My body is my home. I take it with me everywhere I go, and with me comes my anxiety. I have lived with my anxiety since elementary school. It has gotten worse, alongside toxic friendships, family issues, and relationships, and it has also gotten better, but it has never gone away. My doctor told me that anxiety was something that was going to live with me for the rest of my life. Maybe you have been told something similar, or maybe you haven’t, but to hear that I was never going to escape my anxiety was not one of the best moments I have experienced. It sent me into a spiral. What was the point of trying if I had to wake up every day and feel like this? I lost the motivation to keep going and failed to see the bigger picture. I could only focus on how my anxiety was affecting my relationships, my school work, and my overall health. I wanted to create distance between myself and everyone else because I felt like I was a burden and a problem, which only isolated me further and made everything worse. I felt stuck and like it was never going to get better. I cannot stress how important it is to surround yourself with healthy relationships, both generally and especially while dealing with mental illness. If I didn’t surround myself with supportive people, I would’ve fully believed myself when my anxiety told me I was a bad friend and a bad girlfriend. I got caught up with the feeling that I wasn’t the person I wanted to be, and I felt like my anxiety took away the essence of who I was. I was known for loving school, but my anxiety shut me down to the point where a basic reading was too much for me. I think of myself as a good girlfriend but my anxiety made me jealous, insecure. I’ve always wanted to be a good friend but my anxiety made answering texts an overwhelming chore. I can see now that my mental illness doesn’t take away from who I am. It doesn’t make me a bad person, friend, or girlfriend, but it would have been much harder to see that without the loving and supportive people in my life.

Mental illness is not pretty, it’s not cute or quirky, and it doesn’t make you a character in a John Green book. Mental illness is devastating, it’s hard work and it takes a commitment to yourself. A commitment to try. If I have learned anything so far, it is that it is in your hands. Nobody is going to do it for you, and you have to want this for yourself. Be kind and be patient with yourself during this process, healing takes time and it is not linear. You will have good days, and you will have bad days, but you are not losing progress. I can look back now and say that my doctor was right. My anxiety and I are in it for life, it is just about learning how to cope with it. Some coping strategies will work, and other ones will not. You just have to navigate what is best for you. My go-to strategies are to surround myself with people who make me feel loved and safe, work out and run, focus on things I am in control of, have a shower, spend time outside, cook my favourite meals, and give myself space to understand my feelings. When I am at my worst, the best thing is to remind myself that I am okay. It is okay to feel like this and the worst thing I can do is ignore how I feel. Other important things to remember are that enough sleep, and keeping yourself hydrated is crucial to your well-being. Take care of yourself like you would a loved one, embrace all that is you and remember, you are lovable even when you feel terrible.

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