• Kristina Cherep

Become Fluent In It

Many people have a misunderstanding when it comes to the mental health community. There are several reasons for why people don’t fully understand. I honestly think it’s because they don’t know or use the language. Anxiety, depression, antidepressants, etc. were never taught or mentioned in school. In fact, it seemed kind of taboo. When I was in highschool and I heard the term 'mental illness' all I thought of was “crazy people”. I mean how else would I know better if I was never taught anything about it?

Mental health terms are like learning a new language. There are a lot of terms and phrases such as chronic illness, cognitive behavioral therapy, mania, and I can keep going. There’s even a mental health dictionary! I’ve been diagnosed for a little over a year now and I still don’t know more than half of the different kinds of illnesses and terms. I learn about these different terms by reading other people’s blogs, doing research, and also talking to my therapist. This language is not only helpful to learn in order to have a better understanding of people, but it can help you have a better understanding of yourself!

Just because I was diagnosed a year ago doesn’t mean my anxiety started a year ago. The diagnosis allowed me to put a name to all these feelings and thoughts I’ve been experiencing for years. My therapist asked me to talk to my parents about how I was as a kid and if I was anxious or not. I already knew the answer, but I still asked anyways. My mom told me the story about how it took me forever to learn how to walk. Most kids start walking between 9-12 months and they say that “perfectly normal” children may even take up to 15-17 months. When I was 17 months old, I wasn’t walking. I wouldn’t even attempt to take steps. My parents were very worried and were going to start testing me for polio if I wasn’t walking by 18 months.

Right before my 18 month check up, I began walking. Walking normally! Whenever my mom tells that story, she mentions it makes sense now knowing the type of person I am. I wanted to do everything right. I was afraid of falling. Growing up, when I did something I wanted to do it perfectly and if I didn’t then I’d become very upset. I took my time before I jumped into anything that life threw me and thought about it for a long time. Ahem...that sounds a lot like anxiety. I’m still that kind of person today!

I can list many moments growing up where my anxiety was obvious, such as getting stomach aches every day before school. Not wanting to ring my neighbors doorbells by myself. Getting sick during district exams. Not wanting to order my own food at a restaurant. I can go on and on, but I’ll just get to the point now...

Before I was diagnosed, I was aware of the symptoms of my anxiety, but I didn’t know what it was called. I just thought that was who I was. I remember my husband telling me when we were in high school that sometimes I acted like a completely different person when I got upset. That made me feel like a crazy person! I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I just tried to control it on my own. HA. Years later that led me to the hospital.

Once I was told I had anxiety, a lot of things started to make sense. I started to think back at tough moments for me in my life and realized anxiety was there. This kind of sounds strange, but after I was diagnosed I was relieved in a way. I now had an explanation, to myself, why I felt and thought some of the things I did. Being diagnosed wasn't only wonderful, but it was scary. I felt like an outsider to my family and friends. I felt like everyone who looked at me knew, but I'll save these thoughts for another post!

Anyways, after I was diagnosed I started to learn skills to help manage my anxiety. There is a reason why I used the word "manage" instead of "control" because I now know you can't control your anxiety or when it happens. You have to 'ride the wave' which is another key phrase in the anxiety community. Learning more tools and phrases makes me feel more fluent in my own illness. I'm able to share about how I'm feeling with other people because I don't have to worry about being a "crazy person". I'm just a person with mental illnesses. Nothing crazy about that. Everyone has their own baggage. This just happens to be one of mine.