JJ, 23 years old

"For as long as I can remember, there has always been a dark feeling in the recesses of my mind, compelling me to complete unusual tasks in order to alleviate the panic. It wasn't until my fourteenth year that I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and depression, some seven years after I'd first become acquainted the neurotic little voice in my head.

To ease the chaos, I'd count all manner of things; leaves, bricks, cars, seconds. It was exhausting. As everyone else was swept into the eternal ebbing tide of humanity, I felt left behind. Worse, I felt crazy. I felt absolutely nuts. I felt like a leftover, scraped to the fringe of the plate; unappetising, repulsive. And with the anxiety came depression. I would ball myself up in the corner of the room, with my knees drawn to my chest and tears melting through my shirt like little drops of acid. For a long time, I saw very little hope that I would ever smile again.

But thankfully, I was wrong.

After years of therapy, medication and stints of hospitalisation, my parents decided to try something a little different. They got me a dog from the RSPCA. Bernie walked into my life and changed it forever. For the first time in nearly a decade, I looked forward to waking up. Bernie would sit patiently beside me as I counted, never judging, never saying a single superfluous word. Needless to say, he quickly became my best friend.

Bernie died two years ago, but I know I'll be okay. He taught me to derive joy from the simplest of things; running through tall grass or feeling a salty sea breeze on my face. Even today, the voice in my mind plagues me, and I still have moments of paralysing desperation. I can't stop the waves from coming, but I'm learning to surf."

 

For help managing anxiety, a good place to start is Beyond Blue’s anxiety checklist. The short checklist takes you through a series of questions about how you have been feeling in the past two weeks. You can speak to your GP or other health professional who can link you through to get some tailored support. You can also contact the Beyond Blue Support Service any time to talk things through – they can point you in the right direction.  Beyond Blue’s online forums are another great resource, allowing you to talk in a safe place, and get strategies from others about how they cope with anxiety.

Related reading: Pets and their impact on mental health

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