An 18 Year Old Anxiety Survivor and ‘Badass’ Tells It Like It Is

By Manvi Tiwari

I am 18 years old right now. In the previous lockdown, I started to feel very anxious, often I would cry and wouldn’t even know the reason why I was crying. I couldn’t attend classes and my teachers would call me and complain about it. At a certain time, I even had a death wish. I lost the will to live. 

Editor’s Note: If you or anyone you know feels distressed, please reach out to a trained professional for help. Some helplines are listed here

My Journey

I remembered accompanying my mom to the therapist and helping her overcome her OCD and depression when I was so little and I didn’t even know what a mental illness felt like. I had no idea as a little girl that, at 17, I would be sitting in the same room with the same people, seeking help for myself. I felt my life was ruined and (that) it’s such a sad story (not knowing that this is the most important experience of my life so far).

Soon I told my parents that I wanted to opt for therapy. My parents have always been aware about mental health issues because my mom has had OCD and depression. They agreed and supported me. I went to the therapist, the same therapist who treated my mom. I told her about my issue and the required treatment began in September 2020. She suggested that I go to a psychiatrist too because she felt I needed more than just Therapy. The psychiatrist again was the same person who treated my mom. I got the required treatment and the required support. By January 2021, I began to heal and I came out stronger. Instead of victimising my struggle with anxiety, I felt like a badass for smiling, talking, studying and doing the same things that any other person would do, even with such a turmoil in my head. I started to talk about my story on social media platforms because I knew that there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health even today. 

Image by Raw Pixel

Reaching Out for Support

When my first article got published, I received over 20 DMs on Instagram. Out of those 20 DMs, most of them told me that they had been suffering from anxiety too since a very long time and asked me for advice on how they can overcome their anxiety. What I could do max was to be there as a listener when they were in pain, and just provide emotional support. I knew I couldn’t help them cure their anxiety, after all, I am not a professional therapist or psychologist. I suggested that they opt for therapy and take professional help. The replies that I got from most of them really saddened me. Almost all of them told me that professional help is not an option for them because their family does not believe in mental health issues. Some of them were way too afraid to tell their loved ones that they were suffering from a mental health issue because they thought that would really worry their family as mental health issues are considered such a big deal in various societies.

Some of them said that they are way too young to take professional help on their own and will have to take their family’s help. Some said Therapy or any kind of professional help regarding mental health, is way too expensive for them. They told me about how they were in pain, how their chest would feel heavy, how their head would start to pain because of the anxiety they felt all day long and how they wanted to just get rid of all the turmoil that was there in their heads. 

Tackling the Stigma

Listening to the plight of all of these anxiety survivors who reached out to me, I felt, professional help regarding mental health is still a privilege/luxury. Why most people refused professional help for anxiety is because of two reasons. 

  • The first reason is the stigma surrounding mental health issues
  • The second reason is the lack of affordability of mental health aid resources. 

People are made to believe that mental health issues do not require professional help.

Cover Image Art
Art by Kishore Mohan for the Health Collective

We need to understand that our mind is a part of our body. If we seek help for a typhoid fever, we can similarly seek help for mental health issues. This is the most important reason I decided to talk about my story because I wanted people to know that it’s normal. We can talk about anxiety and mental health illnesses just like we talk about any other disease or discomfort. Our mind is a part of our body. If the body needs help at times then so does the mind. Time for us to normalise mental health, break the stigma surrounding it and make therapy a little more accessible and affordable for all. Therapy should no more be a privilege or a luxury. I’ve been hearing *destigmatise mental health and therapy* since a long time now. Time to get radical about it! The least we can do to break the stigma and normalise these issues, is by talking about them, reaching out to more and more people. Let’s do it! Be kind, be aware and make aware. High time we get over these taboos! 

My Suggestions 

I think established psychiatrists and therapists can take out one day in a week to provide mental health aid for free to people who can’t afford it. 

I feel anxiety survivors should start to talk about their health issues. Here I am, an anxiety survivor, still striving to get better while talking about my entire journey to let the people know that mental health issues are normal and therapy should be normalised in terms of accessibility and affordability both. I wish to reach out to as many people as I can through this article to spread the word. I wish to help people realise that they need to stop worrying about how their family would react or what their friends would think and seek the required help. Also I want therapy to be seen as a way of discovering yourself rather than just a way to recover from a mental illness. Even a person without a mental health issue can opt for therapy if they’re tense about a certain phase of their life.

A lot of people still remain unaware about the NGOs that provide free mental health aid resources. I wish to reach out to people like myself and tell them that speak up and speak a little louder about your health issues. There’s nothing to be ashamed of or victim-like. Having an illness, whether physical or mental, and yet going on with your daily life is such a badass thing to do! I wish I could make my past self realise this. But I know there are a million others out there who need to hear these words. 

Image by The Health Collective

Message to a Younger Self

I wish I could tell that little 12 year old girl that, ‘Man, you’re going to grow up and be so proud of your struggle’! I feel if I didn’t go through all of that then today I wouldn’t have such a passion for mental health advocacy, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to reach out to so many people, tell them they’re badasses and do so many things the 12 year old wanted to experience, Be the person and say the words that I looked up on the internet for as a kid.

About the Author: Manvi Tiwari is a student of class 12, working to raise awareness about mental health and kick the taboos via her own life journey.

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