To be honest, talking about my experience is difficult. I grew up in a household that believed the stigma around mental health. I was taught you weren’t supposed to talk about your struggles and that counseling was for broken people. Because of this, my anxiety went untreated for years. I can remember incidents dating back to elementary school that were likely signs of anxiety. I struggled with severe insecurity issues as I got older and my inability to manage all of it got worse and worse.
My anxiety was at an all-time high during my junior year of college. It got to a point where I was anxious more often that I wasn’t; just constant tightness in my chest, knots in my stomach, and awful thoughts in my head. I would get overwhelmed, even when I had nothing to be worried about. It felt like my mind was running 200 miles an hour. I just wanted it to stop.
My thoughts and fears were often irrational. I remember a couple times where I would be sitting in my car in the grocery store parking lot, crying, shaking, and afraid to go inside. I used to genuinely believe that people, including my friends, didn’t like me and that they only tolerated me. I was constantly having sleep paralysis and night terrors where I would wake up screaming and in a pool of sweat.
The worst part? I didn’t seek out help during any of this. Sure, at this point I had stopped believing the stigma around mental health and I often advocated for my friends to use the free counseling sessions that were provided at my university. But I sure as hell did not have the guts to look myself in the mirror and say I needed help. I was afraid that would mean I was admitting defeat. My anxiety told me I didn’t deserve a counselor, there were other people with a lot worse problems who needed the help and it would be selfish for me to seek out treatment.
It took time for me to break down my walls and to get honest about what was going on. Eventually I did get the nerve to go to a counselor. I am so thankful for those sessions. No, they didn’t “cure” my anxiety, but I learned ways to manage it. I learned self-compassion, something I had no concept of for myself. Instead of getting angry about being anxious, I learned how accept how I was feeling and how to rationalize my thoughts.
Today, I am 23 years old and I’m working as a legal assistant in Denver, Colorado. I still deal with my anxiety on a daily basis, but self-acceptance and self-compassion have been the biggest aids to my mental wellbeing. I created the blog Lavender Life in the hope of offering honest discussions on topics involving mental health as well as advice on self- improvement and personal growth.
The one thing I would want someone to take from my experience would be this:
You are worthy of a better life. You are worthy of clarity and compassion and strength. You are worthy. You are enough.
To read more from Laura, go to lavenderlifeblog.com.