wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast, and I would be terrified because I knew it meant that things would be changing. It would be a whole new experience in a new class, and the work would be getting harder and harder, while I was already struggling to keep up.
Anxiety and depression have prevented me from doing so many things in my life that I wish I could have done. Anxiety and depression made it hard for me to go out with my friends, and I would hardly speak whenever I did go out. I was so anxious of being made fun of or judged for the way I spoke. I was about thirteen or fourteen years old the first time I actually ordered food for myself (McDonald’s, my comfort food). Before then– and even many times after– my mind would be racing with anxious thoughts like, What if I make a mistake when I’m ordering? What if I talk too soft? What if I start making my order and I say it wrong?
My internal monologue has always been that way, preventing me from doing so many things I wished I could do. It’s prevented me from doing anything by telling me: you can’t do it, you’re too soft, you’re too quiet, you can’t even ready properly so why do you think you can do things?
Anxiety not only made it hard for me to go out with my friends, but also to play sports that I wanted to, to drive, to go out on dates, to travel to other places I wanted to visit, to volunteer, to learn how to cook, to apply to opportunities that I wanted to, and to work.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t.
I have always hated my anxiety and I’ve wished that it would just go away. Having anxiety and depression has always felt like having an evil twin that controls me and prevents me from living my full life. It’s not fun waking up having trouble to breathe, or waking up depressed.
Aside from how hard living with anxiety and depression has been, my whole life I’ve faced judgment and ridicule and have been shamed for my mental health issues.
When I tell people about my anxiety and depression, they tend to look at me like there’s something’s wrong with me. They tell me that I’m overthinking it. My ex always told me that I was too sensitive, or that I was crazy and overthinking when I got upset or hurt, instead of trying to understand why something hurt me. I’ve had people believe that anxiety made me weak and that meant it was okay to mistreat me because I would be too “weak” to stand up for myself. I’ve been told that I “need to pray” because I have “a demon inside me”.
To anyone that doesn’t understand what it feels like, I would like you to know that anxiety and depression doesn’t mean that I’m crazy or that I’m weak or that I can’t take care of myself or that I’m a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you can treat me badly or treat me like I’m an alien or anything. And it also doesn’t mean that I’m always sad all the time.
To anybody going through the same thing, I want you to know that it’s okay to talk. I know it’s hard to talk about it because you don’t want people to judge you or to use it against you. But there are people in this world who are good listeners. And it’s okay to go to therapy. I’ve found that it’s better to talk about it than to keep it in.
The more compassionate, kind and understanding we can be of people with mental health struggles, the more likely we are to help them. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit our directory of free and reduced cost resources: here. Please ask for help if you need it. You matter.