Katharine Hepburn once said
“Life is tough, after all it kills you”.
No shit Kath.
We all have difficulties, issues, problems. But some are easier to see than others, a broken leg doesn’t require an explanation because it’s tangible and visible – anxiety, not so much. Below, is a pamphlet or leaflet-size list (if you will) of what I wish people simply knew about anxiety.
- It strikes anytime, anywhere and can be related to anything Oddly, my anxiety is most often related to things that most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid about, such as answering the telephone or driving to the supermarket. I have spent countless hours of my life playing out scenarios in my head, how I should answer the phone, anticipating the response of the person on the other end of the line, how awful it would be if I got anything wrong, paused for too long or didn’t know the answer. It is often a fruitless exercise anyway, for as my anxiety tells me: the advisor would end up thinking I was an utter dimwit, the silliest person they’d ever spoken to anyway.
- It can be an actual physical feeling At it’s worst my anxiety made me feel like I was drowning. Whilst on some logical level I knew this wasn’t the case, I still couldn’t function at a normal level because my mind was affixed on the very real, suffocating feeling rather than whatever was actually going on in the room around me.
- I’m constantly wondering what you’re thinking Even a question as simple as “What food are you going to order?” can send me into a spiral because I really want to get it right. After all, my anxiety tells me that you’re going to judge me for my choice of pizza, so too will the waitress and the chef, as well as Jim, who lives at the end of the road. But fear not, I find this means I’m a great listener and a really good friend to talk to, I’m so used to anticipating sadness, anxiety and worry in myself I know when you need to talk and what to say to you to help. I’ll also never give half-hearted advice because I don’t want to live with the shame of poor advice.
- Shame, shame, shame etc. The shame is real. When I say something I 99% of the time want to face palm immediately afterwards because my anxiety tells me that it wasn’t the best way I could have said it, someone else would have said it better, or that I really just shouldn’t speak. Ever. This means, I’m either worrying about something I’m going to say (see above) or I’m embarrassed about something I’ve just said. As such, it can be difficult to “live in the moment” and life can be very, very tiring.
- Can we fix it? Living with anxiety is exhausting. So when we tell you that we can’t come out to play, we’re telling the truth. I know I need a bed day every other week, where I just take time to myself and recharge because the “real world” understandably flares up the anxious thoughts and feelings. However, there is a delicate balance. For those who suffer from anxiety, I think the key question to ask yourself is “Who is winning at the moment? Me, (aka my real life, where I function and am as relatively happy as a 21st human can be) or my anxiety?” If you spend too long living in the shadows, that the anxious thoughts are increasing in volume or in size or that the anxiety has simply been winning for too long: get help. Get therapy, a counsellor, talk to friends, family, express yourself in some way, seek medical advice (delete as appropriate). It may not be as obvious as if a person missing work, or hang outs with friends because they keep getting black out drunk but Anxiety is real. Whilst we accept that it will be a part of who we are in one way or another all our lives it’s not all of us and it needs to be managed.
Alas, these are just my personal views and others may have a different take on the whole thing. But I think we all agree it’s time for another quote. After all…
*Disclaimer* the writer of this article is not a medical professional or a doctor, in any sense of the word, including (rather sadly) one of dinosaurs