Thank you to every one who participated in Anxiety Canada’s second Annual Writing, Poetry, Photo, and Vine video contest. Listed below are the winner and runner up submissions. Congratulations to to all 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place submissions. Will all finalists please contact Anxiety Canada via e-mail at [email protected] for further instructions.
Essay Submission 1st place Laurissa Ceybryk
I’d feel her before seeing her reflection in the mirror. When she was there it still only held one person who looked and sounded like me and could fake a convincing grin. For each smile, she forced ten tears, for every whisper of calm, a wave of panic. I‘d tell myself, she isn’t you. Instead she was my own chaotic hell living deep beneath my skin. We fought over everything. The older I became, the less I understood her: why I couldn’t stop her, what triggered her. What I wanted to brush off, she forced under a microscope, picking at the scabs I’d carefully healed. She did it systematically each day, making me worry and cry. I wanted to reach inside me and peel her off my bones, pulling her inch by painful inch through the pores of my skin and ensure she could never return. I wanted a restful night free from the claws she’d laced through my hair. I didn’t realize the more I pushed against her, the harder she’d fight back. One day I discovered her origins. When I looked at myself I’d see her shadow beneath my pupils and realized that I’d seen them in my dad and brothers’ eyes. A family of shadows that looked and acted like us; stalking us throughout our days and nights. They were inescapable, stitched into our long ropes of genetics. We talked about them and learned that we were not so different, together developing a defense. You can’t just push a monster away; it only makes them stronger. So I appealed to her and admired her beauty, pulling her under her own bloodstained microscope to examine and learn. After, all I could say was thank you. Looking into the mirror, I realized the shadows I’d seen were only from the lights and the claws in my hair were nothing but my brush. She was never a monster that was separate from myself. She was part of me. As annoying as the emotions I could manifest over uncontrollable situations are, a small gift comes with it that I realized many others would never experience in their lives. It is access to a depth of emotion and understanding of the self – what you feel and who you are. It isn’t a beast to be feared, but is a guide who can lead to amazing and unique properties of what it is to be human. Once you tame how overwhelming it can be, it becomes an outward projection of empathy and compassion. It allows you to appreciate and pursue goals with full awareness of consequences, and to truly experience the elements of your emotions. She was my anxiety, she was my monster, and then she was me, a human I’d learned to love.
Essay Submission 2nd place Melissa Nemeth
In the spring of 2012 I reached a breaking point with my mental health. Normally I was able to keep my emotions in check but as the semester progressed I found myself struggling to choke back tears and find the strength to attend class. I was putting on a brave face more than I would like to admit. When someone asked if I was wrong I would just blame school or some other activity in my life. The word anxiety was far from my thoughts. Finally my parents sat me down and suggested that maybe the time had come to speak to someone professional about my issues. So I then went to therapy. I recall the first day we met. I shook his hand and sat in the chair. He handed his business card, to which I responded “Seriously…that’s your name? How on earth do you pronounce that? ”I’d write it for you now but it’s a challenge to spell. I spent the first month dreading appointments, because all I did was cry. I even looked for excuses not to go. I found myself overwhelmed by anxiety and depression and thinking “I am too young to see a Psychologist”. I told my therapist as such and he simply asked “What makes you believe that?” I told him I don’t know but I’m only 20 , I don’t think I’ve lived long enough or gone through enough life experience to seek professional help. He then proceeded to ask if there was any evidence proving that I hadn’t experienced enough of life as well what made me decide that I was “too young”. It was these questions that assisted me in my regular use of CBT.I can recall the face, complete with eye roll I made when my therapist first explained the term and how it worked. “Seriously this is going to help?”My psychologist asked me to purchase the Stress and Anxiety Workbook. It would take roughly 6 months for me to get into the consistent habit of CBT .I eventually began to notice improvements within that time. Sometimes I would write the word breathe on my wrist as focus point which assisted when I was experiencing an anxiety attack This is now permanently tattooed on my wrist, a permanent CBT strategy ! It’s been almost 2 years since my first appointment and although I’m still working through a few issues with my anxiety such as driving, my life has improved dramatically. I don’t cry nearly as often, my interest in school and other activities has improved. I’ve even managed to run 7 half marathons! Running also works well with CBT for those who are curious. I’m not an expert but it continues to have a positive impact on all aspects of my life.
Essay Submission 3rd place Kate Borgstad
I am no stranger to mental illness, all complications and stigmas that come along with it. I suppose I could say mental illness and I are companions of sorts. At a young age I fared through depression, anxiety, revolving door therapists, trial and error attempts with medications that only seemed to do more harm than good, and inpatient psychiatric facilities that were like a sterile hell.
After turning 23, it started again. All at once something inside me was abruptly and terribly wrong. My heartbeat quickened. My throat constricted. A cold sweat came over me. My hands tingled as my entire body convulsed involuntarily and I was terrified. I thought I was going to drop dead- no, I was sure of it. This kind of anxiety was new to me. Hours later, when it finally stopped and I was exhausted, anxiety had abandoned me to mire through the isolating and confusing agony of what had just happened.
I thought maybe it a one time thing. I wanted to believe I had gotten past all the inner turmoil that plagued me when I was young. Surely I was better now, wasn’t I? Unfortunately, the panic attacks didn’t stop; they grew more severe and frequent. I felt crippled and unable to function at all. I felt like a defective person. Each day I woke up reluctant to get out of bed. I was avoiding anything and everything had had triggered panic attacks before. I stopped eating because I’d had a panic attack while eating once. I stopped wearing certain outfits because I’d worn them during an attack. I was fearful of everything and of myself because I knew the sickness resided in my head and for this reason, I was my own worst enemy.
It’s now been six months that I’ve been suffering through the daily struggles of panic disorder. I know that stalks me cleverly, quietly. I know there will be times when the attacks find me and leave me feeling helpless and defeated and afraid, yes, but more than that; I’m saddened that perhaps I’ll always have this illness. Panic disorder and I could be companions for life.
Every day is a new battle to conquer. It brings out my sense of adventure because with anxiety I never know where the day will take me and that’s okay. Despite my diagnosis, I am gradually becoming a stronger person. I’ve learned that mental illness can’t break me. Maybe anxiety has won some battles, but in the end I will win the war.
Poetry Submission 1st place Tessa Mouzourakis
Anxiety is the architect
that builds nothing into something.
It lays a foundation of worry
and paints the walls with fear.
It traps you in it’s house
and fills it with questions.
It taunts you with a key
and knows you’re too scared
But you can be the architect,
that builds nothing into something.
You can operate the crane
that pulls panic from it’s hinges.
You can tear down this house
and build one of your own.
All you’ll need is a plan,
a hard hat and hammer,
courage to face it,
and you’ll finally get answers.
Poetry Submission 2nd place Morgan Johnson
How are you?
not great but not dead.
if I speak I’m afraid
I might cry
Don’t mind me
Its in my head
Once this conversation is over
To coax my breathing back to normal
put on music
its hard to hear
hard to think and that
is better than all these thoughts
fat ugly weird
turn the volume up
breath in breathe out
the knives of anxiety recede
pick up a pen
bring it to paper
the negative thoughts will taper
these things hold me together
it won’t rain forever
Poetry Submission 3rd place Beck Wosk
Darkness closes in
The weight is too much to bear
I can’t seem to pull myself out
Everyone is starting to stare
Or is it just me
I want to tell you how it feels
Like the world is caving in
Like I can’t live in my own skin
And I’m frightened
I want to show you what it’s like
To be tongue tied and want to hide
To have no control of your own soul
But I don’t want you to feel this
No one should feel this
But we are okay
We’ve got fight in our spirit and life in our bones
We’ve got thick skin to cast away those sticks and stones
And when you feel like it’s bigger than you
Breathe in and out
You’ll know what to do
You’ll see the lights on this roller coaster
And we know it’s never over
But you’ll make it out even stronger
The fear will grow smaller and smaller
You won’t have to hide any longer
Poetry Submission 3rd place Megan Low – Faded 164
is putrid and
a slow decay
is a cesspool
of betrayal and
clog the drain—
are none) to
And the nature of
is lost (or you
and play in the
Instagram Submission 1st place Em @sprungfromwithin
There is no perfection in art. However, there is an anxiety with people pleasing. Art has been teaching me to create for myself and to care less about what others think. This painting abstractly represents those feelings. Almost with a look to it like shattered glass and light coming through the end of the tunnel, this painting shows that nothing about anxiety feels fluid. Although, the creative process in art is liberating me from that. Ironically, I had anxiety about getting this submission in on time for #iknowanxietybc with what I envisioned. However, like I’ve been learning, you just need to throw your fears out the window and let the process take you where you want to go without the fear of perfection. I’ll say it again: there is no perfection in art.
Instagram Submission 2nd place LB @mrssedin
When I am on my mat, the worries dissipate. When I am on my mat, the tightness in my chest releases. When I am on my mat, I can breathe deeply. When I am on my mat, I feel safe, loved and valued. When I am on my mat, I am healthy, fearless and mindfully at ease. When I am on my mat, I am my most present, vibrant and authentic self. When I am on my mat, I know no anxiety. #iknowanxietybc
Instagram Submission 3rd place Brittany @superbeanie
I’m scared to know who I am without anxiety. It’s almost as scary as knowing that I have anxiety. It’s an ongoing struggle, but every time I chip away at anxiety’s grip on my thoughts, I am uplifted. It might only last a moment. It still isn’t fun. But I breathe in, breathe out, and hold on. I can do this. We can do this. #iknowanxietybc
Video Submission 1st place Gelsy Wong @gelsyw