Trying to explain an anxiety disorder to someone who doesn’t have one is nearly impossible. It’s kind of like trying to describe a migraine to someone who’s only ever had a headache.
And it’s not the person to whom you’re talking’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just really hard. In fact it’s even hard to explain your kind of disorder to someone else who suffers.
Personally my anxiety disorder presents itself in lots of ways. It can be triggered by many things, and it’s so inflicting that it can make all my muscles seize so I can’t even move. My brain can switch off, everything goes slow motion and I sometimes won’t even know until after it’s happened.
But this blog isn’t about that. We now live in a time where it’s more common to speak out about mental health. And as much as there’s still a HUGE way to go and reducing the stigma attached to mental health issues, people are still going for it, and trying to make others aware of it.
But I have a few concerns. There are so many people who will just fling terms around. “I’m so OCD I have to keep all my shoes in pairs” or “That ugly sweater gives me anxiety”. No one can tell whether these people really suffer, and who am I to say that they don’t. But it is starting to appear that a select few are wearing mental health issues as if it will make them more interesting. Something to add a little drama into their life.
Even Jennifer Lawrence, whilst being interviewed on The Tonight Show alongside Jessie Eisenberg recently, flippantly said ‘You’re the most interesting person’ and ‘I want weird quirks’ just minutes after he had opened up about his severe OCD. No one who has OCD *wants* OCD.
And in an episode of Veronica Mars (if you don’t know what that is, you seriously need to Google it and watch!) students were claiming GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) to get out of exams. It was so normalised that it penalised any students that really did have it.
My fear is just that, that people who really suffer from it are being washed away by those seeking attention. I hope I’m wrong.
My second concern is one that I have zero basis to believe will happen – it’s merely a fear (heck, it’s an anxiety). I love how much anxiety and mental health disorders are being talked about. It’s fantastic that people are trying to end the stigma surround them. I myself don’t openly talk about it to my colleagues or even really bring it up to friends unless it’s relevant. I know, not with friends or family, but in the work place mainly it can alter how people treat you. I’ve seen it happen, not so much in my current job, but in past places, where I feel like your capabilities are questioned. Luckily if ever I’ve had to mention it at work to my direct boss I’ve been met with support and understanding. But I do have a concern that if having a mental health problem is normalised too much, it won’t be taken seriously.
I’ll go back to my headache analogy. If someone tells you they have a headache you expect them to take a pill and carry on, but you have no idea how it’s affecting that person. Their head might be splitting, it might have gotten so bad they need a dark room or a sleep. It might even be a migraine. You have no idea how it’s affecting that person. But headaches are normal, they affect so many people and they’re so common. Anxiety is common, affects so many people but you have no idea how it’s affecting someone at that time. My fear is that I tell someone I have really bad anxiety and because it’s so normalised they tell me to sit quietly or take a pill and expect me to carry on as normal. They just brush is off, and don’t realise how seriously it’s affecting me at that time, because it’s ‘just anxiety’. Sometimes with a migraine you need to take days away from normal life to recover. Sometimes with anxiety you need to remove yourself for weeks.
It’s selfish and hopefully wrong, but for that reason I almost don’t want GAD to be normalised too much. I guess I just want it understood. I don’t want to feel brushed under the carpet, because my struggle is real, so so real. And I really don’t want it to become the next fad, like veganism or yoga.
I think for now, I’ll leave it at that. I don’t really want to go into my own experiences in too much detail. I still find talking about it, and even reading other people’s experiences, a bit of a trigger. I just wanted to put words to ‘paper’ and put them out there. I also don’t want to offend with anything I’ve written, so hopefully this hasn’t. I can’t control my fears and in this instance, this is just how current events have made me feel.
I wonder if anyone else feels the same as me?