JRNL 102

One of the Five

Approximately one in five Australians each year will be affected by a mental illness, one of which is Emily Stevenson, a student from the University of Wollongong.

Emily at age 11.

Since the age of five she has been battling anxiety which has greatly affected her life and relationships, particularly with her friends and her boyfriend.

Emily, who is currently studying Psychology at the University of Wollongong, said that her anxiety is more manageable now that she is older and has learned to deal with her panic attacks. However, there are still times where she feels the anxiety beginning to rise.

“I feel sometimes overwhelmed,” she said. “Being in public now makes me anxious, especially being on my own.” She explained that one of the main reasons she keeps her illness hidden is because of the reaction that she might get from people she talks to.

“If I’m at university and there’s lots of people around me I feel very overwhelmed and anxious,” says Emily.

As many people are becoming more open about mental illnesses, particularly anxiety, Emily says that “people are just so sick of hearing about it.”

After speaking to her boyfriend a few times about the issue, she also felt that he didn’t really understand the struggles that she goes through on a daily basis as a result of her anxiety. When asked what he knew about her illness, he said: “I don’t even think she has anxiety based on what I’ve seen.”

Emily also mentioned that while a few of her friends are aware that she has anxiety, only about two know the full extent of the situation. She says that this is because she generally doesn’t come across as someone that would have an anxiety disorder, as she is often described as “bubbly and always smiling.”

When speaking of the friendships she has with those friends that don’t know, she describes them as “normal” as they are not as close and so there is no need for a deeper relationship where they might need to know about something like anxiety.

Of the two friends who are aware, Emily says that it’s important to have someone who you can talk to and who understands: “Otherwise you just feel lost.”

Moving to university has allowed Emily to make new friends that are helping her to cope with her anxiety.

Since growing up and moving to university, she feels that it has been easier to control her anxiety. This is partly due to her learning new ways to deal with the illness and also because of the support network she created for herself.

She does recognise that she will probably continue to have anxiety for most of her life, however Emily tries not to let this face control or dictate her life for her.

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