Speak Out - Shared Stories
I created a little series on my Instagram page (@brbpanicattack) called "Speak Out" after receiving an overwhelming flood of support and messages from people having gone through the same things I have but who were too afraid or embarrassed to say anything, just as I was. I began collecting stories from others in the community about their journey with mental health and posted them on my page with the goal to take away the negative stigma from mental health and hopefully reach those who felt alone. Thankfully, I saw beautiful positive response and I am so happy to continue to share these stories. If you would like to share your story or any advice (big or small!) please do not hesitate to reach out. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Continue scrolling down to read the inspiring stories collected thus far!
Jen's Story @grow.thopedia
Manav's Story @themanav7
“For me, anxiety has been a big struggle all throughout undergrad. I would get so anxious that I'd feel trapped in my thoughts for hours at a time. If I was with friends, I'd run to the washroom and try to calm myself down. Eventually I learned that if I called my sister, she'd talk me through things and I'd feel instantly better. With time, she encouraged me to explore therapy as an option, which I was super resistant to try until 2018 when my anxiety reached an all-time high.
Talking to a professional therapist was weird at first, but I did notice improvements with time. I would talk about stressors in my life, they'd listen and help me develop strategies to move forward. A big focus was on developing strategies to help destress - things like mindfulness, journalling and responsive friends. Nowadays, I do a much better job of prioritizing my mental health, but still have a long way to go.
In addition, I've gotten involved with Greenhouse! (a social innovation incubator in St Paul's). As I was looking for ways to improve student mental health at the University of Waterloo, I noticed I was slowly becoming a mental health advocate among my peers. I was openly talking about mental health, anxiety and mindfulness with my friends, and to my surprise, some of them would share their mental health experiences with me. I'm currently working on a resource guide to help social innovators understand the mental health landscape in Waterloo! It's also my 4B term so I'm figuring out ways to stay involved with mental health off-campus.
This term, I've been focusing on intentional coffee chats with friends. It allows me to check in with friends to see how they're doing. I do my best to create a safe space where I can also ask them about their mental health and how they're taking care of themselves. It's through these conversations that I hope to normalize mental health and make it an easier topic for people to talk about ♥️✌🏼”
Christine's Story @pathtosobriety
Christine writes a her life story in first person starting from her childhood, to her battle with alcohol addiction, and ultimately to her sobriety.
"As a little girl, I was introduced to the negativity that alcohol can create in a household. My parents always made certain to inform me of how important it was to stay away from alcohol but regardless of that, I continued to spiral out of control. While it was unbeknownst to me then, I began experiencing the underlying symptoms of anxiety at a very young age. I suffered from headaches, night terrors, and unexplained emotional breakdowns. Others often labeled me as a ‘baby’ or ‘weak’ due to my sensitivity.
As a toddler, I was easily startled. My mother admits that as a child, I would often worry about the future. I would go through 1-2-week phases of constant worry. I would cry and worry about things such as growing older, losing my parents, or being left alone. In elementary school, I started avoiding the bathroom stalls due to my fear of being locked in. I began avoiding certain men or panicked when they got close. I refused to attend our school trip due to the fear of being away from home. To be fair, my parents had no idea of how intense my fears were. I never felt the need to talk about it. As I grew into my teenage years, I remained quiet and well behaved. On the inside, though, I continuously fought through excessive and uncontrollable worries about all the aspects of my life.
Summer of 2006 began like any other. I remember the feeling of freedom as I ran home from my very last day of middle school. I couldn’t believe that in only a few months, I would finally become a freshman. Unfortunately, my untreated anxiety had turned into a very challenging battle. I was consumed by the intense worry of situations that I could not control. I attempted to seek advice from others around me, hoping to find an immediate answer but remained unsuccessful. On my first day of Freshman year, I experienced what seemed to be the accumulation every attempt I made to hide what had carried heavy on my shoulders for so long. Unaware of what was happening, my parents made the decision to keep me home until I felt better.
I never made it to my second, or third day of high school. I began panicking at the thought of attending and the fear of leaving the house quickly grew within me. After multiple attempts to help, my parents suggested I see a doctor. They quickly diagnosed and treated me for depression. Once I was treated, I remained hopeless, but I slowly began to see the light. I successfully graduated 4 years later, regardless of the issues I had dealt with. I no longer felt the intense pressure I had put on myself to feel ‘normal’. I was finally able to cope with my anxiety. I was convinced that my battle with mental health was over.
My struggle with addiction began as a young adult, craving to lessen my insecurities and numb my fears. Like most, my habits went from an occasional drink to it becoming a daily necessity. “I was in existence, but I had no life.” I was completely uneducated on the dark reality that can arise from mixing an antidepressant medication with alcohol. For a period of 7 years, my mind was misled into believing that alcohol had zero effect on my mental health. Not only did my drinking escalate quickly, but so did my excuses. Even though I had never struggled much with insecurities, alcohol quickly changed that. I became insecure, jealous and envious of others. My life appeared to be great.
As a new college graduate, I had purchased my first home and began planning the future ahead of me. On the inside, though, I found myself using alcohol to suppress the depressive episodes I would begin experiencing. Drinking was the only thing that kept my spirit alive. Despite the fact that I never blamed anything on the alcohol at the time, I lost everything. I quickly found myself at rock bottom, where I had nothing left to lose. The thought of failing at such a young age increased my urge to drink. Looking back, I truly believe alcohol was the main factor in many of my failures. It had an awful impact on my life. As time passed, I began to rebuild my life. But, I never stopped drinking. Even if I was able to control my drinking most of the time, I was unable to control the thought of wanting it all the time.
I struggled with only having one while others happily sipped on the same drink for hours. It was impossible for me to keep any alcohol in the house but regardless of that, I was convinced that if my habits didn’t affect my relationship, my career or my friendship, that no problem should arise. I was completely oblivious to the fact that my ability to cope with anxiety in a natural way had vanished while I used alcohol to cope instead.
In April 2020, I became ill and it was necessary that I reevaluate my drinking habits. Despite the fact that the idea of going without alcohol for a long period made me cringe, I set the goal to stay alcohol free for 7 days. I had never realized that in the span of 7 years, I had not been alcohol free for more than just a few days. My first attempt at remaining alcohol free ended at day 38. Because I had successfully made it so far, I felt that having a drink was appropriate. I re-assured myself that I could control it, until I couldn’t. I would impatiently wait until Friday to prove to myself that I had control of it, but I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it. They say relapsing is a part of recovery, but I was convinced that there was no recovery to be made.
It wasn’t until 3 months later, that I officially ended my relationship with alcohol. Similar to a real relationship, I endured the same emotional distress that arises during a break up. Because I was no longer using alcohol to cope with life, my mental health slowly deteriorated. I constantly felt waves of emotions rushing through, unable to control how I felt. My panic attacks reappeared in a frequent, and uncontrollable manner. Similarly, to fourteen years earlier, I rapidly developed an intense (but temporary) fear of being alone. From one day to the next, I was crippled with anxiety. My symptoms varied from trembling, heart palpitations, sweating, vomiting, and fear of dying. Subsequently, I was diagnosed with a panic disorder. I had to regain my ability to cope with my anxiety, but in a much healthier manner. I am no stranger to the thought of having a drink, but I am also no stranger to the thought of genuine happiness.
Now, at 5 months sober, I no longer feel the urge to drink. I always thought the world revolved around drinking, but then, I realized I made my world revolve around it. Even if anxiety is something I will always deal with, I have learned to cope with it in a way I never have before. I am organized, self-aware, reliable and IN CONTROL. As a child, I fantasized about others understanding me. I wondered what it would be like to meet someone who had similar struggles. I have always felt the need to share my story, for those who may feel as hopeless as I did.
"You have to keep in mind that strength comes from struggles”
Holly's Story @helpingholyy
“Looking at these photos of myself was a “holy shit I’ve come so far” moment for me. I couldn’t pick out anything I didn’t like about myself and my smile was 100% genuine.
I used to think going on trips with partners/friends/family and having my photos taken was something I’d never be able to do, never mind doing it, enjoying myself AND wanting to post about it.
A few years ago having my photo taken was one of my biggest fears and I couldn’t figure out how people did it so effortlessly. I’d have to suck my stomach in, make sure my make up was perfect, stand on my good side, try cover myself up a little and make sure I didn’t feel gross before even CONSIDERING standing in front of a camera. And when the photo was taken I’d stare at it for hours picking out and editing all the things I didn’t like. Pushing myself into worse habits to change all the things I didn’t like about myself.
I started showing signs of depression and an eating disorder at 11 and it controlled my life for almost all of my teen years. It caused me so much anxiety that I barely went out. I drank myself into oblivion if I did because I was so anxious about being around other people. I cared about what they thought of me and convinced myself they’d hate me before they’d even met me (thanks depression).
I couldn’t wear short sleeves or shorts because my eating disorder told me it didn’t look good, and my depression caused a lot of physical and mental scars that I didn’t want to show. I spent a lot of my teens surviving instead of living.
When I started my instagram I found a lot of comfort knowing I wasn’t alone in my feelings and I found a lot of confidence in actually having photos of myself that I liked and wanted to share with other people. I’ve managed to get my depression under control to the point where I have my own business and the smiles you see in my photos are genuine. I’ve also found a lot of support in the community that’s on instagram and I’ve got the help I needed to continue to move forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days or episodes of my mental illnesses. Food can still be really scary to me and my depression can make me feel like I’m living under a raincloud. But I now have the tools and support to pull myself back out of those places. As someone that didn’t think they’d survive past 16, I’m living proof that it does get better. The bad days used to feel like they’d never end but now I know there’s always sunshine somewhere, and it’ll find me again.
Recovery isn't linear but it is possible.”
Mary Kate's Story @marykatedixon
“I remember sitting in the parking lot of my doctor's office after a defeating appointment in the depths of depression wondering where things went "wrong". What I "did" to deserve feeling like this. The constant ache yet somehow devoid of feeling. Just two weeks after this magazine cover was published and my own website had launched, I was struggling to find the will to live. Years of faking it publicly proved to me that the only thing more exhausting than having a mental illness was pretending that I didn't. Two days later, my doctor informed my husband that if the final round of medication did not work that it was time to talk next steps. My stand alone website that I worked years to finally open went dark and in hindsight, a metaphor for that chapter of my journey.
Things didn't go "wrong", they went the way they were supposed to. I just couldn't see it then. I could fill a book with things that I wish I could tell the girl in the 2nd photo. But I will say this ... a failed attempt as a result of your mental illness does not make you unworthy of the things that you want even if those same things currently feel out of reach. That although darkness may temporarily blur your vision, it can also redirect your focus.. giving your life an undeniable purpose you couldn't see before. Most importantly, that asking for help does not make you WEAK it makes you HUMAN.
Tomorrow my stand alone website where I will formally practice as a small batch curator will officially launch .. again .. 2 years after going dark. If you are struggling to find your worth after a failed attempt or questioning how you could possibly try again .. take it from a person who fell so hard her knees shook for years. A failed attempt and a FINAL attempt are not the same thing. YOU have the power to decide.”
Gina's Story @hello.gina.here
trigger warning, mention of s*lf h*rm:
“Somewhere in childhood I inherited the belief that I was not good enough. This wasn’t necessarily an outward message, but more of an internal dialogue. It was an uncomfortable, uncontrollable feeling of wanting to please everyone without consideration of my own needs. It was a vicious cycle of trying my best, failing to meet an arbitrary expectation, feeling like a disappointment, and knowing my best could always be better. I didn’t recognize the good within me. I didn’t see the beauty, determination, strength, or thoughtfulness I exuded. None of it registered, and I headed downhill fast as adolescence convoluted my self-image even further.
Feeling lost, I desperately grasped for control. I desired to control how others viewed me and, by tangent, how I viewed myself. I wanted to match, fit in, and feel a sense of belonging. I yearned to prove how disciplined I could be. I longed for someone to see the good in me so that maybe I could see the good in myself. I chased this idea of “perfection” past the point of pain by refusing to listen to my body’s signs and signals for respite. “Pain is weakness leaving the body” became my mantra. Therefore, my mind reasoned, if I was not in pain then I was weak. This fruitless pursuit of perfection yielded a multi-year battle with disordered eating and self harm.
At this point, depression and anxiety became a full-time job to manage-and by manage I really mean hide. Hidden under productivity and achievements the woman the world knew was a complete betrayal of my true self.
The script dictating how I appeared on the outside was more significant than the feelings I held inside reigned supreme. I learned young that there were “good feelings” and “bad feelings”; good could be savored while bad were meant to be ignored or swept away with haste. I was stuck working against myself to fit the idea of what others wanted. Honestly, I would not recommend it.
In treatment, I was blessed with the opportunity to see the storm inside myself for what it was.
“I became a mental health advocate when I became an online health coach. Around the time I was attending college, I became very depressed and anxietal. There were many factors that triggered the depression and anxiety including toxic relationships and childhood trauma. I went through many times of suicidal thoughts, hospital visits, breakdowns, etc. I met my former online health coach through instagram and started exercising and coaching others on their health journeys. I found my passion in health and fitness. Seeing women reach their goals and become happy and healthy gave me purpose. I now am an online personal trainer and I continue to encourage women on their journeys. Exercising is so important to mental health. If I hadn't started exercising then I'd probably still be super depressed, constantly in the crisis centre, or worse. I encourage anyone struggling with their mental health to find something they're passionate about and to start exercising if they haven't already! It's an unstoppable combo!”
Mckenna's Story @mckennafreakinwallace
Body image issues suck. Eating disorders suck. But you can overcome it.
If spent a lot of the past couple years of my life feeling like my worth is diminished by the fact that I gained weight. Like a lot of it.
I’ve used eating as an emotional crutch and the hardest part is I didn’t even realize it until it was too late.
Binge eating disorder has been so hard for me to overcome because I have had voices from both sides telling me “what I should do”
“You’re just giving in to diet culture! You’re beautiful how you are!”
“All you have to do is _____ and you’ll lose weight!”
“You’re not even fat! Don’t try to lose weight!”
I’ve discovered it’s not about the weight, it’s about health. I don’t feel healthy. I don’t eat healthy. My body isn’t healthy.
Diet culture is real, but so is an overlooked unhealthy lifestyle. Until we see both of those things, we will never be healthy.
It’s a daily struggle to overcome my ED. Some days are better than others, and that’s okay. “
Kate's Story @anxiouskreations
“I grew up the daughter of addicts who used heavy drugs and alcohol to self medicate their own mental illness. Growing up I thought if I didn't use drugs, I would be normal and everything would be okay. Problem was, I didn't know what normal was, so I just guessed.
I got a job, went to school, met a boy, got married, graduated, but something still seemed off. I was checking off all the boxes but everything wasn't falling into place like I thought it would. My mind was still racing 24/7, my self hate ran pretty deep, I wasn't sleeping, I was using weed to cope on a daily basis even after the paranoia kicked into overdrive. I was also overreacting and easily overwhelmed with mundane daily activities.
The only people that I allowed to see me like this was my husband and sister, to everyone else, I was an energetic, happy, carefree individual. I had created a façade of positivity to the outside world.
Then quarantine hit and I was forced to spend a lot more time with myself and my own thoughts without the extra need for a performance. Queue the daily anxiety attacks, constant arguing with my husband, and a bleak outlook on life and society. I was finally at the end of my rope.
I signed up for counseling through the betterhelp app and learned that my anxiety stems mostly from my abusive and dismissive father, I have terrible self worth, and severe codependency traits that were causing most of my marital problems. It's been about 6 weeks of sessions and 3 weeks of medication and I honestly never thought I would be where I am today. I am actually starting to love myself. I am starting to laugh again. I have been dreaming again. I admit, my anxiety is not cured - but this is the first time in my life I have been actively trying to live in the present. It's the first time in my life where I've had moments of peace.
I've been sharing on Instagram to try to help people realize that our pain and struggles are what make us human and unique. I no longer carry the shame of my anxiety or try to hide my mental illness with a façade of normalcy that simply does not exist."
Katie's Story @katiewinterphotography
"Yesterday marked 10 years since my first panic attack. Everything has changed so much since that day. I now understand how and why my body reacts in the way it does when I am overwhelmed, anxious, stressed or even seemingly 'fine'.
I have always needed answers, so as a teenager a big step was understanding why. Why my body seemed to hate me. Why these feelings seemed to appear at the most awkward of times. Why I couldn't just be 'normal'.
It took a long time, a wonderful support network, medical assistance and my own familiarity with my anxieties, to finally feel in control. I now (usually) can feel when a panic attack is coming, remove myself from the situation/get help/use techniques to prevent it from taking over.
A huge part of this has also been acceptance. For so long I hated myself for being this way. I now see that whilst scary and often inconvenient 🤪 my panic disorder is part of me. It makes me more empathetic and compassionate. It's made me acknowledge my limits and patterns of behavior. It has helped me to understand human nature within both of my job roles.
We all have things we would rather hide about ourselves, especially within environments like Instagram where everything has to look perfect all the time. But we shouldn't. We need to be more socially accepting of each others differences.
So I am Katie. I've had panic attacks since I was 16 and severe anxiety. It has made me who I am and I'm proud of that person"
Chevaune's Story @_mentallyokay
*TW mention of s**c*** death in family:
“2013 is when I had a physical change to my body after being bitten by a snake and my body went through a very challenging time. I did not know how long I would take to recover, what would my life be like? Would I still have my arm? Wondering if my life would revolve around a hospital forever? Fortunately, I did not lose my arm (only tissue and some nerves). I managed to get back to somewhat normal life about a year later. I remember being extremely positive and had a massive support system which consisted of my friends and family which helped me to deal with the incident. I can literally say that prayers saved my life! I am so grateful that God saved me to carry on and help change the life of others. 2019 is when my life changed forever....in a way I will never forget. I seeked help at the beginning of the year which has helped me deal with my anxiety and all my negative thoughts where I thought so little of myself, which I'm slowly working on - building my self-esteem and standing up for myself.
These may seem like little things but it made me not want to do anything or be too anxious to do things or speak to people (even though I'm 51% extrovert and 49% introvert). I had my first real anxiety attack when going to watch a movie. I felt like I couldn't properly, I felt like everything was going in slow motion. It just felt like there were millions of people around and I felt so lost even though I was with people. What helped me was to go to a quiet part of the mall and just breathe.. to see what was around me I tried to do the grounding technique and prayed which helped and I felt more at ease and could enjoy the rest of the evening. I went through a lot of loss...I never knew the grieving process would be so painful. Losing 2 pets who are like family within a month of each other is very difficult. I then lost my favorite person in the world where Heaven gained an angel...my nana..a bond between a grandmother and granddaughter is something you can't explain.
Heaven gained another angel when my cousin took his own life, leaving the family completely devastated and in a confused, upsetting feeling that still hasn't parted. My life doesn't feel the same as it used to, I can feel parts of me are missing and I know it will take time to heal and that is OKAY. Each person grieves in their own way and the time for grieving is different for each person This is something everyone needs to be considerate of. Throughout last year and this, I have realized that I AM good enough! I am capable of doing anything that I put my mind to. I am smarter than I think. Completing my psych honors helped me in more ways than just learning psychology, I realized that it helped me cope with everything which I hope to bring to light for everyone else battling with mental health.
I started to understand I am creative and love to help others no matter how big or small. Working with children who are on the Autism spectrum, who have ADHD and ODD, has not only strengthened me as a person but has made me realize what is out there, what so many people think is fake or made up is true mental health that one can see with their own eyes. It has been a real eye opener and made me want to fight harder for mental health and children facing such challenges! It's made me want to reduce the stigma and let everyone know it is OKAY! It is OKAY to reach out for help!”
Adrian's Story @onthereal_podcast
“My mental health journey has been a road filled with bumps, potholes, forks and some detours. But what I know most about my journey is that it’s all been about personal growth.
When I was younger I always thought that I’d get to a point in life where I would feel completely devoid of depression or suicidal ideations. That somehow, I would have figured it all out. Instead, what life has taught me is that in those darkest moments where the voice in your head isn’t nice to you, allow yourself some grace. What do I mean by that? I mean, don’t let that voice own you or your thoughts. Push back. Give yourself grace when the pain you endured from child abuse comes creeping back in, grace when you feel like you’re the one to blame for all the trauma, and grace when you can’t stand to look at the person you see in the mirror. Because grace allows you the power to forgive yourself for whatever nasty things you say or feel about yourself, without feeling sorry for yourself.
I’m not saying I’ve mastered the art of grace. I have good days and bad days just like anyone else. But I’ve turned that energy into a passion for helping and inspiring others. Whether it’s from the message I share on my podcast, through my writing or in the one on one experiences with friends or strangers, the goal is to continue inspiring. That is where I have found my purpose. That is where I feel whole.
My advice to others is simple. Allow yourself some grace, find what makes you feel whole, and never pass up on an opportunity to inspire, even if it’s just yourself.”
Terence's Story @tdunk87
*TW ( mention of s**cide) "18 months ago I was an all time low, my marriage fell apart, I had no where I could go, I felt I lost everything my identity, my wife, my home, my kids, my motivation was absolute zero, I was actually considering ending my life, I had the place thought out the time everything, I was that low I’d rather end my life because I believed I was a disgrace to my family, my friends but most of all my 2 little girls. I worked up this idea in my head they would be better if I wasn’t around anymore but the truth is it wasn’t just 18 months ago where I hit my lowest point it was a few years before. I just kept treading water hoping someone would come and pull me out of it, and turn my life around for me, but here’s a hard hitting truth like it or not, nobody is going to do it for you, people will tell you to think positive, exercise, meditate, write thoughts down, and what a load of sh***, telling someone who is one the brink of suicide to think positively, who thought of that idea, it’s like telling a new born baby to stop crying when it’s hungry, it’s not going to work, it takes time to work believe me on that one. The other thing is when the older generation says “just man up”, just man up, man up never have I heard such sh***, the real time I was struggling with mental illness was for about 5 long years, my weight shot up, my mood went lower and lower, and I’ll admit I was an absolute **** to be around for most people, but in public I tried hiding my depression and anxiety behind making jokes, being a clown, watching porn, gambling, all that, the only thing I didn’t do was drugs, I looked to the outside world that I had it all together but inside I was dead and rotting from my core out, I came from nothing and I was destined to be nothing, injuries brought an early end to my dream, I was working dead end jobs pay check to pay check what was the point, now after rambling on a bit there back to the main point, when you are at your absolute lowest point, please believe me, because I’ve been there, I’ve been to the darkest pit slap bang at the bottom, and I’ve managed to pull myself up, not all the way yet, because like it or not it’s not a overnight fix, it’s going to take years, but no one is going to motivate you, you’ve got to motivate yourself and find someone or something to motivate yourself for, now you may look and read this and think same old sh***, but believe me, put down thephone for a hour and think to yourself, where do you see yourself in 10 years, I got asked that very question other day and guess what, I didn’t have a answer how could I? Because I realised something, I was scared of entering something new, and why because I’m so used to being a failure, but what makes me a failure, not my upbringing, not my past, me own thoughts when I’m sat there doing all, creating sh*** in my head, so I’ll repeat it and I hope you do to,
FIND SOMEONE OR SOMETHING TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF FOR!
My new story is far from over I hope you join my along for the ride,
And if you’re suffering with anything mental illness or not message me, I’ll honestly take the time to talk to anyone and try help them on a path."
Aista's Story @aista.ko
“11 years ago I moved to London. That was a super tough time for me. All I wanted was to get back home.❤️ I developed panic attacks during one of the most significant life changes. Alongside moving to a different country, I also had to leave some family and all my friends behind. Not knowing the language well enough to be able to have a proper conversation, and not even having who to talk to for the first few months.
To get to the point, all the stress and self doubt I was fighting with pushed me into the arms of panic attacks. 🖤
I honestly think that someone who never suffered with a panic attack will understand how scary it can be.
This is why I want to share some attack 'hacks' , from my own experience, that helped me to control it and to get my life back. ❤️
1️⃣ Books. I've started reading books about the mind power. The book I read like 10 times was 'The Secret'. Everytime I'd feel those attacks getting stronger - get the book out and read again. This might not be the most suitable book for you, but hope it will direct you to find some good read helping to calm your mind. Books helped me to understand how to start controling my own mindset.
2️⃣ Mind control. After getting some knowledge how to deal with panic attacks I've started to use it. I would stop a thought of having another attack right at that second by reminding myself that I'm the one controlling my mind. My mind doesn't control me. I repeat this to date.
3️⃣ Keep yourself busy. I've noticed that being focused on something else helped me not to overthink when's the next attack going to hit. Keeping myself busy allowed me to forget I had it, even if it was for a short while.
4️⃣ Repeating first 3 points and constantly remind yourself that it's all in your head, do not let the fear to get to you!”
Rachel's Story @rachel_hungerford
TRIGGER WARNING (mention of s**cide) . “Anxiety has been my constant companion since childhood. I had my first panic attack at the age of 5 on a school field trip. Growing up was hard not only because of my anxiety, but also because my family environment was toxic and abusive. My father was an alcoholic and a drug addict and the uncertainty that he caused in my day-to-day life made my anxiety all the more prevalent. By the 5th grade I was battling depression and bulimia as well as anxiety. The chaos in my home made it possible for me to hide my problems and evade getting help. After my father committed suicide when I was 17, life got even more complicated and my mental health declined even more. I still refused to admit that I needed help though and continued to cope in maladaptive ways. It wasn’t until I graduated college and began my professional career that I realized I had to make some changes. I had been living a life that I thought would make me happy, ticking boxes on some imaginary list that said what I needed to do to be okay. It looked good on paper, but it wasn’t working for me. I was severely depressed, my eating disorder was still ruling my life, and I was having panic attacks regularly. I decided I had to make a change.
The first thing I did was reach out and talk about what I was feeling with a trusted family member. They connected me with a therapist and I began working on healing the trauma of my childhood and recovering from my eating disorder. I also began taking medication for my anxiety and depression as well as making lifestyle changes.
Today, I am living a life I could never have imagined for myself 10 years ago. I have gone back to school to pursue a career I love in dietetics. I nourish my body with food and exercise instead of punishing it. I prioritize my wellness and I have developed a sense of self love that guides me above all else. Furthermore, I haven’t had a panic attack in 5 years. Life is so much better! My advice to anyone struggling is first to reach out and talk to someone you feel safe with. Once you let out the feelings you have bottled within, you can begin the work of healing. That will look different for everyone. For me it’s taking my meds, getting enough sleep, getting outside, feeding myself well, and nourishing my mind with writing, reading, and learning. For you, it could be so many other things. Experiment. Get help. And don’t wait until you reach a breaking point to make a change. You are worth it and you are loved."
“I always thought I was kinda fearless. I loved travel, flying, haunted houses, roller coasters, and road trips. Change was welcomed and I loved adventure! At 22 I literally did a 180 and have not been my “normal” self since then. The night that I had my very first panic attack I was driving back to my college dorm and I blacked out at an intersection. I immediately pulled over and believed I was dying of a heart attack. I was shaking uncontrollably, my heart was pounding, and I was sweating so much but felt so cold. It lasted for about 2-3 hours and I had no idea what was happening to me.
I continued to have symptoms on a daily basis including shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, and a strange discomfort and unease that I just couldn’t explain. I was afraid to drive, sleep, and eat which are all kinda essential for everyday life. I was told over and over that I had anxiety and I refused to accept it! Accepting it meant I was a fearful and weak human that would never be able to live life to the fullest. I’m 26 now and I have gained so much strength that I know I never would’ve developed without my anxiety. This is the card I’ve been handed and so far I have powered through. The last 4 years have been spent researching anxiety and panic attacks and learning coping methods. I’m here to say you can live life with happiness and hope! Anxiety does not have to bury you, it can actually be a stepping stone. Strengthen your mind, body, and soul through this journey. You’ll be stronger and wiser for it down the road. You’ll be the person people run to when they need help and support.”
" If you told me a few months ago that I would overcome my depression and find my dream job I would’ve told you you were lying. Being the only black educator at my school, combined with all the other dysfunction there left me severely depressed. I began feeling suicidal and internalized everything about my experience. - But now? - I’ve recovered from that depression and have a renewed sense of self worth. I can finally feel the sun, smile and laugh, for the first time in a really long time. And now I can finally dedicate time to working on projects and things I’m passionate about. -
I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone. Since starting this page I’ve connected with people from all over the world who have had similar experiences being educators of color. There’s also some of you that have been pushed out of your schools just for calling out abuses of power and other injustices. You are not alone. We are in this fight together. -
If you ever need someone to listen my DMs are always open. You are strong. You are enough. You can and will overcome your circumstance."
Annie's Story @happy._.annie
“My furthest memory of having anxiety was in fifth grade when i first realized one of my best friends whom i was staying with while my parents were out of town was manipulating me, and frankly, i never realized that was anxiety until recently, but i would just like to say that being manipulated is kind of difficult to notice at first, like i didn’t notice it until my mom pointed it out to me after the whole panic attack thing, and i didn’t know until years later how awful it was and how it effected my current mental health. i guess that’s all i have? manipulation and separation is a very big trigger for me and i wouldn’t want it for anyone. so like i guess my message is don’t manipulate people and if you know someone has anxiety and/or separation anxiety, don’t try to trigger it for your own self benefit.“
Leyo's Story @leyojahnke
“I was always very afraid of many things as a small child, but it never seemed unusual to me. But things really started for me in 2016. I was at a festival with my friends shortly before we should all start our training in different cities.
On the last day I suddenly noticed in the evening how I was getting worse and worse. Everything around me got weird and moved. However, I didn't want to show anything and thought everything was just a little too much.
But even when my friends went to bed, I couldn't. I heard strange things and felt so alone. I didn't understand what was going on. The next day I had me picked up and it came out that someone had given me a mix of different drugs in my drink. And Boooom there it was, my first panic attack that lasted for hours. I was afraid that I would never feel good again.I thought that's it now, I have to die. And somebody I don't know is to blame. But of course it didn't happen that way. First of all, I even had a few months of rest. Then I should go on a business trip. And all of a sudden I got a racing heart, breathing problems, I got dizzy and everything tingled. I felt sick.
I thought I would tip over any moment. And then there was a feeling like I wasn't really there, as if everything was just a dream.
It got worse every day. I was just crying. And the worst thing about it was I was infinitely ashamed of it. At that moment I still thought that it all came from these drugs and I didn't dare talk to anyone about it because I thought nobody would believe me if I said I didn't take them voluntarily. I was always a little rebel but I would never have voluntarily touched drugs!!
And today I also know that they are not the reason for my generalized anxiety disorder, but only the trigger. Well, the panic attacks got worse every month. But worst of all was this feeling of being different and the fear of never being able to lead a normal life again.
I somehow managed to successfully complete my apprenticeship and for a while the distraction made me feel relatively good. And then 1 month later the hammer came. Panic attacks, permanent anxiety, hypochondria and depression all through. I could not anymore. And I didn't want to live like that anymore. So I opened up to my parents. (FINALLY) And it actually helped. They helped me find a therapist and were always there for me. That took a huge stone off my heart. I am currently waiting for the start of therapy and the appointment with the psychiatrist. And I still fight every day. With the fear of illness, with the fear of life, with the fear of fear, with the emptiness in me and the sadness, ... But I am no longer alone and I know that you can do everything together, even if it seems so difficult and hopeless. I learned to appreciate the few good days. Also learned that I love to paint and found myself a bit more.
There is always a way. Nothing is forever, not even bad feelings! I can do it! And all of you, no matter what burdens you, you can do it too! Promised. Never give up !! We’re here for you!”
@rosiecowboy 's Story
TRIGGER WARNING (mention of self harm/s**cide) “My mom tells me that I've always been sensitive? Especially with sound. To this day, I still cover my ears whenever we watch fireworks or go to concerts. We wouldn't learn until I was in 5th grade that there was something seriously wrong. I was having breakdowns almost daily, these breakdowns were caused by holding in my panic attacks until i would explode. This led to my first hospitalization when I was only eleven, where I was diagnosed with chronic depression. It wasn't until my second hospitalization a year later when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. During the time between my second and third hospitalization, the panic induced episodes continued to get worse, to the point where I was cutting myself. These meltdowns physically drained me and I attempted suicide multiple times. I was getting bullied horrendously because of my panic attacks and didn't have any friend s during middle school. After one last public meltdown, I was hospitalized for the third and last time (I was 13, now 18). I learnt that I not only had generalized anxiety, but also PTSD (from abuse that I'm not totally comfortableand bipolar disorder (which I got genetically from my mom's side). Now having actual labels to work off of that weren't just "unidentified mood disorder", it was easier for me to relate to other people and also better myself. Five years later, I've made incredible progress. I don't get aggressive anymore and I turn to my personal coping mechanisms to calm down during panic attacks. I enjoy coloring, drawing, writing, and stimming with soft objects like stuffed animals and blankets. I have been cut free over the past five years and I've gotten through high school without the fear of being pulled into online school due to acting out. I haven't gotten bullied either, and have even been able to publicly talk about my experiences with mental health and past abuse. I hope that when other people hear about my success through the last five years that it inspires them to get help like I did. I want them to know that they're never alone and that there's resources out there just for them”
“My anxiety seems to go back to when I was younger, but I didn’t know what it was until I was older. I started having panic attacks in college. I withdrew from things because I was afraid of having them. Things like driving on big highways(I still don’t drive on them), flying-I just flew by myself for the first time(I’ve flown with family before) in December🙌🏻✈️, I quit a chorus I had auditioned for and made, after 1 season. I’ve been in choruses since elementary school. That one hit hard. I was so sad. I had a season of singing on and off also in my church choir because I’d have panic attacks on stage there too. I started self-injuring in high school, but it served as a distraction from anxiety too. I still struggle with it, and I’m 26 now. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital a few years ago due to debilitating anxiety. I’d have panic attacks early in the morning there when I woke up. Until they adjusted my medicine and put me on new ones. I still wake up at times and have an attack. It’s scary. I’m in therapy now for anxiety, self-injury among a couple
other issues. My faith has been my foundation and a top reason I’m still here. I don’t get sad really from having them. They’re just scary. I think suicidal ideation has stemmed from that among other things as well. I still struggle with that as well. When I was in the hospital, they did diagnose me with panic disorder and major depression. Which reassures me. I think sometimes when you can put a name to something, you can better treat it. I’m still working on managing my anxiety. I just started dialectical behavior therapy too. I’m also working on not hurting myself and using skills to cope. Something my dbt therapist said to me which is a quote by Marsha Lenahan, who developed DBT- “The path out of hell is through misery”. It’s hard, and you have to walk through the fire, but there’s hope and life.”