Everyone Needs to Read This 'Humans of New York' Story About Anxiety

'I thought that if nobody knew, it didn't exist.'

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More than 18 percent of American adults struggle with anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That's a ton of people — a whopping 40 million, to be exact.

Even though so many people live with anxiety, it isn't always easy to talk about. There is still a massive stigma surrounding mental health issues, after all. That's why we get so excited when conditions like anxiety are brought into the limelight and talked about openly, like when #WhatAnxietyFeelsLike gained traction on Twitter — and, now, when this brave young woman shared her story with the popular Facebook page Humans of New York (HONY).

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While working on a series of portraits in Bogotá, Colombia, HONY photographer Brandon Stanton spoke with one anonymous college student about her personal experiences with anxiety in high school and how her mental health has affected her life since then.

"I was the best student in my high school. I put so much pressure on myself. I never failed a class," she began. "But I got sick during 10th grade and I started to fall behind. That's when the panic attacks began."

The young woman went on to explain that her panic attacks got worse when she started college last year. She felt inadequate surrounded by so many other talented students, and her anxiety eventually become so severe that she had to drop out of her first semester. Now, though, she said she's trying to come to terms with her anxiety and express it openly.

She told Stanton:

But now I'm working on acknowledging my anxiety. I used to try to hide it. I would log off social media. I wouldn't answer calls. I thought that if nobody knew, it didn't exist. But the more I talk about my problem, the more I realize that other people experience similar things. So I'm trying to express it more. I had a great teacher who told me: 'Instead of letting anxiety keep you from doing your art, let it be the thing that motivates your art.'

When Stanton shared the young woman's story on the HONY Facebook page, her openness and honesty about what it's really like to live with anxiety was incredibly well-received: So far, the post has been shared more than 12,000 times, and nearly 4,000 Facebook users have commented, commending the woman for sharing her experiences and even sharing some of their own.

"Anxiety can be so debilitating and misunderstood," one commenter wrote. "Thank you for sharing your experiences. It helps the rest of us know we aren't alone."

[h/t The Huffington Post]

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