At age 8, I was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD.
Yes, that’s right…. Age 8!
I struggled as a kid for a long time, and I was lucky to have two parents who noticed what I was going through mentally/emotionally was not “normal”. I didn’t feel like kids my age. I thought way deeper and felt things more intensely than a lot of children my age. While those kids thought about homework, toys, what to play at recess, and what color of crayon to use on their art assignment.
I was overthinking absolutely every scenario in my life and my future. I would be awake all night, often getting sick, because of my overthinking. I was scared of literally everything, yet no one would’ve known.
From age 8-18, I was on 50-100 mg of medication to help boost my serotonin levels and let me tell ya – it worked.
I wasn’t thinking so intensely and I could finally be a “normal kid”. At age 10, I was given a puppy who helped me battle a lot of rough patches associated with my illness. But no one (not even my closest friends) knew what I was going through because for some reason, I believed mental health issues were something you had to mask/hide.
It wasn’t “normal” and if people knew of these struggles, I’d be alienated (so my pup often heard all of my struggles and was there to lick the tears off of my face). But here’s the thing. The more we hide our struggles with mental health the longer this negative stigma will be associated with those who have a mental illness.
The longer this stigma remains, the more people who are struggling will mask their pain and the less amount of people will seek help.
At age 23, I still struggle with anxiety. But now, I don’t feel like I have to hide it. For the longest time, I felt like it was MY FAULT and something that I NEEDED to change. But it wasn’t until I went to the doctor that I realized it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t choose to have anxiety… it chose me. We all have different chemical makeups and I just didn’t produce enough serotonin.
Having anxiety doesn’t make me any less of a person, any less strong, or any less capable of anything this life has to offer. If anything, it’s made me stronger. It’s shown me that I can conquer the hardest days and challenges that come my way. It’s made me love deeper and push to achieve a lot of things in my life.
Just last year, (at the age of 22) I opened up my own boutique and have been a social media manager for various companies in the sports and jewelry sector. In a sense, my “illness” pushes me every day to be a very goal and future oriented individual. I’ve also been able to advocate for mental health through pageantry.
I also know I am not alone and that thousands of others struggle with some form of mental illness. I lost my uncle to depression and anxiety before I was born and If the stigma didn’t exist, I feel as though he may still be here with us. Ive always wanted to write about my own struggles, yet fear and overthinking held me back. But now, it is time to be open and authentic.
Mental illness knows no race, age, gender, or boundary. As humans we truly have to remember we all have stuff and when we talk more openly about our struggles, we will eventually eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness.
Be there for one another and if you personally struggle with mental illness, I applaud you. It’s not easy and you are WAY stronger than you believe.