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Shaking the Stigma

This is the first time I’ll have ever said that I have social anxiety in a public format. I used to be unable to tell my family members, let alone friends or complete strangers about it. It’s a shame that our culture instills in many of us. To not be comfortable with who we are, the challenges we face and the many ways in which we deal with those challenges.

At the beginning of this school year, a year that everyone told me was supposed to be easy and enjoyable, my anxiety turned for the worse and before I knew it, I had to see a therapist. One of the best decisions of my life. Right here at the Counseling Center at UNH I began to speak for the first time in a real and constructive way about what had been plaguing me for years.      I know many people with mental and emotional illnesses and some don’t seek therapy, out of shame or for many other reasons. I have family members who deal with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic depression and a host of other problems. We as a society deal with these problems in good, bad or even apathetic ways.

I remember writing a story for my short fiction class about someone with anxiety. A student commented on it saying it was the most realistic representation of anxiety she had ever read. I felt a sense of great empathy for her and glad she understood where I was coming from.

It’s important to talk about mental illness and social anxieties. If we never approach the problem it can’t be fixed. I don’t want to simplify anyone’s ordeal, but from personal experience I love to encourage sharing, listening and seeking help as a way to improve how we cope with our issues. Some need medication. I did meditation.

The first time I meditated, I came out of the therapy session in a surreal attitude. The leaves on the trees were bright again. The little worries that haunted my steps before were gone. It wasn’t a one time cure. I’d be selling a questionable product if I told you that.

Instead meditation brought me back down to myself. I had been so consumed with my thoughts and the worst possible outcomes, I had turned into someone I didn’t want to be anymore. Meditation is not easy. I don’t do it every day, in fact I haven’t done it in a while. But what it taught me has stayed close to my mind ever since.

The sense that as a human being we need to be more understanding of our inability to control everything and to stop thinking negatively so much about our circumstances. Not to be cliché, but it can even be as easy as learning to take a deep breath and taking some time to reflect.     

For anyone trying to cope with anxiety or any other mental illness or struggle I encourage you to take advantage of UNH resources or seeking medical attention. I hope this helps and remember to not be ashamed.

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