“Usually, people think of childhood as a carefree time. However, when I was a child, I had difficulty to stop thinking about small situations and I worried a looooot about everything. When I made a small mistake, I overreacted and I had an anxiety crisis because I was sure that my parents would be mad at me. When one of my friends was not available to play outside with me, I was worried that my friends would be angry with me and I felt like the world was against me. I was afraid to tell the truth to my surroundings because I was in fear of ”getting into trouble” even if I was innocent. I had difficulty to manage my emotions and my worries, even the smallest one. When I turned 14, the situation became worse. I had difficulty to express my fears, my worries and my feelings without overreacting, and even if I had so many friends, I felt isolated and I had difficulty to identity the sources of my anxiety. I was unable to live my ”typical Canadian teen’s life” without having an anxiety attack.
My name is Cassandra, I am 21 years old and I’m from Canada. While I’m well known for being the ”happiest girl in the world”, people think that I will never struggle in my life because of that. I totally agree with the fact that I’m a happy girl and I’m proud to have this awesome reputation. However I totally disagree with the fact that I’ll never struggle in my life. I grew up with an anxiety disorder (and possibly an obsessive-compulsive disorder) and my anxiety has an impact on my mental health since forever. Unfortunately, as a grew up, my anxiety started to impact my physical health (e.g., rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, etc. ) as well. In all situations (even the happiest ones) I tend to get anxious a lot even about things I should not be anxious about. Since forever, I’m afraid of what could happen to me and my anxiety affects my daily life. When people ask me ‘’Why do you feel so anxious” ? I don’t even know what to answer because I’m unable to identify what makes me feel anxious. Sometimes, I have an excessive anxiety for no apparent reasons. 99.99% of the time I’m anxious about what could happen in the future and I have the feeling that my life would be in danger because I tend to imagine the worst-case scenario but these situations may never happen. I have persistent fear and I tend to use some repetitive behaviour in order to control my obsessive thoughts and to reduce my anxiety. Anxiety affects my everyday life and I feel so overwhelmed.
Sometimes, I have the feeling that only a few people are able to understand how I really feel inside me. ‘’You don’t look like someone who has a mental illness’’ ‘’You are ALWAYS happy and positive, you cannot be anxious !!!’’ ‘’Stop overreacting, it’s not THAT bad!’’ ‘’You have a perfect life, why are you so anxious ? ‘’ Yes, I’m a positive and happy girl and I’m proud of it. And yes, I’m suffering from anxiety disorder and I’m not ashamed to talk about it. You never know what some people might be struggling with only based on his or her appearance.
In 2016, I started a blog in order to break the stigma that is associated with mental illness . Every two-to-four weeks, I write articles about mental health, self-love, happiness, well-being, self-care, anxiety, etc., and I share them on Facebook support groups and mental health applications. I provide some useful tools and advice while spreading mental health awareness. This blog helps me to connect with other people that understand me, and this support network makes me feel empowered while helping other people to empower themselves. I love to connect with people with similar experience so we can hear each others’ stories, share tools, advice and help each other to manage our anxiety. I also started to know myself better by keeping an anxiety/thought diary to write down all single details about my anxiety in order to express my feeling, to better understand myself and to help me deal with my anxiety and since the beginning of my adulthood, I love setting myself short-term goals for facing my fears and my anxiety. I also created a SOS box that includes all things that help when I become more anxious.
Then, last year, I lived an awesome experience that helped me to relieve my anxiety : travel and volunteer abroad. For the first time in my whole life, I spent 2 months without thinking about my anxiety. Living in a community, learning about new cultures, meeting international friends and helping people in need was one of the best experiences of my whole life because it helped me to increase my sense of belonging while thinking less about my anxiety. I had the awesome feeling that I could flourish and : even if I’m suffering from mental illness, I realized that I could have a positive impact on people’s lives. I had a feeling of freedom and I was able to focus on positive aspects of my life. This awesome feeling is indescribable and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to have made this experience.
Also, I try to face my fear to confront some situations that scare me. For example, one of my biggest fears is not having control over situations so I decided to test my anxiety by buying a Work Holiday Visa for the UK without knowing exactly what I will do during these two years. I want to prove to myself that dealing with the unknown accepting the things that I can’t change is not as bad as I expected. I also try to do more activities that require concentration or energy (Yoga, dancing, biking , etc.) in order to take my mind off my anxiety and to make my body and my mind focus on the present moment. I also love to imagine myself in a relaxing place and to do meditation in order to change my mindset: I need to remember that it’s useless to focus on things that I can’t control and the only moment that exist is the present moment.
All these tips helped me to grow and to flourish. Sometimes, I have the feeling that self-care is useless because it will not help me to have control on my anxiety. Sometimes, I have the feeling that by having obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviour, it will be the best way to find a solution about what makes me anxious. Even if anxiety disorder is a real struggle for me, It’s very important for me to stay positive and to believe in myself. I’m fighting to increase my inner power and I know that I can do it. All difficult situations will provide me some tools to become more confident and to manage more my anxiety.
Dear wonderful people reading this, I know that you can do it, you are not alone and together we will win the battle! I believe in me, I believe in you, I believe in US! Sometimes, people ask me what is my secret for always being happy: I prefer to remember that even if this situation is difficult, I have the power of the situation and life is full of beautiful moments that we should be grateful for. If we stop focusing on our obsessive thoughts, we will realize how much life is full of beautiful things so it’s important to focus on the present moment to increase our inner peace. When you calm your anxiety, you can focus on your positive life experience and things that are important to you. ‘’Whatever you’re going through or thinking about, good or bad at this very moment, just smile. Remember, even in tough times you’ve a lot to be thankful for’’. Remember that anxiety reflects a situation that has not happened yet and that may never occur. If we are able to silent our mind, to focus on the present moment and to focus on the situation that increases our well-being, you’ll realize that it’s one of the best secret of happiness. Life is wonderful: even if sometimes life is so hard , I’m grateful for everything I have in my life and I’m also grateful for my anxiety because it helps me to become stronger and more confident. I send you a lot of love and positive vibes!! <3″
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