For as long as I can remember, my family has been very strict and opinionated on the use of medication for any kind of mental illness. “You’re faking it” or “It’s all in your head” are the kind of things I was told all throughout my childhood. With those kinds of mind sets I had no idea that I even had a mental illness ,let alone that something was seriously wrong with me. I lived a good portion of my life going through constant and severe panic attacks over the ‘littlest’ things you could imagine; I couldn’t walk by myself, I couldn’t let my sister go off on her own without me having a freak out, I could not get into any form of trouble at all or I would absolutely lose it. Each thing that was so seemingly small and minuscule to others was like the end of the world for me and I didn’t know what was wrong.
I went through my daily life in constant horror and terror and could not live my life the way a growing adolescent should. Yet every time I brought up my problems I was told that I was “too paranoid,” or a hypochondriac, that I belong in a straight jacket…the list goes on. No one took me seriously and so I continued to live in a world full of pain, fear, and confusion.
Fast forward to my entrance into university: I was ready for a fresh and new start. I was already living my life basically as an adult because of the childhood that anxiety had stripped from me, so I thought I was super prepared. I mean I could do anything because I was already on my own in my world at home so I could totally live on my own, right? Well that wasn’t exactly how it went… somehow my anxiety got worse and spiraled, then, the depression set in. I couldn’t and wouldn’t get out of bed for anything. I was failing, I was sad and I just did not know if I even wanted to be in the program I was in anymore because I was failing. I mean, I had never failed anything…ever. I was a smart and hard-working student despite all of the hurdles I had to overcome at home. However, being on my own and having so much freedom and having to self-regulate myself destroyed me. I was lost, more lost than I have ever been and I had no one to turn to. Even if I did tell someone, my family never ever talked about this kind of thing so who would have believed me? I didn’t know who I could talk to or who would be able to help me. I felt as thought I was never going to get better… Once again my life was shrouded in sadness and overwhelming guilt…the panic attacks just kept coming.
I was so behind in classes that I would give up because by the time I caught up there would be more and more to do. I was drowning. I had to get my life together and it had to be fast because if I didn’t move fast my University career that I worked so hard to get would be done and over.
Finally I woke up. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and made an appointment with career services because I had to figure out my life and what I wanted, not what anyone else wanted for me. There I met Waleska Vernon; she was the most positive light force in my life that helped me realize that not only could I reach my full potential in my program, but that I wanted to be there and I wanted to work hard and succeed. She allowed me to open up and tell her everything that I had been through, my anxiety journey and she didn’t judge me, she just listened. She took me on as a counselling client and I saw her every week; we worked through anything I felt awful about: my emotional regulation, breathing exercises, my career questions. Basically to everything and anything she had an answer and if she didn’t she worked damn hard to find it for me.
I had someone who finally cared about my well-being and because of that I cared too. When she asked me about medication options for anxiety, I couldn’t believe that was even something I could do. She encouraged me to make an appointment and that I guess is where my story ends… I have been on anxiety medication for almost three years now and the anxiety may never go away but these meds have allowed me to live a happy, non – erratic and healthy life. And without Waleska I wouldn’t have been able to succeed or do the things I have accomplished in my life to date.
Waleska left a year or so ago and I had to open myself up to someone else, which wasn’t easy but I did it. But I should thank her because without her I probably wouldn’t be at this university, my anxiety would have taken over and I probably would be back at home working some minimum wage job (which I do now but hey it pays the bills) and not getting my undergrad which I know I deserve. So my take away message I suppose is: do not let anyone tell you that your problems do not matter; cause they do. Only you can make the changes you want to see in yourself but opening up to anyone who will listen and who you trust a great deal can change your life for the better. Do not be afraid to do things for yourself because at the end of the day you know what is best for you. Screw the haters my friends, love yourself and overall know that you are worthy of living a life you want to live.