Emily Gill: ANXIETY, I AM NOT AFRAID.

“You’re a social butterfly, how do you have anxiety?”

This is a question for a very long time that I battled with to find the right answer. However, in the past six months I think I found it. For years my depression at the time and anxiety was paralyzing. I guess you could say I was kinda living in a cocoon. I was suffocating, I was hiding and I was completely terrified to break out and spread my wings. What if I couldn’t fly? What if my wings weren’t pretty enough? What if people judged me like they had before? What if I fall? What if…? What if…? What if…? 

Although my depression hasn’t paralyzed me for a very long time, my anxiety on the other hand still makes me want to clip my wings from time to time. It wasn’t until the last few months, that I really had to challenge my anxiety in certain situations to not go right back to my old tendencies and hide in my cocoon. I am extremely self-aware of my surroundings and overanalyze just about absolutely everything. So meeting new people and being in an unfamiliar setting can sometimes feel like one of those “I want to hide in my cocoon” moments. I always like to know what my family and close friends are doing, I need to have schedules (this could also be my mild OCD), and if I don’t know these things my wings feel very heavy making it hard for me to fly. All these fears came at me like a freight train when I started dating Colby. I started to learn that during the season I would be throwing out my once needed schedules because everything is last minute. I learned that Colby’s job and the reputation that comes with it doesn’t define who he and some other players are as an individual person… that one was a huge one for me. After witnessing some shocking things, trust immediately had to become a crucial part of our relationship. I also learned that nothing smells worse than his hands after a game! Colby learned that YouAreMore and helping others is my passion which I will let absolutely nothing stand in the way of that. This I think was tough for him because I tend to find/ put myself in certain situations from caring “too much” or being “too nice” as he always says. He also learned that post-secondary education makes me want to chuck my calculator across the room and that nothing makes me happier than pizza, tea or ice cream even if he can't eat it with me! When the season ended and we were back in his hometown, we had a discussion about how we’ve both changed the past few months. We both adapted, learned and had grown in things that we wouldn’t have without each other. We agreed that me talking about my experiences could possibly and hopefully help other people.

Being exposed to two completely opposite lifestyles, two new cities, and two incomparable friend groups, was all challenging to say the least. Take a moment and think about your biggest fear… is it public speaking? Or how about heights? Or what about snakes? My biggest fear is being judged, being different, and heaven forbid if one person doesn't like me… I become a wreck. I am a people pleaser and will always be. However, I had to learn very fast in order for this relationship to work I had to muster up all the courage in me and become extremely vulnerable to fight against my biggest fears. I was going to be flying back and forth between two new cities, I was going to have to become friends with new people (some who would be very welcoming while others were not) and most importantly I was going to have to trust what Colby said from day one, “You have nothing to worry about.” I had to tackle many uncomfortable situations, grab my anxiety by its horns and tell it that I am not afraid. Fighting my anxiety has never been easy for me so it became an even bigger challenge to conquer over the past few months. Colby believed I could do it and for the first time in a long time, I did too. My anxiety has always made me feel like I don’t fit in for many years. Even though growing up, I was on sports teams, extremely involved in school, and what many people thought “a social butterfly” on the inside I was extremely anxious which I think alienated me even more. I had to do everything in my power with the support of Colby to jump off that cliff fearlessly with open wings and a mindset in order to make sure my anxiety didn't win.

Here’s what I think is the answer to the question that I am constantly being asked. In order to become the true social butterfly I am, I had to be open and honest about my anxiety. I had to tell myself that it’s okay to be scared to fly but how remarkable would it be to escape this cocoon? When I learned that I didn’t have to pretend I loved flying, meeting new people or new settings, I actually began to truly love them. Weird right? I learned that if something makes me nervous, it’s okay to talk about it. If I feel like I don't fit in or someone doesn’t like me, I tell myself that it's okay too. I constantly have to remind myself that even though I have anxiety, I don't have to live in a cocoon overanalyzing every possible thing. When I started having this changed mindset, I realized that my unique but anxious wings despite a diagnosis are still beautiful and most importantly THEY CAN FLY. My anxiety will always be apart of me but that doesn’t mean new opportunities, nor my wings should be clipped because of it. In the 1800’s if you had a mental illness you had to wear a green ribbon to show that you were “mentally insane”. I can only imagine how many incredible wings were clipped because of those ribbons. People who struggle with anxiety, depression, OCD, or whatever their mental illness may be can still fly too!! I encourage each one of you to remember that life is hard and if you have a mental illness it shouldn’t be made harder for you. We can still fly freely… it just may take us a bit longer! So to anyone who needs the courage to break out of your cocoon, conquer your fears and jump, I believe you can do it. Embrace your unique wings, show them off and fly! It’s worth it.