Having anxiety doesn't make me any less of a student leader

By Emily Larkin, Staff Writer

I am an honors student, student body president, and a student ambassador. And I suffer with anxiety disorder.

About a month ago, I started taking medication to help with my anxiety. This past month, I have felt inadvertently self conscious about discussing my disorder with other people. It took me three years to even make a doctor’s appointment to discuss the anxiety that was taking over my life. I was so terrified of what people would say about me taking anxiety medicine that I put my reputation over my health. I also couldn’t afford to get the help I needed at the time because of my lack of insurance.

This is a situation that is oh so common for many. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that though18 percent of Americans have anxiety, 63.1 percent suffer in silence for a variety of reasons, whether because of the stigma surrounding mental health or because of the lack of inexpensive resources in rural areas. This echoes the important need to treat everyone with kindness because you never know what they are going through in secret.

Through self reflection, I have realized how much shame I have felt for having anxiety. I am supposed to have it all together, but it feels like through my anxiety I’m falling apart. After overhearing a conversation that I had about it in public with a friend, someone approached me quizzically.

“You have anxiety?” they said. “But you seem fine.”

They believed because I am a fully functioning member of society, there was no way I could have any mental health problems. Honestly, that’s what I thought for a long time. I thought that someone with anxiety couldn’t be seen as a positive and hardworking, kick-ass person but instead someone who needed to be constantly nurtured and protected.

But really, anxiety fosters itself in a variety of ways. It isn’t just breakdowns and panic attacks behind closed doors even though, trust me, there are plenty of those; it’s overscheduling, overworking, lack of concentration and obsessive behaviors. It’s impulsiveness, derealization, memory problems and irritability.

At first, I hated that my anxiety made me “broken” and “lost.” I tried to hide this fundamental part of who I am out of fear. But recently, I’ve realized that having anxiety is just as much me as my brown eyes, my freckles, or my stubbornness. I’m flawed and beautiful. I’m not beautiful in spite of my anxiety; I’m beautiful with it.

PHOTO: Emily Larkin, Staff Writer.