COLUMN: Surviving with your cruel mind

How to live life with a mental illness

A lot of people don’t know the difference between saying you have anxiety versus actually having it.

You can be depressed without having depression; you can be anxious without having anxiety.

For me, I have both, but I’m medicated for my anxiety and I can generally handle my depression.

The first instance that people don’t understand is what a panic attack really is. A lot of people imagine a panic attack as someone sitting curled up in a corner and rocking back and forth; while I have had those days too, it’s generally not that obvious.

A lot of people have quiet panic attacks; meaning they really don’t show it obviously. Some examples of that is finger biting, sleeve pulling, necklace fidgeting and really anything of that sort. But they can be pretty extreme too, sometimes people have trapped themselves on their beds and can’t leave because it’s too much for them to. For a personal example: I have had it where I’ve had to fall down on the ground in the shower after cutting myself shaving because I can’t breath and my vision has become spotted; those days normally mean I’m out for the count for the day. That’s the big difference.

Normally, people say they are anxious because they need to present in a class, a completely normal fear. I become anxious when I have an hour to get to class and I haven’t let yet; let alone if it’s 30 minutes to class and I haven’t left yet.

There are days that going to class is completely impossible. What if the professor calls on you? What if you forgot a test? What if…

Those types of anxieties are normal, however it’s when you can’t stop thinking about what could happen that you may actually have anxiety.

You can’t self diagnose yourself with anxiety or depression or any mental illness. You have to talk to a doctor, you have to talk to a counselor— even the ones on campus are able to be used. You have to talk to someone who is trained that can say, “Yes, you have a mental illness.”

The point is that if you being anxious isn’t actually impacting your life to where you cannot function on certain days, you do not have a mental disorder and should not say that you do.

It gives those who actually need an emotional support animal or medicine a bad name and a harder time being taken seriously.

Emotional support animals are trained to know your specific tics that show when you’re anxious and that they know how to comfort you. Not every animal can be an emotional support animal, they have to be trained.

On that same topic, smoking weed to “deal with anxiety” is not the same as actually taking medicine. If it helps you, great. But if a doctor didn’t tell you that you really need it and that you really have a mental illness, don’t claim that you do.

People don’t shame people with diabetes into not taking their insulin, and people should not be shamed for taking anxiety medication or antidepressants, or even having emotional support animals.

Please be respectful and understanding to anyone that chooses to open up about their illnesses to you. Don’t make them feel less important by saying, “Oh, I feel nervous too.” It’s not fair and it makes you seem like you’re just trying to relate and not trying to listen.

It’s an illness, not a show. Don’t treat it like it’s nothing.