Dear Anxiety // A Letter to My Mental Illnesses

Over the past two weeks, I have seen some fantastic videos and posts on Facebook about the truth behind mental health and mental illnesses. Much of this has stemmed from Buzzfeed’s Mental Health Week (posts and videos here), which has encouraged individuals around the world to break free of society’s silence and speak without fear of the stigmas that surround disorders like anxiety, ADHD, and depression.

While I don’t often talk about mental health in person or in word, I felt like I should stop hiding and do my own part to speak up and move beyond the stigma that mental illnesses are “flaws” in someone’s character. The truth is that thousands of people, especially students on college campuses, face the reality of mental illnesses every single day. With this in mind, I decided to start a short series about living life (on and off campus) with a mental illness. After a lot of thought, I decided to start the Dear Anxiety Series by opening up about my own life and mental illnesses with a letter to the disorder that started it all: anxiety.

Honeycomb

 

Dear Anxiety,

Sometimes, I wonder why you chose me to be your constant companion. Why my mind is always racing with fear. Why phantom chest pains keep me awake at night, why I can never shake the sickening sense that I’m worthless, inadequate, a failure. I can’t help but wonder….

You’d think it would be simple, right? We’ve been friends for so long– I can’t help that I’m a panic driven perfectionist. I should be able to control the fear after all these years. And yet, dear Anxiety, you  still manage to overpower the joys of my accomplishments and make me wonder if there are any triumphs in my life at all.

Sometimes I wonder why people don’t understand that my life with you is a maddening game of “what if”. They always tell me not to worry, as if I can snap my fingers and make you vanish. But I can’t–not when you’re around, constantly whispering those two little words….

What if…. What if…. What if…. 

You’re my talkative roommate. Sure, I can silence your cries with medication, but what if I’m too scared to face the silence?  I know you’re always waiting at the door of my mind, waiting for your friends to join the party. I wish everyone would realize that I can shut the door on Depression, Panic and Paranoia, Anorexia, OCD, Self Harm– all your many loud and noisy friends–but I can’t lock them out forever.

That’s the truth, Anxiety. We are friends forever, even if others can’t see you standing next to me. I never have to wonder or question if you’re there, because I know you’re inside. Waiting. You’re always waiting to rise to the surface and leave me paralyzed by my own nightmarish thoughts.

Sometimes I wonder, dear Anxiety. Then I realize that these mental musings are just another form of “what if”.

What if I didn’t have you, Anxiety? Would I leave my room without a pang in my stomach? Would I speak without stuttering and listen without ripping every word into a million illogical meanings? Would I be allowed to be myself without facing shame and stigma? The questions are infinite, flowing into that all too familiar mantra of….

What if…. What if…. What if…. 

In the end, I can’t escape you. We’re like the best of friends–inseparable, always playing our irrational games of worst-case-scenario and imagined failure. Even when I try to imagine a life alone, I find myself finding you, dear Anxiety. I’m afraid that we’re indistinguishable, in the end.

Still, a part of me refuses to accept defeat. After all, even the closest of friends are different….

Yes, sometimes I wonder and ask questions; however, I am not you, dearest Anxiety. I am my own person, even if I continue to ask the question of “what if”. I am the one in control, so stop trying to control and conquer me. Stop inviting too many friends over without my permission. Stop trying to convince me that I’m worthless and that I’m incapable of achieving my dreams….

Yet once again, I can’t help but wonder…. Anxiety, what if you actually listened to me?

~~~

There we are: an unsigned letter to my anxiety, because I was too anxious about posting this to come up with an actual ending. Now it’s your turn.   What would you say if you wrote a letter to mental illness?

If you liked this post, you might be interested in reading my letter to perfectionists: Your GPA Does Not Define You

 

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25 thoughts on “Dear Anxiety // A Letter to My Mental Illnesses

  1. This is such a great series that I’m looking forward to following. Thanks for your transparency, authenticity, and courage – it’s so helpful for me to learn how to empathize and care for friends around me struggling in similar ways.

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  2. I am so very glad you shared this! You’re so brave to do so! I love when other people choose to talk about their mental illness, and I’m glad you’ve been finding more people who have been talking about it. Mental health is my passion so I write about it A LOT on my blog. More people need to hear about it. And if you can reach just one person, or help just one person, then you have done your job. THANK YOU for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your support and kind words, Emily. I love finding people who are passionate about mental health and who want to reach out and help others. You have a lovely blog by the way!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your struggle with all of us. I struggled with depression and panic attacks in my 20’s. And even though I’m better, therapy remains a part of my life. It can be debilitating but it also helped me realize that it’s okay to be different. I guess I would thank it for pushing me to embrace my differences and helping find a wonderful therapist to guide me through this unusual but highly necessary journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for joining in the conversation. I love the last bit about it pushing you to embrace differences and leading you to a necessary journey. While mental illnesses are serious matters, there are so many ways to cope. Personally, I found that words and art helped me with mine. It might make me different and a bit more sensitive than others, but it made me who I am and it’s a huge part of my daily life.

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    1. I’m so glad you dropped by, Jordyn. I was really worried about this post, because I’ve mostly kept quiet about mental health struggles– yet it’s so important to speak up and battle the stigma. I’m so happy to see so many other people connecting and offering each other support.

      And I love your blog by the way!

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  4. Wow. I love this. Especially where you mention that “especially students on college campuses” struggle with mental health because, for me, that’s where mine really started to come out of the woodwork. I’d always struggled with depression, but once I went off to college, things just went downhill mentally and emotionally. I always felt like I was just moody and immature for feeling that way when I was 18-19. I felt like, at the age I was at, I should somehow be better able to control it and if I didn’t then I was doing something wrong. It’s hard when older adults look at your mental health and take it as a sign that you’ve “still got a lot of growing up to do.” Like, they don’t know what I’ve had to fight through and they want to call me immature and childish? It’s maddening.

    Anyway, I digress. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciated this post. 🙂

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    1. Oh my gosh, Brian! You’re the best, and thank you so much for sharing. The whole stigma surrounding mental illnesses really is maddening, especially when you see so much of it on college campuses…. Hopefully more people will become more understanding as more people speak up about what it’s truly like to live with illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

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