Courtney is just like any other high school student. She gets excited about dances and cherishes time with friends. She also has her own unique set of challenges.
Courtney lives with anxiety and depression. She may struggle sometimes, but she has learned that those things don’t define her.
I do have the power to overcome anxiety and depression, but there will be times when it comes out of nowhere and I have to deal with it.
I had the opportunity to chat with this beautiful young lady and it occurred to me: We could all learn a thing or two from Courtney.
You have had a bit of a rough road to travel these past couple of years. Can you talk about some of the struggles you have had and where you are at now?
I have always struggled with insecurity in myself, my life, the ones around me, and the world. I used to be so uneasy with who I was. I didn’t know when a panic attack would arise, and I began to feel so out of control. I would starve myself because that’s the only control I felt like I had in my life. I would think about ending things because everyday seemed to be less and less “real.” But the depression, eating disorder, and anxiety was more real than anything. I actually became so comfortable with my mental illness, I didn’t want it to go. I would run away from things that made me feel loved or worthy because all I knew at that time was hurtful words about myself. Sometimes still today, I just get so lost in my own thoughts that I feel like I lose track of reality. I used to get so frustrated with who I was becoming and why the anxious thoughts would never go away. Still today, anxiety is my go-to…but it’s different. I hear what anxiety or depression has to say. I will admit that sometimes it does overcome me, and I start to panic and I feel like the world is collapsing. But nowadays, there is so many more good days than bad ones. I have been able to see anxiety as separate from myself, me and anxiety are no longer the same person. Anxiety is not a part of me whatsoever. Instead of seeing mental illness as the enemy, I see it as bittersweet sometimes. It can really hurt me and the ones around me, but I have become so much stronger in who I am as a person and what I want to do in my life. Without all of the struggling years, I don’t think I would be who I was made to be.
What gets you through the rough days?
Last April, I got “saved” which is basically saying that I surrendered my life to The Lord. He has worked through and in me so much, exposing me to so many different seasons of life. I hold all of my hope and trust in Him on my bad days, with the peace that He is always at work in my life.
Also, without my mom I don’t think I would be the woman I am today. She has never given up on me, she provides me with the love that I sometimes cannot give to myself. She can see all of my flaws and insecurities, and still let me know that I mean so much to this world. She has shown me what I want to become some day, completely selfless and loving with the knowledge that I might not be loved in return. She has shown me what hope and love really is; she is the fighter, not me.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Now what are your plans?
When I was little, I wanted to be a scientist. Now, I want to work with psychology.
What is the best song to sing in the shower?
The best song to sing in the shower would be “Brand New” by Ben Rector.
What is the best piece of advice you have heard? What was the worst?
The best advice that I have been given is “stop looking for happiness in the same place you lost it.” This piece of advice has changed my point of view on a lot of things. For some strange reason, I keep going back to the same thing or person hoping that this time around it will be different, but it never is. Looking for happiness in something that stole it from you will never suddenly change.
The worst advice I have been given is “just try to ignore it.” Whether “it” be anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder, telling someone to ignore it will only make the thoughts become bigger and stronger; you should never ignore what you’re afraid of.
It is Mental Health Awareness month. What is something you wish people understood about you and your journey?
I wish people wouldn’t be scared of mental illness and it wouldn’t be such a touchy topic to discuss. Today mental illness is more popular than ever. I want the world to be open to talking about it for what it is, a disorder, not some sickening disease. I want girls and boys around the world to know that they are not alone whatsoever, and mental illness is just a bump in the road. Personally, I wish people would understand that sometimes I can’t be like them. Some days I just can’t go up to a new person and say hello, and sometimes I just have to be quiet. I want people to understand what people suffering with mental illness go through, and understand that some days they just can’t do some things, and that’s okay. You might be laughing at one moment, then crying in the next, but you’re not a freak for that happening. I do have the power to overcome anxiety and depression, but there will be times when it comes out of nowhere and I have to deal with it. I want mental illness to no longer have the stigma of being weak or “walking on eggshells.” People need to treat someone with mental illness the same, but with the knowledge that they can’t do everything perfectly.
If you could have coffee with any woman, past or present, who would it be and what one question would you ask?
If I could have coffee with one woman, I would have it with a woman who I met in my IOP treatment. She was a lot older than me, and she did suffer from anxiety and depression, but she would always look at me and tell me that I have so much ahead of me. I saw her a few months after I graduated the program, and she just smiled at me because she was so proud of where I was. I didn’t get to know her that much, but I want to know what she’s been through and how she got through everything.
Who is your favorite Disney princess?
I’m not a huge Disney fan, so I asked my friend (who loves Disney stuff) which princess I would be most like. She said Merida from Brave, so I decided to look her up and see what she’s like. Merida is described as “impetuous girl who wants to take control of her own destiny.” It also says that she is “stubborn” and “does not fit the stereotypical princess role.” Just these three descriptions make me think of myself, because I sure am stubborn and I seem to feel like an outcast a lot of the time. I’ve noticed that people tend to glance over the ones that are “outcasts” or “different,” and I have been that one the whole time. But, it is honestly really cool that Disney would take the time to make a character similar to someone like me. Merida is a princess who doesn’t look like a typical princess, and I think she would be my favorite because she reminds me of myself.
What is your definition of beauty? Or, when do you feel most beautiful?
I think beauty is when someone can hold confidence in themselves and who they are as a person. Whenever I see beautiful girls, I look at them with so much jealousy and desire, and I end up feeling less of a person than them. Telling yourself that you are less than someone else is not going to get you anywhere except to a place of insecurity and self-hatred. Still today, I struggle with feeling beautiful in my own skin. I look at other girls and I start to become incredibly negative. Beauty doesn’t mean that you have to love what you see when you look in the mirror, but it is when you realize that you’re not what those girls look like, but you are something. Personally, the last time I felt truly beautiful was on a late night car ride with the music loud and my friends beside me. Although I was not looking in the mirror at the time, I felt alive and happy. I was so happy in that moment, and I never wanted it to end because everything around me was so perfect. Beauty isn’t always loving what you see in the mirror; it’s being able to look in the mirror and just see YOU.