Friday, 29 May 2015

10 Things I Wish Everyone Understood About Anxiety

1) I know anxiety is irrational.

Believe me when I say I know, anxiety is irrational but repeatedly telling me I'm being irrational or ridiculous only makes things worse. We need your support not someone who's making you feel more pathetic than you already do inside.

2) It may look like we're being dramatic but that's because it is a big ordeal to us.

No we're not being drama queens, in fact most of the time people with anxiety HATE attention and would much rather someone else had the spotlight. Do you think I want to be struggling for breath and feel like I'm having a heart attack? Do you think I want to be constantly worrying over the smallest of things? no of course not, we wouldn't wish this on our worst enemy! So it may look like a fuss over nothing to you but to the person feeling that way it's massive.

3) Anxiety is a mental illness.

It's a mental illness, would you kick someones leg if it was broken? Would you force someone with a tummy bug to do something they weren't up to? No course you wouldn't, well its the same with anxiety. Sometimes we genuinely can't do something because it will make us unwell. I've actually been diagnosed by a doctor with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and have been prescribed both medication and counselling for it. If a doctors prescription won't make you recognise it as a mental illness then I don't know what will. 

4) Anxiety is more frustrating for the person with it than the person dealing with it second hand.

I appreciate my anxiety may be inconvenient and frustrating for you to deal with but believe me it's ten times worse for me who has to live with it every single day. So please don't feel the need to tell me how much of a pain it is because you're preaching to the converted.

5) Emotional bullying isn't the answer.

Telling me that I just have to get over it or deal with it won't help. I deal with it every single day by getting out of bed. If it was as easy as just getting over it then I'd have done it by now.

6) Anxiety is everywhere, all the time. There is no escape.

It's all controlling. Theres no way to quieten your mind, your thoughts are all tangled and everything becomes a worry. Most people would for example miss their bus and they'd be like oh no I'll be late or oh no thats a little inconvenient. However a person with anxiety feels like oh no I've missed this bus, what if the next one doesn't arrive, what if I'm late and my boss doesn't understand and they sack me and then I'll have no money and no job and on it goes... Every day simple tasks for someone with anxiety can become extraordinarily difficult very quickly.

7) Everybody experiences feeling anxious but not everybody has anxiety.

Anxiety and feeling anxious are not the same. It's normal for everyone to feel nervous before an interview or to feel nervous before a driving test but with anxiety your brain panics about things normal people wouldn't bother about. The most accurate and well known description I've heard for it is the car alarm theory that Zoe described, with anxiety you're that car who's alarm goes off at unnecessary things instead of the car alarm that only goes off when its actually getting broken into. For instance one of my big panic triggers is if I don't have water near me at all times, this wouldn't bother most people but for me I start to worry that I'll feel unwell, I'll pass out and if I don't have water with me then if any of those things happen, I won't be okay. 

8) Anxiety is not being awkward.

I'm not trying to be awkward because I don't want to do that thing. Chances are if I really don't want to do it or go somewhere its because it's something that will make me scared of having a panic attack. Thats the worst bit about anxiety is that you become anxious over feeling anxious and anxious that you might have a panic attack which in turn makes you more anxious, its a viscous circle. Chances are if I'm not doing something as a result of anxiety I probably feel worse about that than you do. Anxiety also makes you really indecisive so little decisions for me are a big deal because I like to think through every possibility so sorry I can't give you an answer right away but it's just the way my brain functions. Pressuring me to make a decision only makes it harder for me to make one. Instead we'd probably just prefer if you made the decision for us.

9) Anxiety comes with both mental and physical pain.

It's not just mental its physical. Headaches, upset stomach, insomnia and picking at the skin around my nails till its red and sore is just a few of the symptoms I have. Many others get more severe physical symptoms though such as heart palpitations, hot/cold sweats, painful muscles and a choking sensation. Meaning that if we say we can't do something because we're feeling anxious it could be more than just that fear feeling thats preventing us from going. Plus anxiety often leads to panic attacks which includes the heart pounding like its about to burst out your chest, hot/cold sweats, breathlessness, dizziness, feeling nauseous and this can leave you feeling exhausted. Your heart during a panic attack goes through a lot of strain similar to that of running a marathon so of course it leaves you tired. 

10) Sometimes a cuddle really helps.

Reassurance and comfort helps. Persuasion and ignorance does not. Ignorance is probably the hardest to deal with because some people won't understand anxiety and aren't willing to listen or learn. It's a very tricky illness to define to someone who's never experienced it themselves. The only way I can describe it is it feels like you have a little devil on your shoulder and no matter how hard you try to shrug him off, he still comes back, chasing you, telling you everything bad that could go wrong and how much you have to do but you'll never be able to do it in so little time. It feels like that devil is chasing you into darkness, into a tunnel and that theres no ending to this tunnel and the walls are closing in on you like times running out. There's not much another person can do to make this better other than letting you know that they're there, whatever you need they can get it for you. For me a cuddle helps I know some people find that suffocating but I personally like someone to be there holding my hand, rubbing my back or having an arm around me because that comfort helps. If you know someone who has panic attacks, ask them what will help them, they'll appreciate that you care enough to want to help. They might want a cuddle, they might want you to get them a glass of water or they might just want you to sit with them until it passes.

I hope this is relatable for those of you who do suffer from anxiety and if you don't then maybe it helped you understand what those who do feel like. That way if any of your friends or family feel this way then you'll know how to be understanding.

Remember 1 in every 25 people in the UK suffer from generalised anxiety disorder so it's well worth knowing about. The only solution to ignorance is education.

Lots of Love,

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