To some, anxiety is a taboo term. To one student, it was seven letters that defined her life.
At the age of 12, second-year Ryerson journalism student Emily Aubé was diagnosed with panic and generalized anxiety disorder. Both conditions put her through great stress and pressure growing up.
“In high school, there were no resources that helped me and I felt very much ashamed of my disorder in fear of being labeled as ‘mental’ or ‘crazy,’” Aubé said.
She now runs Anxiety Free Community (AFC), a website to give those whose voices tremble a chance to speak.
While Aube said she still struggles with mental illness, she said that her drive to be creative has liberated her from being dominated by it.
“Since our minds are very analytical, we can either use our creativity for painting the worst picture, or the best one,” she said.
Along with Anxiety Free Community, Aubé has written a book entitled Love Before Fear and opened a coaching program to help those struggling with similar issues.
The response has been grander than she imagined.
“I’ve received thousands of emails,” she said. “A dozen have even been brave enough to write their story for everyone to see.”
One of those people was Brendan Melanson. He said that discovering the community helped him recognize parts of himself that he wasn’t previously aware of.
Before discovering he had anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, Melanson said he thought that he just had a fearful thought process when interacting with people.
“It prevented me from enjoying simple and fun activities,” he said.
When Melanson came across AFC through a Facebook share, he messaged Aubé. She gave him tips and techniques to control his anxiety that he said worked wonders.
Despite success stories like Melanson’s, Aubé said she aims to expand her movement across Canada.
“People need to realize how powerful they are when they suffer from anxiety”, Aubé said. “While they create their anxious circumstances, they can also create their wildest dreams.”