My name is Bridget, and I have a complicated relationship with my brain. For the past 13 years, it has been a bit of a fair-weather friend. My brain and I, we’ve been through a lot.

My story is based around the photo that you see. That photo was taken in 2013, at a shack trip with a bunch of mates whilst we were making pizza toppings. I look like a happy-go-lucky teenager living life to the fullest. What you don’t see is that I was in the beginning of the worst panic attack of my life. Whilst my friends were having fun, my brain was spiralling out of control, telling me ‘run out of the room and get hit by a car, no one would even notice’. It took every ounce of energy I had to keep my body from following my brain’s orders until I could regain control. That photo is only the peak of my ongoing relationship with an anxiety disorder.

Before that photo, from around the age of 10, every time I heard a group of people laughing, I convinced myself that they were laughing at me. I couldn’t walk down busy streets even in broad daylight, I couldn’t set foot on a bus, let alone later try and learn to drive.

After that photo, there were still panic attacks, reactive depressive episodes and a constant grey cloud hanging over my head. The anxiety was paralysing me, asking me to stay still as it was the only way to gain control and avoid any triggering scenario. I gave into it for a while, cutting people and experiences out of my life.

What disappoints me now is that I thought that all of this was just normal teenage stuff, until an unknowing classmate in health studies did a presentation on anxiety disorders. That saw the start of many psychologist appointments and self-help strategies like meditation, breathing exercises and creative outlets. It was also the start of my new life. I am now living the life that ten years ago I had told myself I didn’t deserve, but I now know that this is the life I was meant for.

I have forgiven my brain for being a fair-weather friend, and although sometimes it falls back into old habits, I know that I have everything I need to get it back on track.

I have seen what being able to be open about mental health experiences can do. I have had people tell me that me sharing my experiences helped them make an appointment with a psychologist or talk to their family and/or friends about needing to get help. So please, if you have a story to tell and the strength to tell it, tell it. And if you want to help, please check on your family and friends, even those that seem to be sailing through life. People can keep a lot behind closed doors, and it is only by knocking that we can start to make positive change.

There will always be at least one person out there that wants to help, who wants you to be here today, and tomorrow, and every other day in this wonderfully crazy world. If your brain read that and convinced you that there isn’t one person in your life that wants that, then I’d like to re-introduce myself. Hi, my name is Bridget and I’m so glad that you’re here.