When People Assume Your Mental Illness Is Just ‘How You Are’

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Elora Gartley

I think I have anxiety.

“Are you sure it’s not just your personality?”

Less than a month after this response, I was diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety and severe major depressive disorder. 

I spent years over analyzing situations, biting my nails until they bled, losing minutes, hours, days, engulfed in my thoughts, entrapped by my mind, throwing up over my worries, missing out on things because I couldn’t face the thoughts that haunted my mind. I’ve had suicide attempts, hot flashes, cold flashes, relationships lost, anxieties gained, yet all of these struggles were about to be dismissed as a personality trait.

These statements, judgments and lack of awareness is what prolonged my diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Other people judged me, and so I judged myself, too. Do I really have anxiety? Am I really depressed? Maybe this is just…me. I began to believe it was normal to feel numb and have a mind that felt like the Indie 500.

People started telling me I needed medication before asking how I was doing that day. They told me I was burnt out. They told me I needed to try harder. They told me just relax as if “don’t worry be happy” is a song made into a simple reality, if I really just tried harder. People ignore anxiety and depression until we see it written as a headline in the news about another life lost by suicide. Enough. I refuse to be another statistic.

I am a master’s of social work student, and I live with anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression is part of who I am, but it is the part of me that bolsters empathy, awareness, compassion and understanding. Because of my condition, I am able to empathize with my clients experiences. My passion for mental health and the experiences of my clients takes on a professional role, as well as a personal one. I will never give up on someone because I refuse to give up on myself. 

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