A. Gallagher

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My experiences with anxiety and depression inspired me to take part in this project. A few years ago I began having chronic panic attacks and anxiety that pushed me to have a nervous breakdown. My entire life was turned upside down. I couldn’t even go to school without feeling like I was going to die, which made life as a 19 year old 10x more stressful. This led me to isolate myself from my family and friends. I couldn’t do anything without feeling anxiety, even things I knew didn’t really scare me. After I removed certain people and things from my life, my anxiety subsided, but then depression kicked in. If you know depression, you know sometimes you don’t even realize it’s taken over your life until it already has. Depression is like knowing your life is full of blessings, gifts and amazing people, but not being able to feel it. It’s like sitting at a bar with your friends, watching them smile, laugh, and enjoy themselves and all you’re thinking about is how you’re terrified to lose all the people you care most about in life. I didn’t know why this was happening to me, which made it worse. The hardest part of these experiences was trying to remember who I really was in the midst of it all. When the anxiety got bad enough, I would experience sensations of dissociation and depersonalization. This means I constantly felt like I was a cloud floating above my body. I would look at my hands and feet or my face in the mirror and I didn’t feel like it was mine. These experiences truly made me feel like I was going crazy. Eventually, I felt so far removed from reality that I became incredibly hopeless. Anxiety and depression dictated what I did or didn’t do on a daily basis, which was mentally and emotionally exhausting. I was constantly comparing my life to before the pain, which was so careless and carefree. Why was this happening to me?

In order to address the changes in my life, I started writing, which helped me turn what I was feeling into something creative. I learned so much about myself just from taking the time to understand myself - which I think is something many people avoid. But most of all, I just accepted it. I realized that there was a reason I was going through this, so denying it didn’t make sense. The more I denied it, the more life hit me in the face. Learning how to accept my life and myself in the darkest moments was liberating. It also helped me build a more compassionate relationship with myself. Accepting yourself is so much harder said than done, and almost trying to do so has adverse effects. But I swear, if you make a commitment to yourself to keep going, one day it will just hit you. As I starting healing, I began having epiphanies and puzzle pieces just started to fit together. Old beliefs and habits washed away and new, healthy ones appeared. I still have days of extreme insecurity and self-doubt, but instead of falling into a spiral of self-hatred, I try to be okay with it. I’m a sensitive, empathic, and intuitive human being - I’m bound to feel the weight of the world every once in a while.

One of the reasons I choose not to illustrate my experiences on social media is because I’ve always been a more private person in general, so it never occured to me to post about what I was going through. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about what it would be like to put it out in the world. Only a few close people know the degree to what my life really was at that time, and that’s a crazy thought to me. I felt like I was a walking lie, because I was trying so hard to keep my shit together. One day I had a close friend look me in the eyes and tell me that it was okay not to be okay. That really changed things. I realized that I was afraid of being vulnerable because I thought I would look weak or that it meant I was less. I think this is exactly why we don’t share our struggles with the world. There is so much pressure from society to be happy and light, that we don’t talk about our darkness. But we’re on this earth to experience every array of complex emotion, not just the “positive” ones. We’ve been conditioned to reject our so called “negative” emotions, so we push them so deep within ourselves until one day it hits us out of nowhere.

If I were to share my story of anxiety and depression on social media, I honestly don’t know what it would look like. I rarely post on social media because it gives me anxiety, HA. However, if I could trust that my story would make someone feel less alone and inspired to keep going, I would do it in the blink of an eye. I think I could be really honest if I tried. I’ve learned how to be honest with myself and others, even if that makes them uncomfortable. And I think the right people value honesty and vulnerability, so I think it would be received positively. I’m sure there would be people who would think I’m asking for attention or pity because there’s always haters, but hater’s opinions don’t matter.  

I am in no way healed of all my traumas nor do I pride myself in knowing all the answers. But for any young woman struggling with mental illness, I want to encourage you to simply listen to your feelings. Listen to them, and listen to them good. Anxiety is trying to tell you that you’re ignoring something. Depression is trying to tell you that you’ve lost hope in something. Take the time to understand your fears and struggles. So much of my anxiety had to do with the fact that I wasn’t being honest with myself. At the height of my anxiety and depression, I was in a emotionally turbulent relationship with someone who didn’t value me. By staying in the relationship, I wasn’t valuing myself. Cut the people out that you need to - our company is so reflective of our state of mind. Surround yourself with those you know won’t judge you. Don’t feel guilty for protecting your energy, because if you’re empathetic like me, you absorb everything around you. Learn to talk about it. Anxiety and depression are so real, but we don’t talk about it because we’re afraid we’re going to scare people away. Those who really love you will stick by you no matter what.

Above all, I want to tell you that when you’re in doubt, always look within. And if you don’t know how, find a good therapist who will help you learn. I think women especially are told from a very young age what is expected of us in life, and if we don’t fulfill that, we think we have failed. We were conditioned to always place our power in the hands of others - whether it be a man, a fairytale, or an idea of what we think we should be, we were given very little freedom to rely on ourselves. So many of us look to external things to fill the voids we feel instead of sitting with them and trying to understand why we feel them. I encourage you to know that everything you will ever need is within you, and it’s not worth it to cheat yourself of the respect and love you deserve. Women are so fucking powerful. Our ability to create life, whether or not we choose to, makes the nature of our emotional, spiritual, and mental experiences so complex and multi-dimensional. Our psychic and intuitive abilities allow us to just know what the right thing to do is and how to care for people without being taught. That being said, we deserve the love we give so selflessly to others. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can get back to our flawless-ass, bad-bitch, woman-who-don’t-need-but-only-wants-a-man(or woman) selves. (:

Asia Croson