After two years I decided to actually do what I said I would do and blog about mental health. I’ll just jump right into it – this one is about anxiety. It seems, at least in my experience, to be one of the most prominent mental health disorders. I have it, a good chunk of my family and friends have it, and I always run into other people who have it.
It is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever dealt with. Depression comes and goes, as bad as it gets sometimes, but anxiety never seems to go away. It has gotten less severe in certain situations but it has also gotten worse in other situations!
It’s one of those things where you’re stuck in your own head and convince yourself something will go wrong before you have a chance to take part in the event you’re afraid of being a part of. It sounds like complete madness when you try to explain it to someone else. And yeah, we know deep down that what we’re feeling is irrational but that doesn’t stop it from happening. That’s what makes it a disorder, right?
People on the outside of it will sometimes try to give helpful advice but you can’t really give effective advice for something you’ve never experienced. You might have heard this one, “Just think about the situation… ask yourself what there is to be afraid of and after you work it out you’ll come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to be afraid of and voila, no more anxiety.” Well, not quite. You see, that works for someone who might get anxiety for normal things, things that most people commonly get anxious over, but when your life is ruled by it logic doesn’t always cut it.
For anyone who doesn’t understand anxiety, it seems silly. Let me attempt to explain it. Imagine you second guess yourself before every decision, except instead of being able to reassure yourself nothing could really go wrong and if it does it isn’t a big deal, you assume the worst can happen. Always. You focus on that by instinct. You feel the embarrassment of failing, you feel everyone’s eyes on you, and you see yourself being trapped, like one of those weird dreams when you’re doing a presentation and realize you forgot your pants. And this is all before anything has happened! This is before you even walk out your front door. It may even start the second you get invited out somewhere. Now, you’re starting to find excuses not to go out, not to see friends, not to go out and have fun. You’ve already ran through the scenarios in your head and there’s no way you’re taking that risk. You play it safe. For someone with anxiety, this is life. Every decision goes through a fear filter but the filter is faulty and just holds everything back. Even as I write this it sounds absurd but it’s the reality some people live.
Is it even possible for someone to function like that? Well, sort of. You might even know someone like this who is just good at hiding it. Do you have a friend who never seems to go out? Some who always has a convenient excuse not to socialize or when they do they need to know every detail to a “T”? Your friend might have anxiety, and that is them trying to feel-out the event they’ve been invited to. They need to feel some sort of control of the situation. They need security. They need to know that it is unlikely the night will take a turn for the worst because they will already be comfortable with where they are and who they are there with. That is what it comes down to. Anxiety is feeling powerless.
It also comes in all shapes and sizes. Some people only get anxiety in certain situations and some people have it milder than others. That’s not to say one person’s affliction is any easier or worse than anyone else’s, it just means one size does not fit all.
So many people are living with anxiety and there are so few people who understand it from the outside. It ruins relationships, friendships, and all types of other social interactions. It can even hold someone back from a great opportunity. If you know someone with anxiety or suspect someone close to you has it, try to reach out. Most of all try to understand. And under no circumstances should you make them feel guilty about it. Nobody chooses it, nobody wants it.