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.
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