‘No one would guess it, that under all of me I am scared’

We all have anxiety, but we do not all have anxiety disorders

 

It’s another evening of peace before I must face it all again. Even though I am in a peaceful environment, it is still not shaken from my mind what the next day brings.

For many, not much thought goes into it. However, for me, thought is all that happens. When the lights go out, it does not stop and when they turn on, I’m not ready.

It’s been this way my whole life. I’m not shy or quiet, I’m terrified, and half of the time, I don’t even know what I’m afraid of. No one would guess that I am scared.

They wouldn’t believe I had to drag myself out of the house and battle in my mind the pros and cons of facing the world. Shyness is noticed but anxiety disorder is deep rooted and a silent illness.

According to Mental Health Ireland, one in six people in Ireland will experience a problem such as anxiety each year. This number has steadily increased over the past 20 years.

Anxiety disorders are becoming more prevalent yet people still lack understanding. Anxiety is a mental illness like depression and often accompanies depression, but it does not carry the same level of understanding and compassion.

When people hear me say I have generalised anxiety disorder, they say, “Me too, I was so nervous for my exam yesterday.” You may be reading this and saying to yourself, we all have anxiety.

We do all have anxiety, but we do not all have anxiety disorders.

Lack of distinction

With this mental health disorder there is a lack of distinction between the mood and the disorder, which is how depression was perceived for a long time.

When we hear the word anxiety, we just think of things like doing an exam, a driving test, going to the doctors or dentist, which are normal things to be anxious about.

Unfortunately, because of that, those with anxiety disorders feel that people in do not understand them, that people think they are dramatic and over the top.

But anxiety disorder is serious. It does not shut off and give you the sense of relief you feel after you finish an exam. Anxiety disorders leave people in a constant state of worry, paranoia and fear, and should not be taken lightly.

When people with anxiety disorder finally open up, they get responses such as “stop worrying”, “you think about things too much”, “you think so negatively, it is all in your head”, “you’re being ridiculous” and, finally, the cherry on top, “I get that too, you will be fine in a minute”.

There are quite a few things wrong with the way people respond. Firstly, what they say is not helpful, but actually insulting as it makes us feel crazy. Secondly, none of these responses suggest people are listening openly to how we feel or are allowing us to have justification in how we feel.

I believe I am a positive person, I am a positive thinker, I aim to succeed, and I do not sell myself short. I’m not negative. My anxiety disorder overrides any form of positive thinking. My anxiety disorder is not my personality.

If you do not understand, try to appreciate that the person is reaching out to you. Ask what you can do to help, rather than insulting them or making them out to be a crazy person.

Anyone who battles with a mental health issue and is out there in the world fighting it is a brave person. They have real thoughts and emotions. Anxiety can be overwhelming, and it would be nice to talk to people who can empathise with you and have some level of understanding.

Mind struggle

As someone who deals with anxiety disorder daily, there is nothing louder and more chaotic than my own mind. My mind is my first struggle of each day, because it is encased in worry and fear.

I get through each day of my life relatively okay, but my mind forgets that when I wake up. I must argue with myself and measure up the pros and cons of leaving the house. The advantage is that I am very driven. However, if I had no drive, I would never leave.

Every stage in my day is fearful, from when I wake up to when I go to bed. With anxiety disorder it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep, as it is even harder to shut my brain off. I do most of my thinking when my head hits the pillow.

As a society, we need to educate ourselves on all mental health disorders, including anxiety disorder. How we feel is very important and it is even more important to know that our feelings are justifiable, that we can feel that way and that it does not define who we are.

According to The Irish Times, Ireland has one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe. Mental health problems cost the Irish economy more than €8.2 billion a year. These statistics show the importance in trying to understand and help everyone who is struggling.

We need to open our minds and our ears.

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