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Disclaimer: Unfortunately many discussions about mental health are accompanied by accusations of someone seeking attention. I am sharing this extremely personal post in an effort to bring mental illness out of the darkness and do my part in relieving the world of its vicious stigma.

Anxiety can feel like everything at once.

Depression can feel like nothing at all.

The combination? A mind constantly at war with itself; racing and numb.

I remember my first panic attack very vividly. At the time I was very stressed and in emotional disarray. Then, something snapped. One moment I could breath, the next I could not. Was there someone sitting on my chest? No? Because it sure felt like it. I felt like I was dying. My coping mechanism at the time was sitting on my back porch smoking a wine flavored Black and Mild Cigar and trying to regain some sense of normalcy. This went on for an hour or so. I was alone. I was confused. I was scared. I had no idea what was happening.

That was 2 years ago.

This past January, a year and a half later, I decided it was time to face reality. I was mentally unhealthy. I am not going to say this entirely had to do with an extremely rough breakup, but that event did force my emotions and struggles to the forefront. I could not hide behind sarcasm and humor anymore. I felt broken and it showed. I stopped caring about my appearance, I didn't leave the house, and I lost my work ethic. My ability to handle and process even the smallest stressor had disappeared.

Since then I have received a formal diagnosis for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and depression. Knowing that I actually have several mental illnesses is comforting in some very screwed up way. There is now a chemical imbalance I can blame my suffering on. Receiving a diagnosis made me feel like I could start to gain control, something I felt I had lost long ago.

There are many aspects of life I can't control.

  • Driving gives me anxiety because I can't control the other people on the road.
  • Group projects give me anxiety because I can't control every aspect of the final product.
  • Friendships and relationships give me anxiety because I can't control what people think of me or how and when they hurt me.
  • Relying on other people to get places gives me anxiety because I can't control if I'm late (or too early).
  • Making future plans gives me anxiety because I can't control if I'll feel up to it when the day comes.
  • Social media gives me anxiety because I can't always control what I am going to see.

I could go on, but I'll spare you all.

Figuring out what areas are mine, which I have total control over has been step one in some sort of recovery. I can control my body. The day I dyed my hair for the first time was one of the most empowering and therapeutic events since my diagnosis. I think that is why I like beauty routines so much. I have the power to control every step of the process. I do not put so much time and effort into my appearance because I am self-conscious. I do it because every piece of it is mine. No one else has any influence. (Next step? Tattoo. Sorry mom and dad).

With my diagnosis came the prescription of an SSRI, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. At the time, I had this idea that medication would flip a switch and I would be better. I would feel normal again. You can probably all guess I was severely mistaken. After a few weeks of pills the world was not yet sunshine and butterflies. My doctor then recommended what I was dreading most; therapy.

I hated every second of it (but my first session didn't last long). For those who know me, talking about my feelings is not a strong suit, even with my closest friends. The moment my counselor asked something triggering I lost it. Every emotion I'd been suppressing for months came flooding in. I cried. I couldn't talk. I struggled to breath. It turns out I actually strained my chest cartilage during this panicked ordeal and ended my first counseling appointment in the health center.

Therapy got easier, but I still haven't really gotten to the point where I can talk about what really troubles me, and that is okay. I have more time; I'm not in a rush. I may not be able to talk about my feelings in a rational way quite yet, but I've reached a point where I don't feel like I have to hide. Yes I am mentally unhealthy and I'm comfortable talking about it. This is partly due to the best class I've taken at Ithaca College, Mental Health in Societal and Historical Contexts. (Thank you to the professor, Katherine Cohen-Filipic for truly changing my life). Struggling through these disorders has brought some good into my life. I've finally found my passion project.

Last fall I pitched an application to help those suffering with issues beyond their control and help them figure out what was causing their pain. I didn't think much of it at the time. It was assignment for school. I simply had to write about it and how I would market it. The app would allow users to log moods and the triggers throughout the day. This would pair with their calendar so users could see what in their life were stressors and make changes in the road to recovery. If a person checked in several bad moods in a row they would be reminded to follow a self care routine.

After confronting my own issues I realized I was the one that needed this app. So, when it came time to create a product for my Emerging Media Junior Project this past semester, I pitched it again. Thankfully others were excited about the prospects and future of the idea. I'm happy to say the first version of this app is available on the Apple App Store. All in part to an extremely hardworking team of 5 other students, Self Checkout is a reality. It is has a long way to go and it doesn't yet have every feature I've envisioned, but it is something I helped create. It is my passion project and my baby.

Self Checkout has given me a platform to discuss mental health and wellness with those around me. Though I'm happy with this achievement, it shouldn't take 5 months of app development to be able to talk about these issues openly. I hope each and every person reading this, regardless of our relationship, knows that I am willing to talk through mental health concerns. Whether it be your own issues or worries about someone in your life, I'm here. Text me, call me, Facebook message me, tweet at me, hit up those Instagram DM's, send me a carrier pigeon, etc.

To end this on the most cliché note possible, no one should have to deal with this on their own.