Ashley, have you ever gotten ready for a game, and just felt super nervous all of a sudden? Hannah, have you ever lined up backstage at a pageant, and your stomach flipped? If either of you thought yes, great! That’s totally normal. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time.

I want to ask you each a question. Ashley, have you ever been sitting in class, then all of a sudden you feel sick, your stomach and your neck heat up, you feel like you’re being swallowed by a flame, and then you go straight into a panic attack? Hannah, have you ever just woken up in the morning and instead of being tired, your heart rate is speeding as if you had run a mile in your sleep, and you lose all control of your mind and body? Well let me tell you, that isn’t your run of the mill anxiety.

However, both are anxiety and everybody has it, but it isn’t always the same. Sometimes it’s something else. Ever since I can remember really, I’ve had severe anxiety and depression. Yes, I am diagnosed. No, I don’t tell you this for your pity. Everybody experiences lows and highs in their lives, but this stuff is a whole other world. Not everybody lives every day as if it’s an internal fight with their mind. What really gets to me though, is how when I talk about this, I can see on people’s faces how they either think there is no way I could be that sad, or they believe I am hurting, but it’s just not as bad as I think.

I don’t usually enjoy talking about my anxiety or depression. It never really helps. Most times I feel as though I’m just reliving my pain all over again as if I’m not stuck in it anyways. Every once and a while I talk about it, but the reactions I get vary and can make it almost impossible to want to share my hurt. Let me give you a scenario. I can recall discussing my issues with people. Being as descriptive with the pain as I could. Here are some of my favorite responses: “I know how that feels,” “same,” “it’ll get better,” “you’ll be ok.”

Most of you might not see the issue with these statements, but let me explain. Everybody has their ups and downs, I’ve already mentioned that, but when you tell someone with severe anxiety and depression that “you understand how they feel,” it can almost come off as condescending. It isn’t the person’s fault for saying these things, not everyone knows how to handle these situations. One thing you should never really say though is that “it gets better.”

When you have this deep pain hanging over your head every day like a weight, it does not get better. When someone says it does, it gives you false hope. Especially when you already found yourself to be hopeless. There is no cure for anxiety and depression. There are plenty of medications for it, sure, but they don’t make it better, per se. This type of ache doesn’t get better, but what it does do is get tolerable. I wouldn’t consider temporary happiness to be better than constant pain. Even though it sounds appealing. It just doesn’t last. That thought alone makes the happiness short-lived. Truthfully, I don’t think any of this will ever get better. However, you can live with it.

The point I’m trying to make is that, yes, everyone has ups and downs. Everyone goes through different things in their lives. Those of you hearing me say what I’m saying and think I just told everyone during an inspirational speech that it doesn’t get better, I want to answer that with, you’re absolutely correct. As I said, I don’t believe it does, but I also said it is something you can learn to cope with. You probably won’t ever be able to control it, and that is fine. Just know that your mind doesn’t always need to be a chaotic mess.

When you really have severe anxiety and depression, it’s forever. Living with it is the single most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. That is because I do it every day of my existence. There are days where it physically takes a toll on me. I don’t want to move, do my homework, or even associate with other people. However, I feel these subtle moments of peace. They come randomly and leave as fast as they arrive, but it allows me to actually understand that this pain is manageable.

So if you’re sitting there listening to this speech knowing that this is how you feel; knowing that you’re going to sit here and listen to me attempt to give you hope, then go home and cry yourself to sleep. Knowing that no hope can fix you, I want you to know that the only thing anybody has ever really said to me that I’ve grown to believe, is that the healing, managing, or whatever you wish to call it, starts with you. If you want to be “better” in a sense, or if you want to be happy, you have to let yourself.

Honestly, that is the hardest thing to do when you feel this low and broken. You get so used to living like there is no way out, but if you live in those small moments for as long as you can, try to think about what you were doing before them. Was it nothing? Was it a distraction? I bet it was either. All I know is that you most likely weren’t overthinking. You probably weren’t wondering about an issue you have zero control over. You probably weren’t thinking at all. That was your mind, yes, the same mind that tells you life is just a slow race towards nothing, that allowed you to be calm.

So I’ll end with this. If you experience anxiety and depression, never let anyone tell you it is any less of a struggle than it is. Never let anyone tell you that your emotions are invalid. Also, keep in mind that not everybody understands what anxiety and depression is. So, I really hope that not only someone who truly understands what I’m saying hears this, but I hope someone that doesn’t, does too. The final thing I want to tell you is that you should never give up on this life just because you’re fighting your demons. Just try to live with them.