The author is wearing green in the above photograph.
July 18, 2017 – From a young age, I always feared that something was wrong or something bad was going to happen. This constant sense of worry was something I grew up with without actually knowing there was a name for it. When I finally came to the realization that this feeling was called anxiety, this part of my life started to make sense.
Throughout high school, I continued to live with a sense of worry. At the time, it was manageable. Anxious thoughts would cross my mind on a daily basis but not consume my entire life. I had a handful of friends and was able to maintain good grades that allowed me to attend my top choice of college.
Once I was in college, I was having the time of my life. I studied communications and marketing, two subjects that interest me greatly. I joined a sorority and involved myself in philanthropy work. I made friends who I knew would still be there for years to come.
Everything in my life seemed to be just right.
If someone had told me what I would experience the summer before my junior year, I would never have believed them. My seemingly manageable anxiety that I had grown up with suddenly took a turn and developed into something I was no longer able to control. I quickly realized that my anxiety had become a fear of interacting with others, even if it was something as simple as making eye contact.
This social anxiety kept me from doing things I had previously taken for granted. I soon found myself unable to engage with the outside world, making it impossible for me to leave my house. This created an agonizing sense of isolation which developed into a deep depression.
My parents were quick to realize there was an issue, and immediately made an appointment for me to see a therapist. I was extremely fearful of my first therapy session, especially since it was the first time I was leaving my house in over a month. However, I knew this was an opportunity for me to get my life back. After weeks of therapy, I gradually began to realize that how I was feeling at that point in my life was not going to last forever.
With much hesitation and fear, I ultimately decided to return to school at the end of the summer. My first month back was extremely difficult, but I chose to not let my anxiety control my life any longer. I began to use the techniques I had learned at therapy. When I found myself in high anxiety situations I used methods such as self-talk and breathing to calm me down. These techniques were some of the first things I learned in my sessions and I continue to use them on a daily basis. I also turned to aromatherapy and yoga which kept my mind occupied throughout the semester. I found these methods to be extremely simple, yet they had a powerful impact on my life.
Using these techniques, and relying on my support system of family and friends, I slowly started to feel like myself again.
I learned a lot about myself, and mental health, during this period of my life. I learned that surrounding yourself with people who love and care for you is its own kind of therapy. I learned there is no shame in seeking and accepting help when things don’t seem right. But most of all, I learned the importance of having hope. No matter how difficult things may seem, I am living proof that when you reach out for help, it gets better. I am living proof that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am living proof that there is always hope.
* Ms. Rocco is a summer intern with AFSP in the National Headquarters in New York City.
Like what you're reading? Sign up for AFSP's monthly Blog Email, where you'll find blog highlights from the previous month, creative writing exercises, and assignments for upcoming topics.
Write a blog post for AFSP! Click here for our Submission Guidelines.