Overcoming my own stigma

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Ashlee Gilley

By Ashlee Gilley The George-Anne staff

First and foremost I want you all to know that the best thing that ever happened to me was being diagnosed. Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD. Although this is something I struggle with, you would never know it if you saw me out in town or on campus.

Flash back to four years ago and I was taking mostly online classes simply because going to class, staying on my old campus too long and interacting with people seemed like the scariest thing in the world to me. I never thought that I would be where I am now, in fact, I never thought I would amount to or accomplish much.

I felt stuck, and if any of you have ever felt this way then you know it is not a good feeling. I wanted so much more for myself, and at the same time I didn’t think I deserved it. I never would have imagined myself coming to a big university like Georgia Southern, becoming a staff reporter, let alone having a happy over a year long relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, some days are hard. Doing the things I want to do feels like walking through quicksand, and some days I am tired and all I want to do is stay in bed all day and sleep.

The only difference is now I don’t let those things control me. Now I know that I am completely capable of accomplishing all of the goals I have for myself, even if it feels like an uphill battle some days.

I do not let my diagnosis define who I am. Those things are a part of me, not all of me. I have so much more to offer the world and I refuse to be labeled as the girl with anxiety/depression.

Mental health awareness is so important because you never know who out there is struggling and is too afraid to say something because of the fear of judgement. When I think back to myself as a younger person, I never talked about how I was feeling because it all seemed like such a taboo.

That is a shame because it would have been so helpful to have known what was going on. Imagine feeling like there is a huge weight on your shoulders, weighing you down and making everything more difficult. That’s how I have always explained my depression to people and that is how I lived my life for the majority of my adolescence and young adulthood.

According to activeminds.org almost one third of all college students report having felt so depressed that they had trouble functioning, and compared to older adults, the 18-24 year old age group shows the lowest rate of help-seeking.

Why is there such a stigma on mental health when getting diagnosed is the first step to helping yourself? If we can all try to better understand mental illness then maybe we could lessen the stigma it has on it.