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I was staring at my ceiling again the other night, and I was very overwhelmed thinking about school and how it is all coming to an end in the next two months or so. Lately I have had very little time to work, but lots of time, apparently, to sit and freak out about all the work that actually needs to be done and text my friends and classmates about how I am constantly silently screaming in fear for my success. Life of a design student.

On top of this however, I have been dealing with a personal issue of mental illness. I have a bit of a collection: general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, and OCD tendencies. It’s only been recently that I have been able to talk about it and open up about these things. I would be lying if I wasn’t terrified of the social repercussions if there are any, and I would also be lying if I said these issues didn’t have an effect on my creative process and overall confidence as a designer as well as a person.

As you may guess, having these mental inconveniences doesn’t exactly make it easy to design a killer portfolio piece or talk to industry professionals while I am desperately trying to fit into the creative community. Lately the one thing I have been stuck on imaging is me standing there looking stupid in front of my work at the final graduation show from my program, and throwing up from the tension while massive amounts of people walk by and look at my work and potentially disliking it. Thoughts run rampant like, “What if I never get a job? What if I am not meant to be a designer? What if no one likes my work? What if everyone around me is better and I’m the worst one in the class?” What if, what if, what if…

There is always a point during one of my freak-outs over projects that I am able to pull myself together and remind myself of something that I have to say almost every day: I am better than that. I am better than dwelling on things that are classified as “what ifs”. Sometimes I need a little bit of a push in order to get myself over that hump, but when I do, I always come back swinging. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for me to bring up the courage to pull myself through a breakdown, especially when it feels like you are going through this particular (and what seems to be never-ending) battle alone.

I suppose what I am trying to get at is to not let yourself be controlled by “what ifs”. As creatives, we have so much power inside of us that we all have the ability to change the world. We shouldn’t feel intimidated or worried about what other people think about our work. As long as we can confidently stand next to it and back it up, you have nothing to worry about. Own it. Be proud that you have come so far to make something like this and no other thing exists in the world that is exactly like what you have just created. Be proud!

Lastly, for the other creatives who have the same struggles with mental illness as me, you are not your illness. You battle every single day and use your energy to create beautiful things to share with the world around you on a regular basis. You literally open up your imagination and passions and lay it into print, web, writing, or however you feel is the best way to express yourself. Never forget that you are talented. Never forget that you are not your struggles. Never forget that you are not the only person who feels this way. Never forget that you are amazing.

We are all in this together, so no more ‘what ifs’, ok?