My name is Alexandra Taylor. I’m a student, a girlfriend, an artist, and a daughter. I’m a confident and proud person who is fortunate to be surrounded by an abundant amount of awesome and loving friends and family. I’m resilient, genuine, and naturally inclined to help people which has inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. I’m actively involved in numerous health-related organizations in the Waterloo community in addition to several on-campus clubs at the University of Waterloo, such as the UW Pre Med Club. This may make me seem like I’m one of “those people” who have everything together, but in reality, I’m absolutely not. Although people like to see me this way, I have been quietly tormented by mental illnesses for most of my life. My name is Alexandra Taylor, and I’m a sufferer of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Looking back, my anxiety started when I was 14. When I was in high school, I would have severe panic attacks about twice a month. During these attacks, nothing could calm me down. I would spend hours crying and hyperventilating until the emotional demands of the experience would cause me to fall into in a heap of exhaustion.
When people ask me about my anxiety, they assume that I can’t handle my emotions, or that if I talk to a therapist, things will automatically get better. But having an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean that I have a lot of feelings; instead, it makes me have feelings about my feelings. Sometimes, my mind races and I wind up more worried about hypothetical issues than how I should react to the situation at hand.
Throughout high school and university, I was obsessed with getting perfect grades—so much so that I neglected my health just so I could spend more time studying. I wanted to have total control over my life and every aspect of it. And for the longest time, I thought that repressing my anxiety would solve my problems. Unfortunately, it only worsened my mood and crippled my physical and mental health. It was only when I developed stress ulcers that I knew I couldn’t move on with my life until I faced my anxiety.
Although I have always considered myself to be a strong person, what really makes me feel strong is talking to others about my mental illnesses. For many years, I suffered alone, and like many others, I was ashamed to admit that my mental health was so unstable. But finally accepting that I have anxiety has allowed me to embrace life’s challenges as they come. Ironically, it was facing my anxiety that actually made me feel like I have control over my life.
Today I can say I am comfortable with who I am: my mental illness doesn’t define me. I’m so proud of everything I have accomplished and will accomplish in the future. I have good weeks—sometimes I have okay weeks—but I still have bad weeks too. Yet, after all these years, I no longer fear my anxiety or OCD; rather, I’ve learned strategies to combat setbacks in my mental well-being. For instance, now I’m able to recognize when I need to take a break and give myself some TLC; in the same way, regularly exercising has drastically improved my mood and extended the length of my periods of wellness. Lastly, if I could give one piece of advice, it would be to cherish your friends and family: never be afraid to talk to them about your worries. Although it’s really common to bottle everything up, eventually, we all have to unbottle and release that pressure. Friends and family can offer fantastic support to help you do just that.
--No one should ever face mental illness alone. If you share a similar story or wish to reach out, I would love to hear from you! My contact info is listed below.
or @alexandrasydtaylor on Instagram