Friday, April 13, 2018

When Did Fear Begin Ruling My Life?

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently picked up "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert.

First of all, wow.

Second of all, wow.

Third of all--okay, I should stop, but do you get my point?

This book is insane in the best way possible. I've underlined so many paragraphs and reread so many sentences I can't keep track of what I like the most. I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert is speaking directly to my soul.

One thing that struck me the most was when she began talking about fear. Elizabeth (is it okay that I call her Elizabeth? I'd like to pretend that we're best friends) said when she was young, she was afraid of everything. She was cautious and nervous and constantly worried about what could go wrong. It wasn't until she was older that she was able to break out of that boundary and pursue the amazing life she has now.

That made me think of my childhood and I realized my situation is the complete opposite of Elizabeth's: when I was a child, I was fearless. Sure, I was shy around new people and didn't like being away from my parents, but my childhood memories consist of sprinting barefoot through grassy fields and hunting for snakes in the bushes. As I child I remember being free.

Now I'm afraid of everything. I worry about what people think of me and what could go wrong and why all my ideas are bad. Fear rules my life more than I admit.

When did it change?
When did I turn from a free spirit to a nervous wreck?
When did fear begin ruling my life?

I don't know if I can sit here and say I'll never let fear get in the way again, because especially with my anxiety I know that's just not true.

But I can say I'll try.

I can say I'll do my best to be aware of my fear, and ask it to leave when I know it's holding me back.

I think that's really all we can do.

xoxo Anne

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why I Took a Break + Why I'm Back

I'm baaaaack.

So if you had been following me before, you probably noticed that I started posting on Instagram pretty often for a while, mainly about anxiety, and then stopped back in May.

I was really excited to start an Instagram account for Sondering Soul because I love the Insta platform and everything it can do when it comes to connecting with an audience. Long story short though, by just posting about anxiety I found it really hard to be positive. Anxiety sucks, and trying to make every post related to anxiety was forcing me to dwell on how it had messed up my day. Some people are really great at finding the good in everything, but I'm just not, and that was a struggle for me. I still liked the idea of Instagram, but I wasn't getting anything good out of it.

Recently I've been noticing a lot of correlations between focusing on my health (mental and physical) and my anxiety improving. I hadn't thought much further than that until the last couple of months when I've been learning a lot more about Instagram from a business standpoint, and have been reading some uber-inspirational books about going for your dreams.

I've fought with myself for weeks about whether or not I should start up an Instagram account again.

What if no one follows me?
What if I look like a wannabe?
What if people think I'm pathetic?
What if people make fun of me?
Why would anyone want to hear what I have to say?

Then a few days ago I picked up the book "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Um, wow.

I don't saying "life-changing" very much, but this book has been life-changing so far. In the first chapter Elizabeth Gilbert listed a bunch of the ways we can be afraid of being creative, and she was listing word for word the things I had been worried about. It was like she was speaking to me personally.

It was the clearest sign I could get that if I want to do this, I need to do it now.

While my ultimate, ultimate major life goal is to be an author, health and anxiety are HUGE parts of my life, and I have long loved the idea of running an Instagram account talking about that. And if I can help other people through that, it would be a pretty amazing feeling.

I hope you enjoy. 💜

xoxo Anne

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Food Waste

This post is a little random compared to what I've been talking about lately, but I've been very busy with school and haven't written in almost a month, so I wanted to get something out there. This is just a story I did for my college newspaper about a month ago about food waste. I'd go into detail, but the story does that for me, so just read it. :) Enjoy!

(The formatting is weird because I just copied and pasted it from the paper's website. For the whole story, including photos, visit

Restaurants struggle with food donation laws

Hruska’s Kolaches in Provo hardly ever deals with unsold food at the popular bakery, but co-owner and manager Devin Emery would love to help the community by donating any leftovers.
The problem is, when Emery first opened her business over three years ago, food code laws stated the type of leftover food Hruska’s Kolaches has cannot be taken by food shelters.
“Because of food code laws, our product isn’t something a shelter can take,” Emery said. “In other words, since we already have an ‘already made’ product, they won’t accept it.”
The government has not clarified any changes or regulations to Emery since then.
An estimated 30-40 percent of all food in the U.S. is wasted, so it may be surprising that one in eight Americans still find it challenging to put a meal on the table every day. While food waste comes from many different sources, a substantial amount can be attributed to restaurants, who on average only donate 1.4 percent of their unused food.
However, according to Sarah Bateman, Natural Resources Stewardship Committee Chair, City of Orem, the underlying problem of food waste from restaurants is not that no one wants to donate. It is the confusion around the donation process.
Food waste is a huge problem in the United States. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Anne Taylor)
“If produce is whole or uncut, you can easily and legally donate it to food banks and shelters,” Bateman said. “Once you cut into it or prepare it in any way, the rules change. Different countries, states, and counties might take slightly different approaches to food safety, preparation and waste.”
Many restaurants are concerned about liabilities they may face when donating food. Emery said she is unaware if the rules have changed since she first checked. She also said anything that does go unsold is sent home with employees so nothing is thrown away.
One correlation between restaurants and food donations is the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 (BEGSA). To encourage more businesses to donate leftover food, this act protects those donating from civil or criminal liability except in the case of “gross negligence or intentional misconduct.”
The act covers not only whole foods but prepared foods as well. Austin Green, manager of J. Dawgs in Provo, said his restaurant donates all leftover food to the local Food & Care Coalition. Green said he was fully aware of the act.
BEGSA has been around for over 20 years, but many restaurants are unaware of it and the protection is gives them. Emery said she was unaware of the act.
Although BEGSA is a federal act, regulations about food donations still differ from state to state. While ultimately the BEGSA would overrule a charge given to someone donating food, the case would need to be taken to the federal level and may cost more time and money than wanted or even possible.
However, when donating any whole or packaged foods that can be safely kept at room temperature, restaurants should have no reason to worry about liability except in cases of extreme negligence.
The line between whole food and prepared food is where things become more complex. The National Restaurant Association’s food donation guide states “the key to safe donation of prepared food is the proper management of the food’s temperature, handling and storage times.”
This means meals served warm must stay warm and cold foods such as produce must stay cold from the time they are prepared to the time they are served at the donation facility, including during transportation.
If restaurants are diligent about this process, they should have no issue donating food even under Utah regulations.
It is not only restaurants that fear liabilities, but the receivers of donations as well. Heidi Cannella, communications manager at Utah Food Bank, said they are unable to receive prepared food as donations because of liability and distribution logistics concerns. However, Utah Food Bank has created Grocery Rescue, a program to help businesses donate leftover whole foods before they go bad.
According to Cannella, refrigerated trucks owned and operated by Utah Food Bank travel to businesses all over the state six days a week to pick up food that would otherwise be thrown away. Those donations are then distributed within 24 hours to citizens who need them most.
“Last year, this program’s partnerships with 225 retailers across the state provided just under 14 million pounds of food for Utahns facing hunger,” Cannella said.
Programs like Grocery Rescue are one way to address the problem of food waste. For restaurants and small businesses who are unable to create such a program, donations of prepared food is still an option. It just takes some planning and thought.
“It’s tricky,” Sarah Bateman said, “but not impossible.”
All businesses should check with their local government to see exactly what rules and regulations apply to their particular situation.

Food shelters and banks heavily rely on donations from local businesses. Canella said Utah Food Bank’s Grocery Rescue program accounts for 36% of all the food they collect. This allows them to use financial donations for purposes other than buying food, like truck costs and other business expenses. She said partly because of this donated food, Utah Food Bank is able to provide $7.81 worth of goods and services for each $1 donated.
Although Utah Food Bank is unable to accept leftover prepared food, Canella said there are many other establishments that restaurants should look into if they want to donate, such as smaller food banks and shelters.
“Typically, a soup kitchen or shelter that primarily serves the homeless population would be most likely to accept such donations,” Canella said.
Brent Crane, president and CEO of Food & Care Coalition, is very grateful for donations from local businesses around Utah county.
“We have too many businesses to count that donate on a regular basis,” Crane said. “We probably have over 800 unique donors who donate food in various forms — prepared, canned, fresh, etc.”
Food & Care provides over 100,000 meals annually while spending under $10,000 annually on prepared foods. Crane said this would not be possible without donations from these businesses. Crane said he has not seen any major problems arise from businesses trying to donate food, prepared or otherwise. He said they are protected under BEGSA and also receive tax-deduction benefits from donating.
Canella said the best thing for restaurants and businesses interested in donating leftover food to do is stay informed.
“We recommend contacting a partner agency near your location to find out if they are able to accept the food, and what their processes are,” she said. “It can all go a long way in helping us fight hunger statewide.”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Turtles All The Way Down

I've been debating writing this post for a while because I actually don't really want anyone to read honestly not sure why I'm writing it right now except I haven't written in a long time and this has been weighing on me pretty heavily lately. This topic involves some people in my life currently, and if for some reason they read this, it's nothing to do with you! I promise. It's just relevant right now.

(One other quick thought: I've been having hard time writing lately and I've been trying to figure out why. I still deal with anxiety just as badly as ever, but I can't ever seem to find a way to talk about it this semester. I've come to the conclusion that I just have so many different thoughts and feelings that I can't sort them out well enough to make a competent post. So...working on that.)

Okay, back to my topic today: dating. 

Dating is something that has always been a huge anxiety-triggering point for me. Obviously I like the idea of having someone I love who I can be myself around, and I'd like to eventually find someone to spend the rest of my life with. But it's the getting to the "couple" level that completely and utterly freaks me out. 

Let me interject with a paragraph from a book I just finished, "Turtles All The Way Down" by John Green. (By the way, every single person on the planet needs to read that book. So. Good.) The main character, Aza, has pretty severe anxiety and OCD, and at this point she is beginning to get feelings for a boy who likes her as well. Here are her thoughts:

"I definitely felt attracted to some people, and I liked the idea of being with someone, but the actual mechanics of it didn't much suit my talents. Like, parts of typical romantic relationships that made me anxious included 1. Kissing; 2. Having to say the right things to avoid hurt feelings; 3. Saying more wrong things while trying to apologize; 4 Being in a movie theater together and feeling obligated to hold hands even after your hands become sweaty and the sweat starts mixing together; and 5. The part where they say, "What are you thinking about?" And they want you to be, like, "I'm thinking about you darling," but you're actually thinking about how cows literally could not survive if it weren't for the bacteria in their guts, and how that sort of means that cows do not exist as independent life-forms, but that's not really something you can say out loud, so you're ultimately forced to choose between lying and seeming weird."


I also was writing in my journal a couple of days ago, and here is what I had to say about dating. 

"It's so frustrating because it's so hard for  me to tell what my actual feelings are, and what is my anxiety. Here are some of my worries:

1. I'm afraid no one will ever want to be with me because I have anxiety. I need alone time, I need constant assurance, I need stupid things like texts telling me is someone is going to be even five minutes late, and I'm going to be a lot to handle for someone. A lot of times I don't even feel like I'm worth the effort, and I can't imagine someone thinking I am.

2. I've never been in a serious relationship, so I"m afraid that when I do get into one, people are going to be judging me hardcore on the guy I'm with. I know it doesn't matter as long as I like him, but I just keep picturing people saying "she could do better" or "she doesn't deserve him" and I don't know why that bothers me so much but it does. I also hate that I think about that because it's very selfish and self-centered and unfair.

3. I'm a very, very slow mover, as I found out with the closest thing I've had to a real relationship. (Six dates and we still hadn't held hands because I was too nervous.) And I'm worried no one is going to want to wait around for me. Also the longer I go without having a boyfriend or having even kissed someone, the more nervous and anxious I get about it happening and it throws me into this vicious cycle of anxiety that I'm afraid I'll never get out of it.

4. On that same note, since I've never had a boyfriend, I'm worried I'll like the idea of having one more than the actual guy. And I'm afraid that will wear off quickly and I'll end up breaking someone's heart because I never actually liked him and just drug him along.

5. I hate the idea of hurting someone. Even the hypothetical situation of me dating someone for six months and realizing we're just not right for each other and having a mature talk about it and parting as acquaintances with no hatred towards each other makes me feel like a disgusting, vile person.

6. I also hate the idea of getting hurt, obviously. I've had enough crushes stomped out or rejected to believe it's not even worth it to start something.

And on and on...but my hand is getting tired so I'll stop there."

 Obviously I know I'm overthinking this, but that is the curse of anxiety. So there yah go.

(<---Me in bed every night tbh)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

World Mental Health Day

To be 100% honest, I still feel embarrassed saying I have a mental illness. Maybe it's the anxiety, maybe it's my pride, but I still feel the stigma attached to that title and I hesitate to talk about it much because of that.

This post is hard and awkward for me, just like every post I've done talking about mental health. But it's World Mental Health Day and I haven't written anything in a while, so I feel like I owe it to myself and anyone who actually reads my blog to give my thoughts.

I've been pretty up and down with my anxiety since school started again, so initially I felt like I couldn't come here with anything useful. Anxiety is crippling at it's worst and slightly less crippling at it's best. Over the past month I've lost hours of sleep, have had intense nightmares that left me exhausted and nervous, and have felt paranoid, shaky, and embarrassed to do small and relatively unimportant tasks. Plans I've developed have hit roadblocks that currently seem impossible to overcome, and have left me wondering if everything I thought I was good at is a lie. The most common thought that's run through my head lately is "maybe I'm not meant to do this," even when "this" is my lifelong dream.

That being said, I've had really good days too. I'm lucky enough to be able to function day to day and live a relatively normal life. I've gone to sports games, hung out with friends and my sister, discovered awesome restaurants, gone hiking, and have had amazing conversations with wonderful and supportive people. The good has definitely outweighed the bad.

I was thinking about that, and I realized that's kind of a big deal. At this time last year I was at the lowest point I had ever been in my life mentally. I genuinely felt like nothing would ever get better--that I was stuck being suffocated by anxiety for the rest of my life. Now I know that's not true.

So yeah, I still have bad days. I still feel self-conscious all the time in public, I still have nightmares, and I still lose sleep worrying about my past, present, and future. But my life is so much better now. The person I was last year and the person I am now are very different girls. My life isn't perfect, but it's better, and that gives me hope. I think that's all we can really ask for. In my worst moments now I can look back to where I was and compare it to where I am now and see how far I've come. How much is possible.

Life gets better. It doesn't happen right away and it doesn't always happen for you. Make your mental health a priority and fight for yourself. You deserve happiness and you deserve to know there is hope. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

(Sigh) Here we go again

Let's cut straight to the point: I barely wrote anything this semester. I'm pretty sure I talked about the reason why in my last post (my laptop is glitching out right now and I'm too afraid I'll delete this post if I try to check) but basically I didn't have anything to write about. Anxiety-wise. And I guess I don't have to write about anxiety, but I kind of decided to make that my niche a while back and in my major we've spent a lot of time talking about the importance of finding your niche and blah blah blah. And not that I'm planning on making a career out of blogging, but if something every came along I definitely would jump on it and a niche would be important for that. 

Anywayyyyyys, I've mentioned before that my anxiety gets significantly better when I'm at home. I think there are a lot of factors to that: my family and closest friends being right there, my dog Solo, my cats, being in nature a lot more, privacy, and the fact that I don't have all the stresses that come along with school. Even during summers when I've started new jobs (or this past summer when I did an internship with a well-known nonprofit foundation that had the potential to lead to jobs) my anxiety was significantly better than when I was at school because a) all the factors I just mentioned are nonexistent at school, and b) my journalism classes here at school trigger my anxiety worse than anything.

So yeah, over the past year and a half I've come to the realization that I am in the wrong emphasis in my major. Communications still has the prospect of a lot of jobs I'd be more comfortable with (social media management, for one) but the News Media emphasis at BYU is very focused on traditional journalism, meaning all my reporting classes involve me writing for a newspaper. Which. I. Hate. With a burning passion. I know that's dramatic, but the amount of anxiety and stress and nerves I feel with the idea of having to put together a news package makes me feel like throwing up. After my first advanced reporting class a few days ago I was on the brink of tears walking home from class because I was so tired of having to do all these things that kill me inside and aren't even going to be the type of thing I'll do as a career. 

So change your major. Thought about it. But by the time I realized how much I hated reporting I was three semesters from graduating and decided it wasn't worth it. So I know, I got myself into this and I made the decision to stick with it. The problem is, my anxiety doesn't seem to care about that fact.

Well, I'm not sure where this post was going...sorry to make it kinda depressing. The good news (maybe?) is that now that my anxiety is worse I'll have a lot more to write about. Yipee!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Keeping the Motivation

"Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts." -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


A really hard part about anxiety is how fast it is to take away my motivation and confidence. I have these moments where I’ll get an idea and get really excited about it, whether it’s writing a book, public speaking, making an Instagram account for my blog, or whatever. Those ideas have all given me that amazing passionate feeling- my heart swells up and I get excited and I want to spend the next five weeks working on whatever it is nonstop. When you get that feeling, chase it. There aren’t a lot of things in life that are going to make you feel like that.

The problem with anxiety is that it will let me be excited for a while. It will let me plan and create and think “yeah, I can do this.” Then it will say “Well, actually you can’t. Want to know why? You’re a failure. Nothing you do works. Other people can do it, but not you. You will fail. You know you will.” And when someone (or something) tells you you’re a failure enough times, you start to believe it.

Take my Instagram account for example. A while ago I thought it would be a really cool thing to make an Instagram account about my blog. I could post whenever I made a new blog post, and talk about my anxiety on there as well. So I made the account and I updated it pretty religiously for a good couple of months. But I wasn’t seeing any growth in followers at all. The same 10 people were liking my posts every time, and they were almost always friends I already knew. So my anxiety started to get at me. “There’s no point doing this. You’re not helping anyone. You’re just annoying people by posting all the time.”

And I believed it, so I stopped posting on my account. It’s been three months and I still haven’t posted. I can’t get myself to go back now, because what’s the point? No one cared that I left, right? I didn’t succeed immediately, so that means I’ll never succeed, right?

Honestly I still kind of believe that’s true. Failure in any degree is hard, and with anxiety it’s a thousand times harder because your mindset isn’t that it will get better. You’re mindset with anxiety is that it will never get better and there’s absolutely no point in trying. So can you understand why it’s hard to go back to something after all those thoughts? I know it’s just an Instagram account, and to a lot of people it sounds like a stupid, childish problem. But to me it’s a big deal because my anxiety makes EVERYTHING a big deal.
That all being said, I think I’m going to go kick my anxiety in the face and go back soon. Social media is so, so important for the message I’m trying to share and I really want to share it. Yeah, maybe the same five people read my posts for the next ten years, but what if those five people need to hear what I’m saying? If nothing else, maybe I just need to hear what I’m saying. Maybe Instagram isn’t where I’m going to be successful, but maybe it will lead to something else. Maybe it will introduce me to people and organizations I never would have found otherwise.

I have two points here. 1) You have to keep going. Everyone is going to tell you why you’ll fail, but you have to tell them why you’ll succeed. 2) It’s okay if you have some roadblocks when you try to keep going. You may stop or quite at some point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get up and try again. Even if it takes you three months to get off the ground, you still got up.

Xoxo Anne

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Being the Best

Yesterday my sister came home from a week-long leadership camp she had earned a scholarship to attend. My sister and I are very close, and of course I was very happy for her when I found out she was attending.

But when she got home I was kind of indifferent to her. She was telling all these stories about camp and my parents were asking her all sorts of questions, and I just kind of ignored her. I felt a little annoyed at her, but I wasn't sure why. Later that day I made kind of a rude comment to her the put down this experience, and I felt bad about it but didn't apologize.

I started thinking about why I was acting the way I was. I knew I was a little jealous of her week- I miss going to leadership camps and events and feeling motivated enough to do anything. I hadn't felt that in a while. But then a clear thought popped into my head:

"I'm not the best at anything in this family."

The notion surprised me, and I pushed it away initially. I'm good at a lot of things. I had to be the best at something. So I tried to think of something I could say I was the best at compared to everyone else in my family. And...nothing.

I was good at sports in high school, but never as good as either of my brothers.
I'm funny, but not as funny as my younger brother.
I'm smart, but not as smart as my dad or my sister.
I'm nice, but not as nice as my mom.
I'm really good at writing, but my sister is just as talented as I am, if not more.
I got second place at a slam poem competition in high school; my sister got first.
I got a 3 on my English AP exam; my sister got a 5.
I had a good relationship with my teachers, but my sister has better relationships.
I have a good GPA, but my sister's is better.

My whole life I have felt overshadowed at some point in time by my siblings. Especially since I got to college, I don't feel like I stand out at all in my family. I'm just here. And sure, I have talents and I have a good life and I'm accomplishing a lot, but nothing more than anyone else.

I also figured out why I was being so bitter towards my sister lately- you'll notice that most of the things I listed involve her being better than me. She is incredibly talented and smart and accomplished, and she's four years younger than me. That beats of my self-esteem a lot.

Since this is sort of a realization I had just yesterday, I'm still dealing with it and don't have a ton of positive stuff to say right now. Sorry.

BUT. I know it's not important to be the best at everything. You're never going to be the best at everything, and in a lot of cases you're never going to be the best at anything. There's always someone in the world who will be better than you in some way. And you cannot let that stop you from doing what you love or working hard.

You don't have to be the best, you just have to try your best.

Now I'm going to go work on that.

Thanks for listening,
xoxo Anne

Saturday, July 1, 2017

I'm Back

So I kind of disappeared there for a over two months. From the blog at least. A little over a month on my Instagram.

I dunno. I finished school for the semester and once I got home I just didn't feel compelled at all to write or post.

Okay, I do know why: when I'm at home, whether for summer or holidays, my anxiety gets way better. And even though it's still a big part of my life and I am doing new, intimidating things like an internship, I am in a place I'm comfortable and around many people who make me feel secure. Since I'm mostly writing about my anxiety on here, I felt like I just didn't have anything to say.

And I kind of go back and forth because like I said, I still struggle with anxiety daily. I guess I've just felt like it doesn't mean as much if it's not as bad? And hopefully that isn't true, but what I've been experiencing the most over the past couple months has been kind of the same small things over and over. That's not very interesting to read about.

That all being said, I miss writing. And I miss talking about my life, even if it's just to my computer. So I'm writing this with the hesitant commitment to continue posting regularly.

Alright, here's what's going on in my life:

Most of my energy is spent towards my internship- I am interning with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is an amazing organization and it's really cool to be a part of what they do. My supervisors are incredibly kind and great to work with, and for the most part I really enjoy my time there (even if i'm not getting paid). My main job right now is preparing for a fundraiser we have in a few months, which means contacting basically every business in the Spokane area asking for donations. Emailing is fine for me, but phone calls are where I suffer, which is a nice transition into some anxiety talk.

Phone calls make me feel incredibly weak and powerless. Even if everything goes great- I say my piece confidently, the person on the other end is friendly and gives me everything I asked for, and we part ways amicably- one simple call just drains me. I have to spend at least fifteen minutes psyching myself up for every phone call. I go over what I'm going to say and everything they could possibly say a few dozen times out loud, and sometimes write it all down so I basically have a script to follow for the entire conversation. The thought of a phone call makes me sweat and start to shake almost immediately. My heart starts to race the second I pick up the phone. And I always, always feel bad for calling people, no matter what I'm asking for.

This makes me feel weak because a stupid phone call has so much power over me. This is something I'm going to have to do for the rest of my life no matter what my career or life situation is, and I hate the thought that I'm going to be controlled by these emotions for that long over something so day-to-day. It makes me feel like a child.

That feeling sucks. Anxiety sucks. I like to end my posts with some positive "but it will all get better and I'll keep trying" message but I'm tired of everything and I don't always feel like things are going to get better.

Monday, April 17, 2017

We Need to Talk to Teenagers About Mental Health

Okay, my title is a little broader than what this post entails because it's too long to say "We Need to Talk to High School Students About Mental Health, Specifically Anxiety and Depression," but that's what I'm focusing on here. Of course I think everyone could stand to be a little more educated about all type of mental illnesses, but I don't know enough about them to fairly discuss them. FYI, I also don't know very much about depression because it's not something I deal with, but I will mention it in this post because it is just as common as anxiety and should definitely be talked about. 

(Also, I was planning on putting like one or two photos of me from high school in here for context, but then I took a trip down memory lane and had way too much fun reminiscing, so you get to see a lot more of me than you planned. #sorrynotsorry) 

It's has only been a few years since I left high school, so I remember being a teenager and how it is a really hard time for a lot of reasons. Mental health can be something adults and teens both neglect because as a teenager, you are experiencing so many changes and fears and stresses that it's easy to think everything you're going through is totally normal. And a lot of the time, it is. You can be anxious about a test without actually have an anxiety disorder. You can be depressed about breaking up with your girlfriend without having depression. But it is still very possible to have one of these in the form of a real mental illness, so it is so important that teenagers know what symptoms to look for and how to get help. 

To start off, here are some stats for you: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "in 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 12.5% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17." The NIMH defines a major depressive episode as "a period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image."

The NIMH also reported that 25.1% of 13 to 18 year-olds suffer from an anxiety disorder, and 5.9% of 13 to 18 year-olds have a severe anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include not only general anxiety, but post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and different phobias. Only a fraction of teens with anxiety and/or depression are being treated for it.

There are a lot of reasons to talk to high school students about anxiety and depression, but first off a huge one is that mental illness (usually depression) is often linked with suicide. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-18, and each year there are over 5,000 suicide attempts by young people in grades 7-12. 

That was really hard for me to write. How sad is that? I know not every suicide attempt is because of anxiety or depression, and not every teen with anxiety or depression thinks about suicide, but it is definitely a factor, and I firmly believe if teens knew more about resources and help they could get, that rate would go down.

As I've gotten older and have gone through this sort of "journey" of realizing I have anxiety and learning how to deal with it, I've thought a many times about how much easier this would have been if I had simply known more about anxiety when I was younger and started experiencing symptoms.

It wasn't until I got to college that I had even assumed anxiety was a possible way to explain how I felt. I thought anxiety, and mental illness in general, was narrowed to severe cases that only a doctor could prescribe. Even after I read and learned a lot more about the illness, I still didn't think it could apply to me because I didn't realize how common it was and the different forms it could take. Doing this research on my own was a) pretty lonely, and b) harder because I didn't have a confident confirmation that my anxiety was valid. It would have helped so much to hear just one other person say "this is normal and it's okay."

I'm not going to go over all the different types and symptoms of anxiety and depression here because it would take way too long, but we NEED to talk to teens about them, along with solutions and resources that are available. 

This is me in high school. I had a big group of friends, most of whom I had known since elementary school, and I was actively involved in many clubs and sports with them. I did student government, was on the cross-country and track team, was a member of National Honor Society, helped start a club, and I was a member of WDFY (drug-free youth). I did well in my classes and had good relationships with my teachers, and I was actively involved in my church and youth group. I was really happy.

What you can't see is the sometimes crippling anxiety I dealt with on a daily basis. Every night I would struggle to fall asleep because I was so worried about things I had done that day and things I would do tomorrow. I had intense, vivid nightmares at least once a week. Every day I stressed out over what I wore, how I looked, and what people thought about me. What I considered to be a stupid comment or action would haunt me for days. Every day I wondered if my best friends, people I had known and loved for years, still liked me. 

Class presentations would make me sweat and shake, so much that once I had to physically hold me leg because it was shaking so badly. Every single class period I would wonder if we were going to get into partners or groups, and I would frantically figure out who I could partner with and what to do if they chose someone else. Walking down the hallway I felt like everyone was staring at me and judging how I looked or how I walked. In sports, I worried not only about how I performed, but what people would think of me if I didn't do well in a race, and how they would compare me to my friends who did better then me. 

I could go on and on since anxiety really affected all aspects of my life. But all throughout high school, I didn't know it was anxiety. I thought either this was how everyone felt all the time, or that I legitimately was a loser. Neither reason made me feel any better. I wasn't able to start healing until I learned about what I had.

Talking to teenagers about anxiety and depression isn't going to cure them immediately if they have it. But knowledge is so, so important. There are so many outlets and options out there for people struggling with mental illness, from friends and therapists to online chat rooms and videos and everything in between. I was at my lowest point with my anxiety less than a year ago, and since accepting I have it and trying to figure out what makes me feel better, I have seen so much improvement in my life. It's still something I deal with every day, but it is manageable now. I feel so much better about my life, and I know I can keep finding new ways to be even happier. 

It doesn't have to be a lot. A couple of class periods in health or an assembly about anxiety and depression can significantly change someone's life. It can even save someone's life. Give those struggling in the dark a glimmer of light they can hold onto, and let them know things can and will get better. No one should feel like they have to work through something like this alone. 

(And okay, okay, here are a few more high school pictures of me because I know you're dying to see them.)

(This photo isn't necessary, I just really liked my letterman's jacket.)

You're welcome. Also thank you for humoring me. But I'm dead serious about the article--talk to teens about mental health!

xoxo Anne