Coles+with+lion+cub

Coles sits on a rock with a baby lion while in Johannesburg, South Africa.

It Gets Better

When I was in the 4th grade I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is a fancy term that means my anxiety is persistent and can stem from virtually anything. For some people, this may mean that they have a fear of death, or maybe they worry that they will not have enough money to support their family.

For me, the disorder manifested itself in my school work—I have always had a serious issue with failure and disappointment. If a teacher would reprimand me for talking in class (which was quite often), I would shut down. Many people consider anxiety to be synonymous with fear or a phobia, but that is not the case. I may have GAD, but I’m a still thrill-seeker; I love roller-coasters, ziplines, driving way too fast (oops), and I didn’t hesitate to go diving with a bunch of Great White Sharks. In fact, I consider myself to be very lucky; I have had my entire life to grow accustomed to my mental health disorder. After I was diagnosed, my mom sat me down and told me that what I had would never go away, but that I could control it.

That was a hard pill to swallow as a 10-year-old. However, by the time I entered college I had a strong grasp on my mental health and was living a happy, fully- functional life. That being said, just because I can live a happy life without medication, doesn’t mean someone else can. Just because I can wake up every morning without feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, doesn’t mean someone else can—and that’s ok. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health disorders, and I hope that through my honesty, I can help others to realize they are not alone and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

I still feel bad about the day in 2nd grade when I had to move my behavior card from green to yellow for being disruptive. I still remember the day in 7th grade when I failed an assignment in English and cried in front of the whole class. I’ll never forget my sophomore year of high school when my Chemistry teacher stressed me out so much I became clinically depressed. I went into therapy that year, and despite how helpful it was and all the coping mechanisms I learned to use, I still got headaches and felt nauseous after every Finance class I took last semester because I was convinced I would fail. I got a B.

So, does GAD suck? Yeah. But, like my mom told me when I was 10, I am the one in control. And it gets better. It really, truly does.

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