September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and so I've been thinking a lot about mental illness.
And these days, celebrities are making it way easier on Millennials who have anxiety to feel comfortable about having these types of struggles. It thankfully isn't a strange, taboo topic anymore.
Just within the last two weeks, Selena Gomez, Zayn Malik and Camila Cabello of Fifth Harmony have all spoken out about their struggles with anxiety, and it's even prevented each of the superstars from performing.
Girl, if Selena can't pull it together every day, I'm not mad at myself for not pulling it together every day. Right?
Anxiety has been something I've struggled with personally over the last five years, and it's heightened over the last three.
I've gone through extensive cognitive behavior therapy, talk therapy, anti-depressants, you name it. But, I finally found a groove that worked for me.
Between regular exercise, a visit with my CBT genius when I need him most and open communication with my family and close friends about when I'm having a rough day, I've been able to tackle my anxiety head on.
And weirdly, it turns out that having an anxiety disorder has been the greatest blessing.
Here are the five reasons it's helped me throughout my life:
1. It's helped me get to know myself.
I was always the type of person who refused to go to therapy. My friends encouraged me by saying, "You have to go! It's life-changing."
But, I never wanted to talk about things that upset me or insecurities I felt. I was always scared I would sit down on the therapist's couch and simply not even know what to say.
Half the time, I'm anxious over made-up scenarios in my head. It sounds like a funny meme, but it's true. And there's a reason I have certain thoughts like that.
But now I know how to retrain my brain into more positive, accurate points of view.
2. I have stronger friendships.
In order to avoid panic attacks, I often kept certain people in my life at an arm's length.
I didn't want to get hurt or put myself into situations that may result in an anxious aftermath, so I avoided it all together. I was lacking emotional intimacy, and that's no way to live life.
But at the same time, all of my best friends have anxiety and have experienced bouts of depression. I'm counting them in my head right now, and literally every single one of them has seen a therapist and been through a rough time.
So, being able to tell them about my situation was easy and relatable, and it opened up a stronger bond with them that I didn't realize was even possible.
3. Anxiety makes you appreciate the little things in life.
Ask anyone who has an anxiety disorder, and they'll tell you getting through the day without a "spiral" is a huge success.
Having anxious tendencies and overcoming them has made me appreciate the smallest things in life so much more.
For example, I can appreciate the fact I can sit through an entire concert without thinking, "It's getting late. Ugh, I might be stuck in the parking lot for an hour after the show. Should I just leave now? But if I want to leave early, my friends are going to be mad at me.
But I have to get up early for work. What if I wake up with a headache in the morning? And then I might be late for work. Or worse, what if I wake up sick and then my boss sees I was at a concert, but I really am sick, but he thinks I was faking because I was at a concert the night before?
I feel nauseous, but I have to pretend I'm having fun. Only one more hour."
4. It has allowed me to help others.
I try to tell everyone I can about my therapists who have helped me overcome my difficult times. I've given countless friends their information, and I even talk about little things I do here and there to help when I start to get stressed and overwhelmed.
One thing I do now that helps me when I get anxious at night is to turn on "Modern Family" and put a cool cloth on my head. A little Phil Dunphy will do you wonders, I tell ya.
5. It makes you fearless.
Dealing with mental illness of any level is no joke. For anyone who has overcome even one true panic attack knows there's no lower feeling in the world.
Just know you're not alone. And by overcoming and continuing to pick up the pieces, get dressed, go to work and live your life every day, you're proving anxiety doesn't control you. You control it, so remember that. You are fearless.
Please talk to your friends and family about mental illness this month. We've lost too many amazing souls in this world, and everyone needs a shoulder sometimes. Be that shoulder for someone.