Photo credit: Bradley Parker



When I was in 11th grade I was working harder than I ever had or have since; I worked 35 hours a week, did 6 hours of theatre, went to school full time, and performed two plays within the span of a month. I was numb the whole time, running on about 3 hours of sleep every night. 


When the school year finished and everything suddenly ended I realized that I had no idea what I used to do in my spare time; I didn’t know what I liked, what hobbies I had, or who I was. That was when I had my first panic attack.


By October of grade 12 I had stopped attending school, quit my job, and required constant supervision by loved ones for my own protection. It was a very dark time in my life and mostly constituted of one vicious circle: I would have a panic attack while trying to do a regular, everyday activity (such as buying lunch) and think, “if I can’t do this than how will I live the rest of my life” to which I answered, “why bother trying?” My anxiety was the defining characteristic. I missed out on countless grad year activities because I would panic about the thought of panicking at them. I hated the thought that I was overreacting, that people should be able to control their minds, that I was “just doing it for attention” so it took me a long time to begin healing.


I started at university in September of 2013: the first step in my recovery. I moved out of my parent’s house, an environment that stressed me out more than anywhere else: step two. Slowly, I began doing “normal” things again. Every time that I was able to go to class or talk on the phone without having a panic attack made me think, “wow, I can do this!” Every hurdle I overcame made me a little less scared of the next one. That is still true today; I occasionally have panic attacks but I am mostly able to control the physical symptoms with deep breathing and visualization exercises. What is harder to overcome is the “I can’t do this” mentality. But I can do it; I have proven that to myself with every time I make it through something that, 2 years ago, would have turned me into a hopeless mess.


I still struggle with anxiety; I think that I always will. But I also know that I am strong and that if I can’t do something it’s not a failure, it’s a learning experience. If you are where I am 2 years ago I want to tell you that you’re not alone. You’re not over reacting. You’re not less of a person because you have anxiety or any other mental health struggle. You are valuable and will be stronger because you have fought to survive this dark period in your life.


I do things today that I never would have if I hadn’t dealt with anxiety and depression because I want to take full advantage of all of the opportunities in my life. I am not ashamed to tell people about my anxiety because it is a part of me and a lot of other people and that connects us together. Every hurdle we overcome personally, and in the fight against the stigma surrounding mental health makes the next one easier.

Created by Lee Thomas with