On April 25th, 1992, I was born into this world with an endless array of possibilities. I grew up with two incredibly supportive parents who nurtured my interests and gave me everything and anything I wanted. I’ve made more amazing friends than I could ever have hoped for. I have wonderful extended family members – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I was lucky enough to inherit an innate ability to test well, and so I’ve never had to work hard to succeed in school. I have no physical disabilities, I’ve never struggled financially, I’ve never seen war or famine or genocide.
And yet, for whatever combination of environmental and genetic factors, I was blessed with the gift of mental illness. It started with social phobia, developed into major depression, and then culminated with panic disorder. I have recovered from the depression and panic disorder (yes, recovery is a thing!), but I’m still shackled with varying amounts of social anxiety and I was recently diagnosed with ADHD (lucky me). I struggle with obsessive thoughts, a short attention span, panic attacks, and the horrors of having to make small talk. For many years, I thought I was selfish for being the way I am. Now I see that I’m just ill.
Mental illness does not define who I am, but it shapes the way I see the world and the way I choose to interact with it. I am a student of biological psychology, fascinated with the way the brain works (and the way it sometimes doesn’t work). I recently graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Canada with a bachelor of science degree in psychology and biotechnology. Sooner than I can believe, I will be a PhD student at the University of Toronto (which is in Toronto, if you didn’t already guess) in the Department of Pharmacology. My doctorate will be in the Addictions Studies program.
Looking beyond my illness and my academic pursuits, I do enjoy life as well. When I’m not panicking or obsessing over obsessive thoughts (meta-obsessing?), I like to think I’m a fun person (or maybe just a really self-indulgent, pretentious boring person). I like going to all-you-can-eat sushi with my pals and eating until I feel like I need to be rolled home. I also like picnics in the park (as long as you bring a bottle of Chardonnay) and really, really long walks (I don’t screw around with short walks). You can frequently catch me obsessing over awful TV series like True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Sometimes I watch good ones like Game of Thrones (omg talk about obsessions). I also have a proclivity for doting on my dog, Abby. She’s really cute. I mean, really cute.
What is Anxiety Really Sucks!?
This one is a little more difficult. I’m just starting out with this blogging thing (I’m still figuring out how to use the computer machine) so I have not quite found my “voice,” so to speak. I suppose there were three main reasons I started this blog.
1. I want to educate.
How pretentious of me, right? I mean, I don’t even have a degree or anything [edit: I actually do have a degree now! But not a medical degree]. Well, I’ve lived with mental illness most of my life, so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about coping with a brain that resists coping. I have a solid support structure in my life, I’ve seen boatloads of therapists, and I’ve read enough self-help books to fill up a library (I also dabble in the art of the hyperbole). My therapist tells me I’m very insightful. So I’m here to pass on the accumulated knowledge that has trickled into my long-term memory over the past couple decades.
2. I want to fight stigma.
Why is it that we talk freely about cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and the common cold, but we cringe when we hear words like schizophrenia, bipolar, agoraphobia and panic attacks? Depression, anxiety, psychosis, obsessions, compulsions, mania… These are all real conditions affecting real people. The field of psychiatry is a real medical specialty, and people taking psychotropic medications are not weak or pathetic. If you don’t agree, then open a book or something.
3. I want to let the world know that mental illness does not mean defeat.
Just because we have panic attacks or suicidal thoughts or manic episodes doesn’t mean we can’t live fulfilling lives. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. I’m here to tell my story in the hopes that I can inspire even one person to rise up above their mental illness and grab life by the balls. I’m here to drill it into your head that you can be a doctor with panic disorder, you can be a teacher with schizophrenia, you can be an actor with social phobia. Whatever you want to do, never give up hope.
If you want a more targeted description of this blog, I suppose I can say this is a blog about overcoming anxiety and living the life you want to live. I’m here to offer you tips and tricks that I’ve found helpful in overcoming my own mental health issues. Sometimes my posts will be focused on one specific mental illness (like social phobia) or one area of life (like college), but I will always write in a general enough style that you can get something out of it.
Follow me on twitter @justinrmatheson
As much as I’d love to believe I’m qualified to give advice, I’m not a medical professional (yet) so please don’t take my advice to be the final word on anything. If you are suffering from an untreated psychiatric illness, I urge you to seek proper medical care. Self-help blogs such as this one are best used as a supplement to professional help.