I Am Not My Mental Illness

By: Brittany Anderson

I suddenly feel small. I’m like a tiny little pebble compared to the ocean that’s in front of me. The room feels huge, and it sounds like everyone is yelling like they’re a million miles away, but they’re not. I feel my stomach hit my throat. I want to cry. But nothing happens. I want to move. But nothing happens. I want to breathe. But it’s hard.

My sophomore year of college I was finally diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It made sense the second I heard it, and I finally understand so many behaviors that seemed odd and why so many times, I blew things out of proportion and reacted so largely to things that had happened.

It was extremely rough. I was trying to get through my classes and stress from everyday life with friends and relationships and homework, and everything just felt so heavy. As soon as I discovered I had Anxiety, I connected so many dots, but I didn’t want to make personal discoveries because everything already felt so weighted.

I started relying heavily on a few people, and then worried I was burdening them. I didn’t want anyone else to know, and I didn’t want anyone else to see me in the midst of an anxiety attack. It was ugly, and I thought I was ugly because I dealt with it. I apologized for so many little things and went through times where I was convinced my friends hated me, because I overthought everything I said and everything I did and feared so much that I would mess it all up somehow. They’re great people, and they saw past it, and helped me so much, which I can never be thankful enough for. But for a long time, I pushed away their help. I would say that my Anxiety made me feel depressed, and it all kind of spiraled downward together.

I didn’t want to have anxiety. I didn’t want to not be able to hang out with my friends and have to lock myself in my room because I would have a panic attack every time I went out for some reason.

But it came to a point where I was tired. Not just tired because I woke up at 7am every day and got done with my day at 5pm, but I was tired of being absolutely exhausted and drained both physically and mentally. I was tired of beating myself up, and I was tired of relying on people so heavily. I was tired of crying all the time, and tired of telling myself I wasn’t worth it.

Look, anxiety is real, and it’s not beautiful. It’s not just someone being over dramatic. Someone can feel anxious, but Anxiety is a disorder that can be very detrimental and can be very hard to manage. It should not be glorified and made beautiful. It should not be confused with temporary feelings of anxiety, and it should not be joked about. It is literally called an anxiety ATTACK.

It can feel like it comes out of nowhere, and it comes from all sides, and when it hits you, it can feel paralyzing. It makes it hard to focus and have motivation, because it is draining. Imagine not knowing when it’s coming, and having an anxiety attack at least once a day, if not more. It’s not an excuse to not get things done, but it’s extremely challenging.

Thankfully, over winter break from college, I was put on medication. It helped immensely. My head was clearer. I was able to identify a lot of my triggers, which was HUGE, and I work to find ways to get myself back to where I need to be after an attack.  It was not and is not a fix all. I will still have anxiety attacks, and still have. I will still battle and live with anxiety disorder. But I am not my mental illness.

It was easy for me to feel scared and to feel ashamed. Was I really to the point that I needed to be on medication? To a lot of people, it meant “taking the easy way out.” Deciding to be put on medication was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. It felt easy in a sense because it was time for me, but it was hard because I felt the stigma against medication very heavily.

But I am worth it. I am not my mental illness.


I am generally happy, and I have overcome a lot. I am proud, and I am hopeful. I hope to serve as a voice for people who need it and are struggling as I did. I want to be a voice and I want to be a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. I felt alone. Even though I wasn’t. But I want to stress that no one is alone.

Everyone is worth it. Everyone deserves to take those steps to put themselves first. Everyone deserves those “meant health breaks”, and to “treat yoself.”

Your potential and your beauty cannot be taken away by something like anxiety or depression. There is hope, even when it feels like it is nowhere to be found. Keep that in mind.

One of my favorite quotes is:

 “Be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can.”

It’s simple, but the message is strong. Take everything one day at a time. One of my biggest problems and something I still struggle with is feeling like I didn’t get everything done I wanted to that day, or I didn’t do enough. I could have done more.

But I did something. I did a part of it. I made it one day without a panic attack. I got out of bed even though my mind was urging me not to. I am strong. And so are you.

It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I learned that I am doing the best you can, and that’s all that matters. And as long as I keep that up, I’ve gotten a great deal of things done.

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