Raising awareness about mental health issues, especially among young people, is very important. In this blog entry you can read about how a young girl describes her struggle with anxiety and her journey towards acceptance and well-being.
"My battle with anxiety started during summer 2018. From when I was diagnosed I knew I was about to embark on a tough and challenging journey. Not just me, but everyone who was close to me as well. It was really hard to come to terms with the fact that it would take time to be okay again and even harder to accept that it could hit me again at any time.
My dad had battled with anxiety a few years earlier, so he knew what was going on and he was the greatest help. It didn't take long for my siblings, parents and close friends to get used to my disorder. They knew what to do when I wasn't feeling well and knew just about all they could about my symptoms, how they could help, and how they could provide a safe space for me to be in. But it was very hard to explain to others. At first I was very hesitant to talk to others about what was happening to me. Where I live mental health is very rarely talked about and people know very, very little about it.
It is like if nothing hurts physically, then you are not sick. I knew not everyone would understand. I got so many different reactions. When I tried to explain, most people would just stare at me like I was some kind of alien. If I was to tell people that I was having a hard time with my mental health, they would just think I was ‘crazy’ - so I preferred not talking about it at all. I got a lot of unnecessary advice that would make me very angry. People would suggest that I go to a magician of some sort, because someone might have put a spell on me, or to go to an Imam because I was somehow possessed.
I tend to have more anxiety and several panic attacks when I go out. To begin with, I used to avoid going out unless it was necessary, so people around me would sometimes criticize me for "just thinking about myself and never going out with them". I wish people knew how hard it is to live with it. To just know what a big step it is to just go for a walk sometimes. I really wish they would understand that it’s not as easy to manage as it may look, and that I am really trying my best.
At some point after you struggle to just feel a little better, everything else becomes so unimportant. So I started talking about it. Writing about it. I keep trying to show people around me to just understand how precious it is to be healthy; how little problems should not matter as long as you are healthy and happy.
Anxiety might have turned my entire life upside down, but it has taught me so much. It has taught me to put myself first. To put my health and my happiness first. Before, I used to feel very insecure about my weight and my body. I used to try all kinds of diets and other methods to help me lose weight. But since anxiety showed up, I have learned to love my body just the way it is, as long as it is healthy and as long as I feel healthy. I really feel more confident in my own skin now.
I have learned to love myself with all my flaws. It has shown me a power I had inside but was never really aware of. And it has taught me to enjoy every single moment in life. I think it has served for good for the people around me too. They have actually learned to take care of their mental health. It has opened their eyes to what is more important in life.
Anxiety is very hard to have and to fight but so is any other mental illness. When you experience any kind of anxiety disorder, it’s important to just find what works for you best. But keeping a positive mindset is one of the key steps to getting better. The stigma is present, but we can change that for our kids and the generations to come."
Written by Artjola, 03.01.2020.
This text is part of the UNICEF community Voices of Youth. Voices of Youth is developed by the United Nations Children’s Fund. See http://www.voicesofyouth.org