11/23/18 #SameHere Hero: Jennifer Cohen

Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero Jennifer Cohen. is wise WAY beyond her yrs. Situational anxiety which led to very specific OCD rituals, & then unhealthy eating habits born out of a perfectionist attitude, she’s dealt w a lot. She has an incredibly positive attitude, wants desperately to help other, & for that reason we are so happy to welcome her as the newest member of our Global #SameHere Advocates Alliance!


“My mental health story starts about ten yrs ago, when I experienced anxiety for the first time. I had my first panic attack when I was eleven years old, the night before boarding a flight to New York. It really hit me out of nowhere bc I had always loved travelling, & flying especially, but overnight I suddenly found myself overwhelmed & terrified: I hated the fact that once I was on the plane I was stuck there for seven hours with no way out.


Eventually, I realised that much of my anxiety could be put down to a fear of vomiting (emetophobia), which made it difficult for me to be in enclosed spaces, like an airplane, where I didn’t feel like I could easily find a way out if I needed to be sick. Instead of dealing with this professionally, I was intent on finding my own coping mechanisms to limit my symptoms. Turns out, my coping mechanisms were actually really unhelpful, & just overly destructive.


I developed several OCD type rituals, most of them centred around the number seven, where I had to do a combination of things seven times over in order to stop bad things from happening to me. In all honesty, these are compulsions that I haven’t quite learnt how to let go of yet.


Ultimately, underlying anxiety & obsessive behaviours, combined with a desire to achieve complete perfection in my life & appearance, led me to a difficult period of depression & restrictive eating. I completely lost myself in that time, & for a while I wasn’t sure if I would ever get back to who I was before. I stayed in bed much of the time, had very little energy, & isolated myself from my friends. I was totally consumed by what was going on inside my head, so much so that I had very little capacity to think about other people, or my university work. It’s only recently that I’ve realised quite how much I withdrew during these few months, & there are many of my close friends that I am now having to reconnect with.


And all of this, ten years of anxiety & paranoia, & a recent moment of crisis, I feel could have been avoided. I wouldn’t change what I’ve been through, because it has certainly taught me a lot about myself & how to manage life’s lower points, but I think it’s frustrating that I had to fall so hard in order to come back up. This sounds cliched, but I think it’s a shame that I had to experience such mental difficulties in order to feel loved & accepted. I think this tells us a lot about how we are taught to think about ourselves, & how we are taught (or not taught, as the case may be) to manage life’s challenges.


To experience a mental health difficulty is normal, but it should be equally normal to nip it in the bud before it gets worse. I can trace my #SameHere🤙 journey right back to my very first panic attack, & part of me believes that had I received treatment much earlier, I wouldn’t have found myself in crisis much later.


As I’ve often read, you wouldn’t wait for every single bone in your body to break before treating a broken arm, so why wait for your mental health to reach crisis point before you intervene?”

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