A life led by anxiety (Opinion)

Increased education about mental illness would help teens everywhere

November 8, 2017

Most nights, I fall asleep thinking about all the awkward things I’ve done in the past. I’m constantly worried that my friends think I’m annoying or secretly don’t like me. In first grade, my teacher had to have a meeting with me every morning so I knew what the schedule was for the day, and in fifth grade, I cried myself to sleep every night because I didn’t like my new school. This is what it’s like for me, living with anxiety.

Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with my entire life. Most of the time, it’s manageable. More often than not, I’m able to put mind over matter and remember that my anxiety is not reality. However, that’s not always the case. I still cry myself to sleep some nights, and my hands are in a constant state of shaking. A few years ago, I went through a time where my anxiety became unmanageable, and I had to go to therapy for it. This is not something I talk about a lot, and only my closest friends know how much I struggle from it.

It’s not uncommon for me to hear stress and nervousness being compared to anxiety, or hear a friend say something along the lines of, “This math homework gave me an anxiety attack last night.” These thoughtless comparisons never fail to rub me the wrong way. In my mind, being stressed and nervous are things that come with the human condition, things that everyone deals with. More often than not, stress is something that we place on ourselves. We procrastinate, we overschedule, and we undersleep. Stress is a choice. Anxiety is not. To compare my mental illness to the insignificant stressors of everyday life feels to me like you are writing off something that has control over my life.

This article was not easy for me to write. I try to keep issues like this as hidden as possible not because I’m ashamed of my mental health, but because it can often feel like society is. There are six different types of anxiety, and 25% of American teens deal with anxiety every year, but anxiety and other mental health problems are rarely, if ever, discussed. Mental health is a notoriously stigmatized topic. It is difficult for those who don’t suffer from mental illness to understand how these afflictions can impact those who do deal with them on a daily basis. This stigmatization can also isolate those dealing with mental illness. I am fortunate to have family and friends that are incredibly supportive and understanding of the things that I struggle with every day, but many teens simply aren’t that lucky.

In a world where awareness is more important than ever, mental health is increasingly being put on the back burner.

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