Mental illness is one of those things that people tend to gloss over. They pretend like it's not a real thing, not a serious concern, but that's factually inaccurate and damaging to those who suffer from it. I spent my entire young life thinking that there was something wrong with me, when really there is something wrong with the way people perceive me.
Many people get confused about anxiety and anxiety disorders because there isn't enough information out there that is easy to understand. They might think that it's just like regular phobias or fears, but that's a huge mistake.
Back to the beginning
I started experiencing recurring panic attacks when I was 11-years-old, only I didn't know what they were. Mental health wasn't something that was discussed in school or in my family, so I just felt like I was going crazy. Any time that I had to go out to our barn at night, I would feel my heart race, my mind would start visualizing terrible scenarios, my muscles would seize up, and there was a feeling of dread that was inescapable. I went through this every single night. Never once did I express to my family what I was feeling.
It wasn't until I was 16-years-old when I did a project on anxiety disorders in school that I learned that anxiety was a condition that actually existed. Reading through the symptoms felt like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of her house in Munchkinland and everything was in color. Suddenly everything became clear, at least to me.
The problem was, part of the anxiety that I was experiencing made it impossible for me to tell anyone about what I was going through. The panic only increased over the years. It extended into other aspects of my life. I became terrified of social situations, completely unable speak my mind, unable to do anything without spending minutes carefully analyzing what I was going to say before I said it.
I tried my best to ignore it for as long as possible, but when I was 19-years-old, I was hospitalized. It was then that I realized it was time to face the music and come clean about the inner workings of my mind.