Triumph over tragedy

In honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, Brush and Palette writers wish to open up about their personal experiences to promote discussion of various mental health topics that affect our student body.

Clarence Cooper

In honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, Brush and Palette writers wish to open up about their personal experiences to promote discussion of various mental health topics that affect our student body.

Kammie George , Editor-in-Chief/ Web Manager

I believe that we all experience tragedies: certain events in our life that can test someone’s strength. As someone who experiences incapacitating social anxiety daily, I know that there are many things that serve as triggers for anxiety or panic attacks. We all struggle; we all deal with things we would rather not share with others. My purpose is not to complain or brag about my hardships, but to open up a new perspective and to allow you, the reader, to become more understanding of others around you.

Common forms of anxiety amongst individuals of all ages include generalized anxiety and social anxiety. Of course, anxiety in itself is a much more complicated disorder, as it can have roots in various things such as phobias, depression and eating disorders.  Also, it can manifest in many different forms. Each person copes with anxiety differently, and most of the time the mechanism  is not the healthiest. When experiencing times of heightened anxiety, it is important to not shut yourself away from the world; isolating yourself may cause you to become more susceptible to developing symptoms of depression and intense feelings of loneliness.

Personally, I understand how social anxiety leads to depression, leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms and toxic thoughts. There have been periods in my life where I was so afraid of social interactions that I would let my anxiety rule my life, and I began to shut myself out from the rest of the world. I was terrified of being alone, but I was terrified of being around people.   This eventually led to feelings of inadequacy because I was stuck. I felt incompetent because I couldn’t do simple things like walk up to someone and ask for a pencil, and I couldn’t explain to others why.

It is normal to experience small amounts of anxiety. It’s when that anxiety becomes something that inhibits the quality of your daily life that you should be concerned and reach out for help. Anxiety that prohibits you from leaving the house, finishing a homework assignment or even talking to people is something you should seriously consider talking to someone you trust about.

The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem; it’s cliche, I know, but it’s the truth. Once I realized that my extreme anxiety was not just an “awkward phase” and my coping mechanisms of self-harm were not normal, I began to slowly work towards accepting myself. I began to become more open with my family about my struggles and started to talk openly about my anxiety with others. I became more confident in myself and felt less anxious about being in a room full of people.

I’d like to be able to write about ways that would help you manage your anxiety or feel better about yourself, but I can’t. I’m not a professional. I’m just someone who has experienced unfortunate events, and I still struggle on a daily basis. My greatest bit of advice I can give, however, is never to be afraid of expressing yourself. The more you accept yourself, the more others will accept you, and the easier it will be to reach out and seek help.

I never sought help from professionals, but that’s not to say that everyone can follow my path. Once I accepted the fact that I had a problem, I began to ask myself, “Why do I care what other people think of me?” Eventually, I reached a mindset where I could openly talk about things that trigger my anxiety, and this helped me become less afraid to talk to people.

Dealing with anxiety is not always easy; I often feel as though people perceive me as someone who is stuck up, conceited, or even unapproachable because I established what seemed like a cold exterior to minimize the chances of people talking to me. However, it is simply because talking to people or being around people for extended periods of time worsens my anxiety. It is important to stay true to yourself and to try your best to ignore others’ opinions. Seek help if you find your anxiety has become unmanageable. Most importantly, it is okay to not feel okay; your struggles don’t make you weakthey make you human.