Haley’s Story

For as long as I can remember, anxiety

has been a part of my life – not all consuming, but always there. I battled and I fought through it and with help, I learned to recognize the signs and talk it out before it became unmanageable. I thought that I had finally won my battle but I was so wrong.

Last semester, I switched into one of the most difficult programs. I really wanted to push myself and prove to myself that if I put in the work, that I could do anything I set my mind to. I thought that if I put myself in a high stress environment and made it through, that I would finally be rid of my anxiety – how stupid.

Halfway through the semester, I felt like shit. I had no appetite, I dropped 15 pounds, had no interest in seeing my friends and I’d cry myself to sleep every single night. It was the darkest place I had ever been in, my all time low. Now, if you know me you know that more than anything, I hate to show weakness – and that’s exactly how I saw my anxiety, as a weakness. So I put a smile on, got out of bed each and every morning, went to class and prayed for the day to be over. Little things like getting out of bed or taking a shower took so much out of me, I was exhausted and I was miserable. From the second I woke up, all I wanted to do was to get back into bed and sleep the day away.

The worst part is that I didn’t tell anyone, not even the people I trusted most in this world. Every night, I’d put on a hoodie to cover my head, shut my door and put a movie on to drown out the sound my crying – the last thing I wanted was for someone to hear me. Still, after all of this, I thought that I could handle it on my own and that it would eventually pass.

I remember the night vividly, the night I came to terms with the fact that I was sick. I was lying in my bed with tears in my eyes when my mom walked in. She knew. The second she sat down on the bed, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I started to hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably, I couldn’t breathe. It was the scariest moment of my life. I tried to speak but nothing came out, all I could do was gasp for air. My sister and dad came rushing in. I was surrounded by the people I love most and I still couldn’t stop crying. The look on their faces said it all, they were just as scared as I was and there was nothing anyone could do.

These panic attacks started happening more and more often, sometimes for no apparent reason at all like while I was watching TV or after I got into a stupid fight with my sister. I just couldn’t keep it together anymore. It was so bad that I was unable to finish the semester, so bad that I started hurting the person who means the most to me – my sister sat by my side, night after night while I yelled at her. I was jealous that she was able to do the things that paralyzed me. I believed that my anxiety was all in my head, that it wasn’t real so why could she take 7 classes? Why could she study for 4 different tests a week and be totally fine? Why could she handle all the stress? I felt different but more than that, I really felt sick.

My only option was to start taking a medication to regulate my anxiety. In my eyes, it was the worst option. I already saw myself as weak and needing to take medication only made me feel worse about myself.

I began taking medication and slowly, the attacks became fewer and less severe. I began to tell my friends what I was going through and the support and love I got was unimaginable. This was just over 2 months ago and although I still have bad days, I’m happy to say that I’m in a really good place. I fought really hard to get here and Im so proud of myself. I always thought I was strong but now I know how strong I truly am.

The most important part of this story is this amazing support group that I have, especially my amazing sister. Even though I treated her like shit, she was the first one to tell me that she’d always be there for me, through the ups and the downs. She was the first one to tell me that anxiety is just like any physical illness. That it wasn’t something that I could control, or that I could or should ever have to deal with on my own. She and the rest of my amazing support system changed my perspective on mental illness.

I no longer think of myself as different but rather as a person suffering from an illness just like any other. I no longer feel weak, I no longer feel sick. The only thing I feel is loved and finally, happy. Above all else I finally understand the importance of talking.

Letting my friends and family in was the best decision I could’ve made. Their support and love mean the absolute world to me and have made and continue to make this fight a million times easier for me.

I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Anxiety and all other mental illness are extremely real and extremely prevalent. This year especially, Bell Lets Talk day played a huge role in my recovery. I was inspired by each and every story I read and really and truly no longer feel alone.

Keep talking and keep listening today, and every day.

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