Mental health has always been something that wasn’t talked about when I grew up. “If you can’t see it, it’s not real” was my family’s motto; at least in some parts of my family. When I was younger I was always labeled ‘moody’ and weird by everyone around me. It wasn’t until high school when everything around me started to get worse. I can still remember my first anxiety attack: I was walking to class with a couple of friends when this overwhelming sense of panic swept over my entire body and it felt like there was an elephant standing on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I sat down against a stone fence and forced myself to breathe as best I could while my friends struggled to help or understand what was happening to me.
The attacks only got worse and more frequent. I really didn’t ever consider what was happening to me until I began to have an attack, unannounced, during an English class. Thankfully my teacher recognized the signs, pulled me into the hallway, and had me complete breathing exercises to calm myself down. With the help of my teacher I began to start seeing a counsellor. I was diagnosed then with anxiety (Agoraphobia), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tendencies. I went through a lot of therapy throughout my high school years and things started to get a lot better. I had to do much of this on my own due to my family not understanding what I was going though or that my mind could be what was having issues. Things started to get better and I graduated, moved to Brandon, and began my first degree.
In 2014 my symptoms started to emerge again and this time much worse than before. The strategies I’d developed were no longer working for me. I hit an all-time low with my anxiety- having a massive panic attack in front of my boss at work one evening without any trigger. My mom, who had become much more aware and sympathetic to mental health due to her job and mental health becoming a topic surrounding the workplace, ensured I was well taken care of. I saw a doctor who referred me to a mental health worker and I began to take medication to control my anxiety attacks. I also began counselling to explore my mental health. It was during this time that I got my full diagnosis: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, and mild OCD tendencies. I won’t lie, the past few years batting this have not been easy with friends who don’t always understand that there isn’t always a reason for my anxiety and family who haven’t grasped the notion of mental health.
My name is Sarah. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, and OCD tendencies. I can’t always control whether or not I have triggers. My life is a never-ending feeling of anxiety. But that’s okay. I can handle this because I am not defined by my mental health. I am defined by my love of reading and books of all genres. I am defined by my never-ending laugh, smile and energetic personality. I am defined by my Bachelor of Arts degree and my love of Anthropology, History, and Religion. Now I’m completing my Bachelor of Education where I will become a teacher, educator, and shaper of young minds. I am a friend, a daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, sister, cousin, and an adoring fan of strong coffee. I am a red wine lover, Netflix enthusiast, and a cat mom.
My name is Sarah and I will not be defined by my mental illness.